Have you been invited as a guest at a destination wedding? Looking for the right guest etiquette when it comes to joining the happy couple on their big day?
There is a lot of information out there on the web, and quite frankly, I’ve seen a lot of poor advice online when it comes to guest etiquette at destination weddings.
I can assure you this is not one of those posts. 😂
As someone who has been on both sides of the destination wedding spectrum, I can attest that being a guest at a destination wedding is almost as stressful (if not more stressful!) than being the actual bride!
I have been a part of destination weddings for over 7 years and have helped over 7000 brides plan their day. And let me assure you, I have heard it all.
I completely understand that you, the guest, will have questions. This is especially understandable if you’ve never been to a destination wedding before, or if you don’t travel much!
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I hope this blog will help clear up some of your questions and it becomes a reference manual if you have general questions when it comes to attending the couple’s destination wedding.
Why am I writing this? As someone who got married in Mexico, we were questioned daily about certain things, and after a while it can become exhausting. I can also say that as a first-time destination wedding guest this summer, I had a whole slew of questions I wanted to ask.
Remember – the couple is not only planning their wedding, but they’re also preparing to travel as well – they have a lot on their plate!
If you can find the answers to some of your questions here (or elsewhere online), you can free up some of their time when they have a million and one things on the go leading up to the big day.
If you find that some of your questions aren’t answered here, please contact me or drop a comment below and I will get back to you!
Destination weddings are not free! This is one of the biggest misconceptions many guests think when they’re invited to one.
Ps. This post is geared towards destination weddings in Mexico and the Caribbean, though most of these same questions apply!
Pps. If you’re a destination wedding bride reading this, send this to your guests!
Destination Wedding Guest Etiquette
Here’s a compilation of frequently asked guest questions when it comes to destination weddings.
These responses are based on my personal experience of being a part of destination wedding planning groups for the past 7+ years! That being said, each bride/groom/wedding couple is different!
When in doubt, clarify any questions that can’t be answered with a quick Google or Facebook group search with your wedding couple to avoid any miscommunication!
Destination Wedding Guest Travel Questions
Can I book through a different travel agent/outside your room block?
When a wedding couple invites you to their wedding, they will provide booking details. It’s expected that you would book through their travel agent for a few reasons.
- It’s easy for you to book through their agent. They have all the wedding details, plus a room block with rates for you set up and ready to go!
- It helps the wedding couple keep track of who is attending their wedding, who is booked, or who still needs to book.
- It helps the bride and groom secure wedding perks to help them with their wedding (not always, but most of the time there are special incentives for the couple if a certain amount of room nights are booked).
If you find a cheaper rate, ask the travel agent if they’ll price-match it.
Room blocks are set up for the wedding couple to ensure there is enough availability for their guests.
It also helps them obtain any wedding perks like a free wedding event, money back, etc. You don’t see any of the behind-the-scenes with that sort of thing, and while you aren’t obligated to help them save money, it makes a huge difference to them.
Destination weddings can add up big time, and sometimes even cost as much as having a wedding back home! Part of the reason why many couples opt for a destination wedding is to save some money. Booking within a room block can help them save even more!
Can I bring friends to a destination wedding?
If you’re attending the destination wedding solo, you should clarify with the wedding couple first if you are able to bring a friend.
Your invitation is addressed to you, so it would be assumed you would be attending solo if you do not have a partner.
It makes sense that you’d want to spend your vacation with someone you know, and it will also lessen the cost, since a single supplement will apply.
You should keep in mind that if you are able to bring your friend, they may not be invited to any of the wedding activities. This can also be clarified by the wedding couple. Just don’t be offended if they say no!
Can I bring my kids to a destination wedding?
On your invitation you receive from the wedding couple, it should specify whether or not children are welcome. Your invitation should also be addressed to everyone in your family, if all family members are welcome.
If it is only addressed to you and your spouse, you should clarify with the wedding couple prior to booking any rooms, especially if it’s at a family-friendly resort.
If the resort is an adults-only resort, then no, you cannot bring kids.
These adults-only resorts have a minimum age of 16-18 years old to be able to be on the property.
I’ve seen brides post about guests asking if they can bring their baby to their wedding, especially if the property is a sister-property (like El Dorado Casitas Royale and Generations Riviera Maya) that are side-by-side.
You cannot bring a baby/toddler/child to an adults-only resort, even if it is only for the ceremony.
Can we stay somewhere else?
I would beg you not to.
Part of the fun of a destination wedding is having everyone together!
I fully understand that it’s also your vacation. If you really have your heart set on staying somewhere else, try to compromise and stay a few days at the couple’s wedding resort to be there for all of the wedding events before moving on to your chosen location.
Keep in mind, if you stay at a different resort, not only will you have to pay for transportation there and back, but also a day pass for the wedding resort.
The wedding couple is not obligated to pay for your passes.
These can range anywhere from $45-$150 USD per person. It adds up, especially if there are wedding events spaced over a couple of days!
So if you’re planning to stay elsewhere to save money, there are definitely hidden costs to be aware of.
Can I just show up and surprise the wedding couple?
There is only one answer for this: no.
There is a lot that goes into planning a destination wedding, and if the bride is anything like I was (and so many more that I know!), any last minute surprise like that won’t be a good one.
Destination weddings aren’t free.
Packages are set to include a certain number of guests.
If you show up unannounced, it not only causes the wedding planner to scramble to rearrange seating, coordinate meals, etc, but also you’ll be incurring an additional cost to the bride, not to mention the shock of showing up at the last minute.
I say this in the nicest way possible: make sure you RSVP. If you don’t it’ll be assumed you aren’t attending. Please do not show up without RSVPing!
Is it safe to travel to Mexico/Jamaica/Dominican Republic, etc?
Yes! You will either be on-resort or on an excursion. You will be completely safe.
The media likes to play up the safety factor exponentially, but where you are travelling to is no more dangerous than where you live at home.
I wouldn’t recommend walking the streets downtown at night by yourself, but I highly doubt that 1) you would do that at home and 2) you would be doing that during your stay!
As always, be smart. If you do go off-resort on your own, keep your personal belongings on you at all times, go with another person, and take reputable transportation wherever you’re headed.
Do I have to pay for drinks/meals/activities?
If it’s an all-inclusive resort, literally everything is included. That’s part of the reason why I love all-inclusives, and part of the reason why it’s such a great option for destination wedding brides and guests.
With the exception of private dining, separate wine list, an upgraded menu, spa services, etc., everything is included in the price you pay!
This includes drinks, all meals, activities, evening entertainment, room service (most resorts do not charge, but I have stayed at one that did, and it was not good business practice!), room service, tips (more on this later!), and anything else you can think of!
While tips are included, you’ll find that the norm is to tip the staff who work so hard to give you an amazing experience!
Is there a shuttle from the airport to the resort?
Depending on how you booked your trip, you may need to arrange for transportation separately. Your wedding couple may have something set up for you. It’s best to check with their travel agent.
Canadian travellers: all-inclusive packages include transportation! Unless otherwise specified, your package includes flights, transfers, and the resort stay.
This is of course unless the bride and groom arrange private transfers from the airport to the resort. This will be outlined by the travel agent.
What should I pack for an all-inclusive resort?
Packing for an all-inclusive resort is actually much easier than you think!
If you’re wondering what to pack for an all-inclusive vacation, I have a whole separate guide on what you should (and shouldn’t!) be bringing. I also include a printable checklist to help you out!
I manage most of my trips in a carry-on bag only, so if I can do it, so can you!
This is especially helpful if you have connecting flights, if you don’t want to wait for luggage, or if you’re worried about losing your bags.
That’s one of my biggest fears, which is why I only ever travel with a carry-on!
Destination Wedding FAQs for Guests
The wedding couple may have provided you with information and resources for their destination wedding.
Many brides send out invitations with pertinent information, digital invitations with links to references, or create Facebook groups for keeping guests up-to-date.
What is expected of me during the wedding trip?
The bride and groom understand that this is also your trip that you paid for and took time off work for.
They don’t expect you to be around them 24/7. At the recent destination wedding I attended at Excellence El Carmen in Punta Cana, the bride had arranged a few activities for guests to join in on. Otherwise, the time was yours to spend as you wished!
Want to lounge on the beach or by the pool? Up for playing some games or taking an art class? Working out or spending time at the spa? The world is your oyster!
You’re expected to attend the wedding and reception plus any other events they have going on (unless it’s stated as optional), but otherwise you can do whatever you like! All-inclusive resorts offer so. many. activities. You will never be bored, I promise!
What is the wedding dress code?
The wedding dress code at destination weddings is one thing I would say to get specific details on.
Everyone interprets dress code differently. Most brides opt for beach casual or beach chic, but that could mean a million things to different people.
Some will say long pants or shorts for men and a collared shirt, and a dress for women, but it’s entirely up to their discretion.
Just a note to ladies – don’t wear all white (unless the bride says it’s ok!).
I ran into a snag at the destination wedding I was at.
The bride said beach colours like greens, blues, pinks, corals, etc. It wasn’t until the day of the wedding she meant solid colours and no patterns. Oooops. And guess what I brought for the wedding?
I panicked all day long and overthought my dress. It was a gorgeous long white and green off-shoulder dress that I changed at the last minute for something else. And then I saw others wearing patterns and white dresses!
I would highly, highly suggest running your outfit by the wedding couple to avoid any faux-pas. Each wedding (mostly the bride, haha!) is different, and their interpretations about what is acceptable/suitabe is different.
Do I bring a gift to a destination wedding?
From the perspective of a bride, I would say that 95% do not have a registry and would actually say no gifts. Your presence is gift enough! You, as the guest, have already spent money to attend the wedding. It can’t be expected that you would also give a gift.
This should be outlined in their wedding details, but you can always check with them tactfully to see if there is a registry. That will give them the option to let you know if they do, or if gifts aren’t required.
What is nice though, is to give a card on their wedding day for the couple to look back on. It’s nice to have those memories.
What is the resort dress code at an all-inclusive resort?
Most resorts list their dress code on their website.
The wedding couple may also provide this information for you. In general, all-inclusive resorts I’ve been to have required men to be in long pants and closed-toed shoes as well as a collared shirt.
Women are free to wear capris or dresses with sandals (just no flip flops!).
You’re free to wear whatever you like during the day! It’s not recommended to show up up in wet bathing suits if it’s an indoor restaurant for breakfast or lunch, and remember to wear a coverup everywhere else.
Luckily for us women, cover ups are tiny and you can bring a variety with you to change up your look!
What is there to do at an all-inclusive resort?
There is always so much going on at an all-inclusive resort. From sports to organised games, evening entertainment to spa packages, I promise you will not get through everything there is on offer!
I always try to take part in a few games or classes while I’m there to try something new. Whether it’s a language class, painting, trapeze yoga (yes, it’s hilarious!), mixology, etc., there’s always something fun to pick from!
You’ll find out what’s available to do with the resort activity boards, through the resort app (if they have one), or turndown letter (if they have one!). You can also check out the resort’s website for details.
What excursions are available?
If you’re wanting a change of scenery, you can always go on an excursion!
You can find suppliers in the resort lobby (or ask where you can find them) and you can take a look through what excursions are available to you.
Excursions last from half a day to a full day and include transportation. It’s a great way to experience life off-resort and immerse yourself in some of the best activities your location has to offer!
How much should I tip at an all-inclusive resort?
While tipping is included at all-inclusive resorts, I think you’ll soon find that you’ll want to tip. The staff at these resorts work so hard to provide you with a great experience.
I’ve made a point to chat with staff one-on-one to learn what their lives are about. They deserve every dollar that comes their way.
Tipping is actually one of my favourite things to do. If we can afford to travel, we can certainly afford to tip. It doesn’t have to be much, but it shows your token of appreciation!
This is what we tip at all-inclusive resorts, as well as the usual norm for travellers. Don’t feel obligated to tip these amounts, either!
- Drinks: $1-$2/drink
- Breakfast: $2-$5/couple
- Lunch: $5/couple
- Dinner: $5-$15/couple
- Housekeeping: $3-$5/day
- Turndown service: $3-$5/day
- Mini fridge attendant: $2-$3/day
- Spa services: 20% of services
I split tips into envelopes to help keep them organized. A little goes a long way. 🙂
Can I take photos during the wedding?
Most guests would want to take photos of the wedding they’re attending. And most brides would want their guests to cover their wedding. That’s only natural!
However, enthusiastic guests can sometimes impede the efforts of hired professional photographers and can block some important shots!
Because of this, some brides may actually tell you it’s an unplugged wedding. This means they want their guests to enjoy the ceremony and not take any photos.
I know it’s hard to do that, but I also find that being present in the moment is worth it. If you’re seeing the wedding through the eye of the camera, you can lose out on being in the moment.
If this is the case, the wedding couple will let you know beforehand.
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