The Wedding Welcome Wagon

Are guests coming from faraway places? Treat your favorite out-of-towners to a little TLC and watch the accolades roll in.

Out-of-town guests make matters tricky. There are rooms to block, transportation to book, directions to give and gift bags to stuff. And now it seems there are more wedding-weekend travelers than ever. Here’s how to host them like a pro.

hotel bed
Photo Credit: Marie Labbancz Photography 

Provide Info Early

Sending save-the-date cards is the best way to let guests know they’ll need to plan ahead. “These should go out six to eight months before the big day,” says Jenny Orsini of Pampered Bride Weddings in Garwood, New Jersey, who advises keeping the information simple. “Include your names, the wedding date and place, a wedding web­site URL, if you have one, and hotel information.”

Block Rooms Strategically

When choosing a hotel to recommend to guests, Orsini advises keeping in mind what she calls “the three Ps: proximity, price and pleasantries.” A location near both the ceremony and reception will make it easier for guests to get around. It should be affordable, clean and nicely decorated, and it should offer amenities such as a restaurant, a bar and airport shuttle service. You might even want to recommend accommodations in two different locations, at two different price points.

Guests will appreciate it if you block rooms at a discounted rate. “Contracts for a block vary from hotel to hotel, so it’s imperative that you go over all the details,” says Danielle Norcross of Concierge Couture, a Florida-based company that collaborates with wedding planners and brides to make travel plans. In some cases, a credit card deposit is required, and there may be a deadline for booking rooms (usually about four weeks in advance); you may or may not be required to use all the rooms you’ve reserved. “We typically hold fewer rooms than expected,” says Norcross. “If we see rooms filling up quickly, it’s easy to add but not always to subtract.”

the wedding welcome wagonGive Guidance

Guests will be on their own to book airfare and other transportation. To make it stress-free, consider working with a travel agent to find good deals and packages for them; Norcross’s company charges couples a fee of about $15 to $30 per guest for coordinating out-of-towners’ flights. Even though guests should manage their own transportation from the airport to the hotel, provide them with the name and phone number of a recommended taxi service and any details about hotel-provided transportation.

Also, you’ll want to give guests some ideas of what to do while they’re in town, whether it’s sights to see or recommended restaurants. Make a list with pertinent information and post it on your website, or leave copies with the hotel concierge.

Consider a Shuttle

“Shuttling guests from the hotel to the wedding and back is always a good idea,” says Orsini. If you have room in your budget, consider hiring a bus or limo to do the honors. It gives everyone a designated driver for the evening—plus, party buses can be fun. Have flip-flops for tired feet, bottled water, mints and aspirin awaiting your guests on the bus: “They’ll love the surprise as they take their seats and head to the reception!” Orsini says.

Don’t Go Overboard

Plan fun events for out-of-towners, but don’t go over budget to accommodate them every step of the way. For instance, it’s customary to invite everyone coming from afar to the rehearsal dinner—and sometimes even a next-day brunch—but this may not be financially feasible. “Most people will not be offended if they’re not invited to pre- and post-wedding events,” says Orsini. Instead, suggest guests meet at a nearby hot spot for cocktails or take a tour of the town. Orsini says, “Take care of guests, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford to wine and dine them all weekend long.”

Gift Giving

Guests will appreciate a little basket or bag of treats to help them feel welcome. Consider:

  • Comfort and Care Bottled water, fruit and crackers should satisfy their just-arrived cravings; throw in some bubble bath and soft slippers too.
  • City-centric Marrying in the big city? Provide bus or rail tokens, a map, a guidebook and some locally made treats.
  • Beachy Keen For a beach wedding, fill a sand pail with flip-flops, sunscreen and a gift card for ice cream on the boardwalk.
  • Morning Glory A bagel, juice, pain reliever and the newspaper will make the a.m. after enjoyable.