A wedding is considered a “destination wedding” when it involves more than two hours’ driving to get there. I personally think that’s an overly broad definition, but maybe that’s because I’m a bit of a travel snob who doesn’t see intra-provincial travel as “real travelling”. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking trips to a variety of new and/or exciting locales within Ontario. But if someone asked me why I was taking a week off, I’d feel weird telling them I was “travelling”.
But hey, you use whatever terminology feels comfortable for you.
As someone who LOVES travelling, the idea of treating a wedding like a trip or a weekend getaway is extremely appealing to me. But for a lot of us (or our guests), travel-heavy weddings aren’t feasible. There are financial concerns. There are accessibility concerns. There are work and scheduling concerns. There may even be child or pet care concerns.
(Yes, there are also other, obvious concerns. No one has forgotten about COVID.)
Fortunately, you don’t need to actually have a destination wedding to make your wedding feel like a destination wedding.
I don’t mean putting up palm tree and sea shell decorations and pretending you’re on an island in the Caribbean (although you can do that, if it tickles your fancy). I mean taking some of the traditions and conventions of destination weddings and applying them to your non-destination wedding.
It isn’t difficult to make people feel like they’re taking break from life and going on a short vacation/staycation. We want to feel excited and relaxed and ready for fun. And when we want to feel a certain way, it’s incredibly easy to evoke that feeling because it’s RIGHT there, begging to come out! If you frame your wedding like a trip or a weekend getaway, your guests will already be coming into your wedding with that mindset. Any little cue or special touch you give them that makes your wedding feel like a Trip™ is going to be even more effective. When you say, “this is our theme” or “this is how we want you to feel”, people actually look for things that fit that description. They will look for reasons to feel the way you’ve told them to. Anything you give them to cultivate or enhance that effect will be amplified, because they want the experience you’re offering them.
If you want your hometown or nearby wedding to feel like a local getaway or an international excursion, start with incorporating some of these concepts and see where your creativity takes you!
Have multiple events. Destination weddings usually involve a couple of extra events to make the travel time worthwhile. This ranges from the addition of a single Welcome Party to a full weekend of activities! Consider having an informal Welcome Party or get-together before the day of the ceremony to thank your guests for coming. Or in lieu of a bachelorx party, opt to invite your guests (or a select group) to a day or two of fun group activities before the ceremony happens!
Include an info card or itinerary with your invitations. Once you have any extra events or parties sorted out and booked, send out an itinerary with the invitations! It may be that some of your guests can’t make it to every event. But you remember what I was saying earlier, about people leaning into the vacation thing? Take advantage of it!
Send a “Tourism” Brochure before the wedding. You can do this with the invitations, or you can do this a month or two before the wedding. Use your best judgment on what would work best for your guests! Your “Tourism” brochure can include information on accommodations (if your guests want to enjoy a hotel, motel, or B&B stay), where to eat (make sure to include a range of price points), and what to do in the area. This is a great way to get your guests excited leading up to your wedding!
Create a Welcome Basket, Bag, or Box. If your guests are staying somewhere, these can be waiting for them in their rooms. If not, you can send them their welcome packages by post or by taking them over yourself. Welcome baskets generally fit the theme or aesthetic of the wedding, and often involve sweet snacks, savoury snacks, drinks (water bottles, tea, coffee), one or two practical items (like sunscreen, bug spray, or pairs of mittens/gloves), and a welcome note. But feel free to get creative, and spend whatever amount of money (or time) is comfortable for you!
Highlight what’s special about where you are getting married. What is the region/city known for? What local artisans and small businesses make a home there? Are there any attractions that the area boasts? Even if everyone and their mother has already been to the area you’re saying “I do” in, multiple times, you can still make it feel like An Experience™ by leaning into what makes the area special. Maybe the venue has their own bakery or taps their own maple syrup- you can put those goodies in a welcome basket or give them out as favours. Maybe there are wineries, breweries, or cideries in the area- you can serve their drinks at one or all of your events. Maybe you’re having a wedding that’s powered entirely by small, local businesses- find little ways to emphasize that!