Q: My fiancé and I are planning a large wedding, and many of our guests will be from out-of-state. Is there anything we can do in advance to make the whole thing easier for them? And do we have to invite them to the rehearsal dinner?
A: You're wise to think ahead. Begin by sending guests save-the-date postcards a few months before the wedding—you'll want them to have plenty of time to plan their trips. Look into hotel or inn rates and reserve a block of rooms. (There may be a discount for a large number of guests.) Check flight times and airfare. Notify guests of hotel availability, room rates and airfare costs so that they can book as quickly as possible. And consider holding your wedding on a holiday weekend so guests can turn the event into a mini-vacation.
Other nice ideas: Greet guests with a welcome basket in their rooms (fresh fruit, candy, bottled water, and so on); include useful info like a map of your town and an itinerary of the activities planned. Be sure to list top restaurants in the area, nearby parks, movie theaters, recommendations for spa, hair and nail treatments, and any walking tours, golf games, cocktail parties, brunches or lunches you may have planned. If you can, host a hospitality suite at the hotel so they can relax and meet and greet other guests upon their arrival. And don't forget about providing transportation: If it's a large wedding, you may need a luxury van or bus to take guests to the ceremony and to other activities that may be held some distance from the hotel.
Keep in mind that you should also invite out-of-town guests to the rehearsal. They'll feel more involved, and you'll be able to spend extra time with them. But if you prefer limiting the rehearsal dinner to your immediate family and wedding attendants, arrange a cocktail party at the hotel that same evening for out-of-town guests instead. Another hospitable gesture is to host a farewell brunch the morning after the wedding. It's the perfect finale to all the festivities and an appropriate thank-you to guests who may have traveled a great distance to share in your special day.