Monday, July 22, 2013

Destination Wedding Etiquette?

Dear Jocelyn,
We are planning on having a destination wedding in the Bahamas. We are requesting no gifts as our guests will be responsible for the travel fare and accommodations. Is this acceptable? Lastly, we do not want to invite people who we have either never met or met only once. This means that one or two spouses would not be invited. I am well aware what the wedding etiquette says. Is there a way around it if we explain it to our guests? I am a very private person and if it was my way, I would get married to my fiancé with a couple of witnesses and then have a separate party for everyone.
-Destination Bride

Dear Bride,
There are quite a few issues popping up in your letter. The biggest one is that it seems as if your wedding is not really turning out how you would like. While I do not believe having a wedding gives a bride carte blanche, and she must compromise with her groom, frequently brides end up being pulled in multiple directions by their mother, mother-in-law, and friends.  You said that if you had your way, you would get married with a few witnesses, and then throw a separate party.  Is it your fiancé who wishes to have a different wedding, or your family? If it is your fiancé, then I understand the compromise. If it is your family, then you and your fiancé need to have a serious talk about what you want, and how to set up boundaries with your family.

You asked if it is acceptable to request no gifts; while Miss Manners would say no (even acknowledging that someone might bring a gift is tacky to her), I think a simple note on the invitation saying, "We appreciate the effort everyone is taking in coming to our wedding, and that is enough of a gift to us!" or something similar would be fine.

You also asked about not inviting spouses.  While I defended the rights of couples to not give everyone a "plus one" in a previous post,  spouses are very different.  When you marry, you become one with the other person, and I believe that makes you a single unit. You said you know the wedding etiquette in regards to this, so you should also know that there is no way to explain this in a way that makes it acceptable.  If you cannot invite Susie's spouse, then you cannot invite Susie. If you wish to have Susie come but haven't yet met her husband, you simply must invite her husband.  

Lastly, I cannot end this without a word on destination weddings.  While these are becoming more popular, they pose many problems and are quite a burden on guests.  I do not know your reasons for having a wedding in the Bahamas; perhaps your guests are excited to join you and this makes everyone happy.  However, if you aren't positive about this, consider an alternative: marry your fiancé in the Bahamas with a few guests you fly out.  When you come back, throw a party for everyone else you wanted to have join you.  This will solve the problem of gifts and not inviting spouses (after all, it is not as big of a deal to invite someone you haven't met to a party versus your wedding).

In giving this advice, I have had to make several assumptions from your letter.  Please forgive me if any of it was incorrect, and please write back or comment to let us know what you decide.


Maeve Indra said...

Although we didn't do a destination wedding, many people were coming form out of town. We asked them to only bring themselves, and well wishes for us. When they arrived at the wedding we had everyone fill out a small card with well wishes instead of signing a guest book, and turned it into a collage displayed in our living room. :) (No one was offended, they all thought the idea was rather sweet and unique)

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