What's Appropriate Destination Wedding Etiquette for Guests?

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There's one myth about weddings that the soon-to-be married couples tend to forget:

It's not all about them.

Sure, it's mostly about them. But as a guest invited to their wedding, you know that they put thought into this and that you're considered so important to the couple that they want you to share this special day with them.

As such, you should return the favor by learning what the couple expects of you in terms of etiquette. It's only polite when they've invited you to witness one of the most important moments of their lives.

Check out each section below for some guidelines on budget, attire, gifts, wedding party, and more:


When you're invited to any destination wedding, especially ones in an exotic location, you suddenly have to deal with a lot of expenses.

The most important rule to remember here is to not assume that the couple or their families will be paying for your trip. They may have procured a discounted hotel rate for you, but most destination wedding couples won't be paying for their guests' travel, accommodations, or entertainment/food (besides the wedding reception, of course).

Destination Wedding Etiquette

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The only exception here is if any correspondence the couple sends you states otherwise. If, for example, they let you know they're hosting a pre-wedding barbecue dinner at one of the local restaurants, then destination wedding etiquette for guests states you can show up without having to worry about paying for the meal.

Your best bet is to book any travel, lodging, and entertainment as soon as possible once the couple lets you know where the wedding will take place. This will help you get the best deal on everything, and will relieve any stress you might rack up if you wait too long.


This one may take some sleuthing on your part.

Many couples will state on their destination wedding invitations the kind of attire they expect you to wear. However, not all of them will do this. Some will opt to put the information on their wedding website instead, and some may not even mention a preference at all.

Wedding Etiquette Tips

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Look around at the information the couple has sent you, and if you don't find any details on what to wear to the wedding, ask them.

Don't assume they're too busy to answer you; it'd be worse destination wedding etiquette not to ask and show up completely out of place because you're wearing linen beach pants or a dress instead of a formal outfit.


When a couple chooses to get married abroad or far away from home, they may or may not be expecting gifts.

Like the clothing conundrum, check to see if there's any mention of where to send gifts on the invitations, website, or in emails. Many couples will have larger gifts sent to their parents' homes or their future home, and allow you to bring gift cards to the actual ceremony.

Wedding Etiquette Dos and don'ts

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Alternatively, you may find that the couple doesn't expect you to give them any other gift than the honor of your presence. Still others will ask you donate instead to a charity of their choice.

Again, communication is key here, so ask if you just aren't sure what to do.

Wedding Party-

When you've been asked to be a part of the couple's wedding party, your etiquette may be different.

Discuss with the couple what they'll be expecting of you. Some would prefer you to do everything you would at a traditional wedding (such as help plan the bachelor or bachelorette parties), while others just want you to prepare a speech and worry about having fun the rest of the time.

And, like any "normal" destination wedding etiquette for guests, realize that you'll be responsible for many or all of your own expenses, unless the couple has explicitly stated otherwise.

Wedding Etiquette for Guests

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Plus Ones & Children-

Probably the most tricky part of being invited to a destination wedding is figuring out whether or not your children and/or plus one are invited.

Default destination wedding etiquette for guests states that only the people addressed on the envelope are invited. This means that if your children aren't listed, you'll have to find a sitter for them. Likewise, if you aren't married or in a long-term relationship, the couple may not list your plus one on the invitation.

Don't take this personally. Often, couples do this because they need to stick to a budget or they don't think the wedding will be appropriate for children or people they're not close to.

Wedding Etiquette Guide

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As with any wedding, the way you behave at a destination wedding is important.

You should definitely have fun at the wedding, but don't do anything you won't regret the next day. Mistakes happen, of course, but there's a difference between accidentally catching your dinner napkin on fire and purposefully testing to see if it'll catch on fire because you've had too much to drink.

If you think you'll need some help controlling yourself, make sure to ask someone you trust to tell you when you need to stop being... well, stupid.

How to Wedding Etiquette

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It's a wedding, so you should be able to take pictures with your phone, right?

Not necessarily. Some couples want tech-free weddings, and will request that you leave your phone, Kindle, iPad, and more back at your hotel.

Be respectful and follow these requests, or you may risk your phone ringing during the best man's speech. Besides, it's good to go without tech for a while!

All about wedding etiquette

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Your Turn...

Being invited to a destination wedding is exciting, but it does mean you have some preparation to do beforehand.

As long as you follow the guidelines laid out here in terms of proper destination wedding etiquette for guests, you'll be on the right track and ready to have the experience of a lifetime.

Do you agree that guest etiquette shows your appreciation for an invitation? Why or why not?