Problem Solved: Destination Wedding Invite Wording

destination wedding etiquette

Recently, a reader posed this question to me:

I will be getting married this October at sea during a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. My fiance and I aren’t expecting many of our family or friends to join us, so we are also hosting a “belated reception” (for lack of a better phrase) in November at a casual restaurant centrally located to where most of our extended families live.

I am stumped on how to do my invitations. Everyone who wants to come to the cruise is welcome, but they will have to pay their own way. The buffet at the “belated reception,” on the other hand, will be paid for by my parents. How do I say all this properly? Furthermore, is it acceptable for me to use one invitation for both events?

First off, “belated reception” is common phrasing for what you’re hosting. Even etiquette expert Peggy Post uses the term, so feel free to call it that!

Secondly, I wonder whether you’ll run into confusion if you send an official invite to your destination wedding. Guests may assume there will be a traditional reception at the event, paid for by the bride and groom or their families. That said, most people realize that rooms and flights are always at their expense, so I don’t think you should worry about that. What I recommend is sending only one invitation for the belated reception, but then point guests to your website if they would also like to  attend your wedding. So, for example, the wording to the invitation may be:

Mr. and Mrs. John Doe
request the pleasure of your company
at a reception
to celebrate the marriage of
Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Smith

Then, as a footnote on the reception invitation, you could include: For those who wish to join us for the destination wedding, please visit (your wedding website here). Even better than a footnote would be a second, smaller note about the destination wedding, about the size of an RSVP card or map, saying something similar. That way, it’s clear that the reception is the primary event for guests.

If you weren’t planning on having a wedding website, I highly recommend one. They’re inexpensive and they give you plenty of space to clarify your events. On your website, make the reception the more prominent event, but then include a page with information about your wedding, where you can say something along these lines:

While we are hosting a belated reception with family and friends to celebrate our marriage, all who wish to attend our destination wedding are welcome! We will not be hosting a traditional reception at this event but would be overjoyed if you chose to join us for our very simple wedding.

Certainly, word it however you feel most comfortable, but something like the above gives family and friends a sense of what to expect, without specifically mentioning expenses. Then you can give out the information regarding the dates, the cruise, along with important links, etc.

I hope that helps, and best wishes for a wonderful wedding, honeymoon and belated reception!

For others considering a destination wedding, check out our guide on “Pros & Cons of Destinations Weddings.”

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