When a destination wedding is sensible: Rethinking Miss Manners’ advice

Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, is right about almost everything. She’s been pretty vocal about her disregard, if not appall, for a lot of wedding-related behaviour, and I tend to agree with most of it. For instance, wedding favours can be pretty, but they’re mostly just a waste of time and money, and the less they are considered compulsory, the better. And, the groom and bridal party should be made up of closest friends, not selected based on gender or matching numbers (groomsmaids and bridesmen are the way of the future!). When it comes to destination weddings, Miss Manners has some opinions. Some great opinions. But opinions that may not be as universally applicable as she would like.

Her argument is that weddings should be local, and if you want to travel to a romantic exotic location, that is for the honeymoon, not the wedding. Destination weddings are disrespectful to your guests: you’re asking them to spend a lot of money, and a lot of time, traveling to a place they didn’t select, and essentially having a holiday* with people they didn’t select. She also feels the celebration has gotten out of control, spilling out into various types of warm-up events (showers, stag and hen nights, welcome parties), and after parties (morning-after brunches). This is also demanding perhaps more than your fair share of your guests’ time, plus it requires more and more money, which you most probably cannot afford. And it intrudes into the honeymoon, just when the couple should understandably be left alone.

I think the most common reasons people have destination weddings are 1. The destination has a strong brand of being a romantic, wonderful place, and WIC has sold us all on the need to make the wedding as visually appealing as possible, and 2. Even after taking the cost of flights into account, the difference in costs between your home and the destination can mean the whole thing still comes out cheaper. For instance, British people love having their weddings in Thailand.

I totally agree with Miss Manners and I think the common reasons for destination weddings suck. Because the fantasy of weddings is out of control and I want to redefine weddings to be more authentic with our actual lives. I believe if you can only afford a barbecue at home for the same cost as a ball in Thailand, then what you should do is have a barbecue at home.

But all this reasoning only works if you live, physically, in the same local area as your guests and loved ones. In that case, sure, you don’t need add-on events because you see all these peeps quite often.

But how many people live in these circumstances any more? My man and I live in Singapore, and our immediate family members are in New Zealand and Australia, with extended family members in South Africa, England, and a few other places, and our friends are all over the dang place.

We had initially thought we should have our wedding in Auckland. But such is the nature of kiwis that most our good friends from there are no longer there, and it turns out we’re down to about one couple of friends, three parents, and one brother and sister-in-law still residing in NZ. So, the majority of the guests
would have to travel overseas to get to our wedding anyway.

And the thing about NZ is that it’s pretty far away from most places. And the thing about South East Asia is that it’s relatively closer. If you’re in England
or South Africa, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to get to South East Asia
than it is to get NZ. So it turns out having a tropical destination wedding is
actually the least demanding thing we can offer our guests.

As far as the peripheral wedding events ago, you can bet we’re having them. If our guests, some of whom we haven’t seen for years, and maybe won’t see for years again after the wedding, are going to travel all this way, you can bet the time with them is not going to be limited to the few minutes we can spend with them at the reception.

In sum, the Frugal Wedding rules on destination weddings:

1. If your most important guests (immediate family, best friends) are not mainly concentrated in one geographical area, having a destination wedding makes sense.

2. Choose a location that’s relatively easy to get to, on the whole.

3. Since your guests are spending so much money and time to be there, spend some time actually seeing them.

4. Guests sure as hell do not have to give presents.

*USA-ians, please substitute the word ‘vacation’ for


9 responses to “When a destination wedding is sensible: Rethinking Miss Manners’ advice

  1. I agree, although I would add a bullet point to number 2, consider the currency that the majority or “must have” guests are using when selecting the location.

    • Hmmm, that’s a good point. Relative cost of living between countries certainly complicates the issue. I guess this is the price we pay having globalised social networks with out having globalised currencies. Not that I’m arguing for a global currency 😉

      What if you live in say, Norway, and your loved ones are in, say, Argentina, Namibia, and New Zealand? That’s hard. I can’t solve that one. I guess I’m just unfairly lucky that there are cheap countries on my doorstep here. And that I happen to live at the geographic junction point of all the places our loved ones live.

  2. Terrific article. Good advice.

  3. Such an interesting quandary. I make half of my living writing about destination weddings, and I have to say, most destination weddings are vastly cheaper for the couple than a wedding at home. Your guest count drops dramatically for one thing, and guests all have to pay their own way for another. It’s a great deal in a lot of ways, and you get more bang for your buck. It’s perfect for your situation since everyone is far-flung. Three members of our wedding party are flying in from Korea, Japan, and Indiana; and then we have family who live all over the U.S., and friends who we hope can make it from the UK. Our wedding “at home” is actually a destination wedding for most of our poor guests anyway.

    I love your solutions! Especially the “no gifts” part. That’s extraordinarily kind of you. And definitely have a few get-togethers with your guests. I just went to a friend’s wedding where half of the guest list were British, and she had a great pre-wedding day cocktail meetup for everyone. Couples also often have post-wedding day brunches for guests.

    I might also suggest looking into group discounts on airfare and lodging for your guests, giving everyone plenty of notice and a few tips on when and how to book their trips to get the best deals. A travel agent should be able to help with that for free (never pay a travel agent to do research – they get paid by resorts to bring them customers).

    Please keep us updated on where and how you’re working your destination wedding! Funny, my ex-boyfriend was from Singapore, they had like a palace/plantation there or something.

  4. A plantation in Singapore? That doesn’t sound likely, the whole island is like 40 or 50km across at it’s widest point, with about 4 million people crammed in here. So maybe it was a palace 🙂

    I’ll definitely be writing all about it here, and also coming to you for more tips! I still have mixed feelings about the whole destination thing. I had wanted this blog to partly be about defining a new wedding vernacular for NZ, and definitely about rejecting all the unaffordable wedding craziness. And having a destination wedding is pretty much the epitome of all that! And now here I am, about to live *the* wedding tropical island fantasy. But, it just makes sense in my case.

    • That’s the important thing though – at the end of the day you have to do what is right for you. And I am sure you can redefine the “Destination Wedding” just as much as you could redefine the NZ wedding. You’ll find the creativity to do it. And there are a lot of variations. B&Bs are fantastic for instance – they’re smaller, more personal service, and your guests don’t have to worry about at least one of their daily meals. You can often work more with B&B owners than resorts to personalize too, though resorts sometimes offer deals. Some resorts even offer free wedding packages when you book a block of rooms, but I don’t see you going that route. I’m more informed about Caribbean weddings than South East Asia, so I look forward to learning what’s out there!

  5. Pingback: Rethinking Miss Manners: Invitations and formality | Frugal Wedding

  6. Destination wedding? Tell me
    How that turned out. I am a No show.

    No gift either. What brass babalones asking me to fly to ‘Guam’ for your frighten wedding.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s