Tips For Treating Out-Of-Town Wedding Guests With Excellent Etiquette

As much as your loved ones can't wait to celebrate with you at your wedding and watch you say "I do," do try to remember that for many of them — especially those who had to travel to be there — it can cost time and money.

While it's important to practice good etiquette with each of your wedding guests by thanking them for joining you in your big day and likely spending money on a gift, it's also important to acknowledge that it wasn't as easy for some of them to be there. If any of your loved ones have to make travel plans to attend your wedding, they are choosing to pay for flights, hotels, and maybe even take time off of work to be there – and that kind of love should not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Being an excellent host and treating your out-of-town guests with proper etiquette that begins before they even arrive for the festivities can help you properly express how much you value their presence. 

Give guests enough notice

It's common courtesy to not spring wedding plans on any of your guests at the last minute, but it's especially crucial to make sure you give your out-of-towners plenty of notice. After all, they need time to book flights, make accommodations, and iron out any potential scheduling conflicts. Expecting them to join you on your special day after flight prices have increased for the third time or when it's too late for them to get time off work may not only prevent some guests from attending altogether, but it can come off as inconsiderate.

While the general rule is to send your save the dates to more local guests roughly six months prior to the wedding, you should give those traveling a long way more notice. As Shutterfly recommends, you'll want to make sure your guests who will need to make travel plans have their save the dates eight to 12 months before the big day.

Though the use of social media and email for less formal wedding-related events like bachelorette parties and bridal showers has become increasingly popular, traditional wedding etiquette still calls for sending formal stationery save the dates and invitations by mail. If you do opt to send digital invites for the big day, The Knot recommends still sending a formal, physical version as a backup; there's always a chance of a digital invite getting lost in a guest's inbox.

Block off hotel rooms

While your wedding guests who need hotel accommodations are expected to book and pay for them on their own, it's good etiquette to at least help them find a place to stay. When creating your wedding website, it's not a bad idea to include suggestions for local accommodations. It cannot hurt to recommend several hotels, ideally at multiple price points, so your guests can book accommodations that they will personally feel the most comfortable with.

Additionally, it's basic wedding etiquette to reserve a block of rooms for potential wedding guests at each hotel. While this doesn't book their stay for them, it ensures a specified number of rooms are guaranteed to be kept available for your guests should they decide to book – often at a discounted rate. As Octavia Watson of Philadelphia's Hotel Palomar told Philadelphia magazine, it's usually a safe bet to block a number of rooms that's around half the number of out-of-town guests. Keep in mind that you can always reserve more if you need to.

It's helpful to understand the hotel's policy regarding room blocking, as some might hold you financially accountable for any unsold rooms. More commonly, hotels will block off a specified number of rooms and agree to keep them available without a deposit — though they will usually only keep them available or offer a discounted rate under your party name until a specific date. If that's the case, make sure you indicate this date to your guests.

Keep wedding guests in the loop

While it sounds simple, one of the most beneficial things you can do for your guests who have to make travel plans is to make sure they have every single detail available to them in a way that is easy for them to access. From the address of the rehearsal dinner venue to a complete itinerary, make sure your loved ones are confident in knowing what they can expect when they arrive for the wedding festivities. It's likely easiest to make this information available for your guests by posting it on your wedding website for them to easily reference. You can also have this information made physically available to them on paper upon checking into their hotel room. Travel often brings upon its own list of stressors, and the last thing your loved ones want to do after a long day of layovers and Uber drives from the airport is have to hunt down all the necessary information.

It's also a good idea to note the wedding's dress code on the website and have it made available in advance, as this helps your guests who are traveling know what kind of event to pack for. Letting them know what they can expect in terms of climate can also help them know if they should leave the sandals at home and stick a parka in their carry-on instead.

Include them in the rehearsal dinner

Because you will likely be surprised about how little time you have during the reception to sit down and mingle with all of your guests, it's proper etiquette to include the VIPs who traveled to for the wedding in the final headcount for rehearsal dinner. This will offer you an opportunity to spend meaningful time with them in a more personable, intimate setting than the wedding day itself can provide.

If you have any other planned events before or after the wedding, such as a welcome party or a post-wedding day brunch, anyone who had to make travel accommodations to attend your big day should also be invited to those as well. If you have any local guests who opened their homes to any of your out-of-town guests and are kindly housing them during their stay, The Emily Post Institute notes that they should also be included on the guest list for these smaller events as a way to show your appreciation.

Help out-of-town guests coordinate transportation

While wedding guests are expected to foot the bill for their own travel, that doesn't mean you can't make things a little easier for them. Many major airlines offer discounts on group travel, so if you have a lot of loved ones flying in, check with multiple airlines to see if your guests qualify to book at a discounted rate. Though none of your guests should feel obligated to book a certain flight, letting them know that they might be able to get a discount if they do will surely be appreciated.

As your guests who have to fly in for the big day don't have access to their own vehicles, they will need to rent a car, take public transit, or rely on ride sharing apps. You can also enlist a trusted friend or family member to be in charge of getting your out-of-town guests to and from the airport and to and from the wedding. Both Lyft and Uber allow you to easily arrange and pre-pay for nonlocal attendees' rides between the wedding and the hotel, which you might want to consider if the hotel they are staying doesn't offer a shuttle service — especially if the reception has an open bar. And if you do book a ride service, make sure guests are made aware ahead of time so they can focus on having fun at the wedding instead of worrying about transportation.