9 Ways to Help Out-of-Town Wedding Guests Feel Right at Home
Chances are, many of your friends and family members will have to travel to your wedding. This is especially true if you're having a destination wedding (neither of you live in the wedding location). Since they've made the effort to come to your special day, it's important that you make the experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
First, let's clarify what an out-of-town guest actually is. "If you are staying at the hotel or another hotel for the wedding, you are considered an out-of-town guest," explains Ariel Becker, CEO of Becker and the Co. Read on for more advice on how to make your wedding guests feel right at home.
1. Create a Wedding Website
You want your guests to be well-informed about everything happening over the weekend, and the best way to do that is on a wedding website. You can put all the information they need and include the URL on your save-the-date. Things you should plan to include on your wedding website are the location, time and date of the ceremony and reception. How to get to the venue, hotels to stay at (specifically call out the ones with room blocks and provided transportation), your registry information, things to do in the area and even an RSVP section—if that's how you're collecting responses.
2. Provide Transportation
While some of your out-of-town guests may be within driving distance, a lot of them will likely fly, so you'll want transportation of some kind to get them to and from the venue (you can easily find a transportation company on The Knot Vendor Marketplace). It doesn't have to be a luxury form of transportation at all (although, if it is, lucky them!). Couples will often rent school buses or trolleys as a fun alternative to a coach bus or big SUVs. Some guests prefer to take a taxi or rideshare if they want to arrive and leave on their own time. Be sure to include numbers for taxi companies on your wedding website, and if ride shares are hard to get in the area, share that information, as well.
3. Provide Hotel Recommendations
If you're inviting more than a couple of out-of-town guests, we highly encourage booking a room block at one or more area hotels. Not only will this reserve rooms for your crew, your guests may also receive a discounted rate (check out Hotel Planner to learn more). Whether or not you book a room block, it's a good idea to provide hotel suggestions on your wedding website. Make sure you include multiple price points, because some guests may want to spend more on a hotel than others. Also, denote where the newlyweds plan to stay. "Our recommendation is to have as many guests at the hotel where the couple will stay," says Becker.
4. Share Your Local Favorites.
If your guests have never been to the area before, or even if they have, they'll be looking for things to do and places to eat during down time. Your wedding website is the perfect place to offer suggestions. In terms of activities, suggest a variety of things for people of all ages. You don't want to offer only physical activities, especially if you've got some older people on the guest list. Include a mix of outdoor activities, shopping, historical sites and anything else noteworthy in the area that has special meaning for you and your future spouse. You should also include restaurants, along with descriptions about each of them. Are they known for their seafood? Is it a favorite spot of you and your partner? All these little personalized details will make the overall experience more fun for your guests.
5. Gift Welcome Bags
After a lot of travel, greeting guests with a little care package is sure to put a smile on your guests' faces. "In today's heavy travel schedule, we use it to butter up the long ride or flight," says Becker. So, what should go in your welcome bag? You'll want to include an itinerary for the weekend and list what time they'll be picked up at their hotel if you're providing transportation, the addresses of where the events are located, and any other pertinent information. You can include a few snacks that you and your future spouse like, water or alcohol, and maybe a few things to form a hangover kit. Whether they enjoy it right when they arrive or save the snacks for a late-night munchie, they're sure to appreciate the gesture.
6. Plan Activities
If you're having a destination wedding at a resort or somewhere with lots of activities going on, it's a nice idea to schedule something for those who are looking for entertainment. Whether it's a brunch, happy hour, workout class or a local guided tour, having something optional for guests who desire it to enjoy will make them feel taken care of.
7. Invite Them to a Welcome Event
It's becoming more common for couples to host some kind of welcome event before the wedding ceremony. It offers a more casual opportunity to greet your guests, allow them to meet each other, mingle and take it all in before the big event. This can take on many forms including a brunch the day before the wedding, a welcome cocktail hour following the rehearsal dinner or something more active. Not only will it give your guests something to do, it will make you feel less pressured to spend quality time with every single person on the day of your wedding.
8. Show Your Appreciation
It's important your guests know how thankful you are that they made the trip and there are a couple of ways to do that. You can write a note thanking them for traveling and tell them how much it means to you to have them here (it can be a generic note to everyone), and leave it at their seat at the reception or in the welcome gift bag. Another option is to make a toast, either at a pre-wedding event or at the reception itself to let people know how you feel. You can also include signage throughout the event that shows how grateful you are. There's no right or wrong way to say "thank you", just as long as you do it.
9. Write a Thank-You Note
Obviously this will come after the wedding (or perhaps before if you're really on top of it), but it's critical to write your thank-you note within a year of your wedding. This note can be a bit more personal than the one you wrote at the wedding, and should obviously acknowledge the gift that they gave you. You can include a specific memory from seeing them at the wedding or note how far they came to celebrate you. It's a great way to remind them that you're thankful they came to your special day.