If you are thinking about having a destination wedding in Hawaii, here are questions and answers for some of the basic rules of etiquette that apply to the couple, their wedding party and their guests:
How much advance notice should a couple give guests?
In order to ensure that their guests can get time off from work and secure the best airfares and hotel rates, some couples send "Save the Date" cards out almost a full year in advance. This lets guests pencil in the dates and plan well ahead. A good rule of thumb is nine months out with a minimum of six months notice.
How long should the couple expect guests to stay in Hawaii?
Guests should be expected to spend a minimum of two nights, but the general rule is three or four nights. And many guests-especially those who are traveling a great distance, say, from the East Coast or Midwest - may opt to extend their stay to a full week or 10 days and turn the trip into a vacation.
Should the couple pay for the airfare and accommodations for their wedding party?
Yes, the general rule is that the couple pays for flights and hotel rooms for the members of the wedding party. For this reason, destination wedding bridal parties tend to be a bit smaller. And be sure to give any potential members of your wedding party ample notice - tell them the dates right after they are set-so they can avoid any potential conflicts.
What other costs are the wedding couple responsible for?
The bride and groom, or their parents, are responsible for the costs of the ceremony and reception, plus the rehearsal dinner, post-wedding brunch or any other "event" to which guests are formally invited. In addition, the bride and groom should negotiate a discounted "group" rate at the hotel or resort where they are hosting the wedding and set up a "price alert" on one of the major travel booking engines for the dates and let guests know via Facebook or their personal wedding website when airfares to Hawaii drop.
What costs are guests responsible for?
As they would if traveling to your hometown or place of residence for a non-destination wedding, guests who choose to attend your Hawaiian wedding are responsible for their airfare, hotel accommodations and any expenses related to their stay (food, drinks, activities) that are not part of the formal wedding celebration.
What if I am getting married at a luxury resort that not all my guests can afford?
If you choose to wed at an upscale property with a nightly room rate that might exceed the budgets of some of your guests, you should also secure group rates at 2-3 neighboring resorts with more affordable nightly rates. Also, by scheduling your wedding during a period when occupancy is traditionally low - such as the first three weeks of December or the weeks following Easter, typically in April and early May - you may be able to secure a discounted group rate that is affordable for more of your guests.
What if I am getting married at a private villa?
If a you or your parents are planning an intimate destination wedding and you plan to rent a private villa for a week to host the wedding, the reception and your guests, you are expected to pay for the cost of the villa rental, plus the costs of the related events such as welcome cocktails, rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, reception and post-wedding brunch.
How should I welcome my guests?
Your friends and families have traveled a great distance to share in your big day, so it is appropriate to show your appreciation upon arrival with an in-room welcome bag or basket. Items should ideally be locally inspired, so think snacks such as macadamia nuts, fresh sliced pineapple and locally brewed beer while take-home items can include flip-flops, sunscreen, a sun hat or handmade soaps or candles in tropical aromas.
How should I handle wedding gifts?
Since you will be thousands of miles from home, you do not want your guests lugging gifts to Hawaii. Nor do you want to lug them home. The best way to handle the situation is once you have completed your wedding registry, have members of your bridal party contact all guests via e-mail or regular mail to let them know where you are registered and to inform them they should send all wedding gifts to your home address.