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Preparing Your Guest List for your Wedding Abroad

Posted on 4/05/2019 at 9:26 AM by in Guides

When you first decide to get married abroad, the excitement can soon be replaced with worry about how your guests will react. Annual holidays may be the norm now, but not everyone chooses to go abroad. Some still prefer to holiday in the UK, even with the awful weather.

Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be thrilled with your plans to get married abroad.

It’s a good idea to rehearse giving your reasons for having a destination wedding in case anyone challenges you. Having prepared responses will help with these tricky situations.

Some people are strict traditionalists and a wedding abroad to them is completely out of the ordinary. For others, the cost may be a problem as they will have to pay a lot of money to join you, even if they are getting a holiday out of it at the same time.

Elderly guests may not be willing or able to travel, so out of consideration I suggest speaking with them first and in the early stages of your plans, especially if their attendance is make or break about whether you get married abroad or not. In my experience, the expectation is for elderly guests not to attend (especially if they have never travelled abroad and are unlikely to). You should still pay them a visit out of respect and tell them about your plans.

Keep positive and be prepared and accepting if guests decide not to join you. A holiday abroad is an expensive outlay, and if going abroad is not what a couple normally do, they may not be willing to pay thousands of pounds to join you at your wedding.

If you have the budget, you can have a party back home for those who couldn’t attend the wedding.

In recent poll we ran, 75% of couples planned a second reception at home for guests who didn’t attend the wedding abroad.

A second reception back home doesn’t have to be expensive – a garden BBQ or dinner in your favourite restaurant is a great way to celebrate with loved ones, and you can prepare a slideshow or video from the day to share with them.

Real bride Sophie, who married in Santorini

There were a few people who had their concerns and opinions which was expected, but wrong or right, we wanted a wedding abroad and we knew those who loved us most would be there and that’s what ultimately mattered.

Be prepared to change destination.

Be prepared to reconsider your destination if the main objection is the cost of travel – this should be factored into your planning. Highly desirable destinations like Italy and the Caribbean are costly to holiday in and aren’t within everyone’s budget.

If you want more guests to attend, you’ll need to choose somewhere that accommodates a whole range of budgets.

Real bride Nicola, who married in Ibiza

My mum was hesitant as I have sixteen cousins and she felt they should all be there. Other than that, my friends and family wouldn’t have expected any different and were fully supportive.

But you will have happy guests too

Whilst some may see their guest list halve, it’s not uncommon to hear that a guest list has doubled from what was originally expected.

Suddenly ending up with a ballooned guest list can have huge budget implications, so think carefully before sending out your invitations. If you end up with too many guests for your venue or your budget, you will either need to have difficult conversations, suck it up and pay for additional guests, or find a new venue.

This can all be avoided with careful planning. The three-tier system below can help you avoid this at the outset.

  • List A should be important attendees, those you absolutely need to have with you.
  • List B comprises friends you’d like to have with you and who you know are likely to accept. You may have already discussed your plans with them and they seem supportive.
  • List C is of those you’d like to come but you won’t be overly upset if they don’t. Only invite those you have space for from this list, either due to venue size or budget. Don’t invite everyone on the assumption that some won’t come – this is risky.

You won’t know your final guest numbers until closer to the wedding. We’ve had quite a few people with unexpected attendees right at the last minute with the couple only finding out once the guests have booked flights!

Plus ones

You can’t expect a guest to travel without a significant other unless you’re willing to risk them not coming at all. It’s also mean for the guest to bring their partner on holiday and have you not invite them to the wedding.

Paying for guests

There can be confusion about who pays for what with guests at weddings abroad. It’s not that different to a wedding at home with a couple of exceptions.

  • Food: This could be one or two meals, with canapés or even a late night buffet.
  • Drinks: Usually sparkling wine, or a welcome drink and wine with dinner will be included, and if your budget allows, an open bar.
  • Transfers to/from the venue on the day: This is a necessary requirement, especially with a venue that is off the beaten track or takes a long time to get to.
  • Hotels/flights: You won’t cover these costs unless your budget is huge or you are feeling generous. Few people will expect you to.

I’ve only ever planned a handful of weddings where the bride and groom have paid for their guest’s accommodation and I don’t think I’ve ever had a couple pay for guest’s flights.

In the few situations where accommodation has been paid for by the bride and groom, it tends to be because the wedding is at a villa or venue that has accommodation included in the hire fee.

Booking hotel rooms or flights

When it comes to guest’s holidays, let them sort themselves out, and unless guests have expressed an interest in staying together, let them choose where to stay. Try to be relaxed about what your guests do whilst on holiday, apart from attending the wedding itself, of course. Even pre/post get togethers should be optional. This is, after all, their holiday.

Another note on booking hotels and flights for guests – don’t! You don’t want to end up with bills for guests who can no longer attend. If the rooms are booked under your name, you will be ultimately responsible for meeting the booking conditions.

Team Luvana

Photo Credit Story Studios