Wedding season is on the horizon and destination weddings offer a rare opportunity (and good reason) to travel without the kids. Whether you’re traveling abroad, to a tropical destination, or merely two hours away, these tips will help you make the most of this rare opportunity to travel without the kids.
Destination Wedding Tips
Last year, 2015, was the year of the wedding for my husband and me. We traveled to Madrid, Spain, for my brother’s wedding. Then we headed to Salvador, Brazil, for the wedding of my husband’s childhood friend.
Over the years, we’ve attended weddings in Ireland and across the US. These events, although exotic, fun, and worthwhile, are also, admittedly, expensive and exhausting. After surviving these joyous occasions, I have ten useful tips for anyone traveling for someone else’s big day.
As with any wedding that’s not your own, your primary duty as a guest is to be there for the bride and groom. When traveling to any wedding, and especially a destination wedding, you’re expected to be fun. Take that glass of champagne that’s offered. Try a new cocktail and socialize. Get enough sleep before and during the trip, so that you can bring your A-game to the party. While seeing the local sites is fine for the days surrounding the wedding, spending time with the couple and other guests should be your top priority.
2. Leave young kids behind.
Unless you have the luxury of traveling with a grandparent or caregiver who’s solely dedicated to watching your children, don’t bring them along. I’m all for multi-cultural experiences and exposing my children to different places and ways of life, but these weddings aren’t the way to accomplish these goals. Weddings abroad often start late and last until the wee hours of the morning. In Brazil, the church ceremony didn’t start until 8PM and the reception lasted until 4AM. In Madrid, my brother’s reception lasted until 6:30AM. I don’t care how well behaved your children are or how much they like to dance, there’s no way they (or you) are going to enjoy all those hours past their bedtime.
3. Listen to the bride.
Follow her schedule. Arrive on time to events. Take her advice on where to dine, what to see. Inquire about the local customs, dress code. Although not technically a black-tie wedding, my Spanish sister-in-law told me to wear a long, colorful ball gown so as to match the style of her girlfriends. Thankfully, despite having a closet full of short, black cocktail dresses, I purchased a full-length, formal red gown, which I wore to both weddings to many compliments.
4. Learn the language.
As with any international travel, learning a few key phrases in the native language heightens your enjoyment of the trip, in addition to being respectful to the local culture. I barely survived using my high school Spanish in Madrid, and was painfully unprepared for the Portuguese in Brazil. I found many of the local taxi drivers and servers understood my broken Spanish better than my English. I wished I’d invested the time to learn a few key Portuguese phrases.
To each couples’ credit, the church ceremonies were amazing in the multiple languages. At my brother’s, the priest was bilingual and said half the ceremony in English and half in Spanish. Same with the readings. In Brazil, the officiant similarly spoke both English and Portuguese, and a few of the readers even spoke in Irish (Gaelic), making for tri-lingual wedding. Truly an experience.
5. Stay at the same hotel as the bride and groom.
They’ve done the research in the area, therefore, they’ve probably selected the best place. There may be a wedding rate. More importantly, you may be able to catch the busy couple for breakfast or lunch and there’ll be other guests there.
6. Don’t be a wallflower.
Leave it all on the dance floor. Although, not naturally gifted in this department, my husband and I have learned to become dancers over the last few years. Despite being worse than Elaine from Seinfeld, I dance at weddings.
In both Spain and Brazil, it’s a custom for the bride to provide a flat shoe for female guests to change into for dancing (and to take home) so that you don’t have to walk around barefoot once your heels have drawn blood. These shoe kits can be purchased online and contain a variety of sizes, and is such a thoughtful idea that I’m surprised it’s not yet a tradition in America. You can always bring a pair of sandals or flats to change into.
7. Eat a late lunch.
Don’t be starving for your dinner. For one thing, it may be several hours away because of the ceremony, photographs, and cocktail hour(s). If you’re a picky eater, you may not like the local cuisine that the couple selected.
If the Irish or British are involved, be prepared for a suspension in food and alcohol service while several family members give long, sometimes laborious, speeches. These are not your standard best man speech that lasts two minutes. They typically last over an hour.
8. The alcohol service may be unfamiliar.
At Irish weddings, after the wine service at dinner, the bar opens but the guests pay their own way. If you are in any way familiar with how much the Irish drink, this custom is understandable. At the Brazilian wedding, there was no wine anywhere on the premises, but to fully compensate, the open bar stocked vodka and servers carried around champagne, beer, and Jameson whiskey on trays all night long.
9. Give the universal and easily transportable gift of cash.
Registries are primarily an American tradition. Europeans don’t throw wedding showers (or baby showers) or create a wedding registry. Personally, I prefer this, especially for more mature couples. The original reasoning behind wedding registries is outdated. Women live outside of their parents’ homes for years before getting married these days, often with the men they’re marrying. If you’re getting married and are approaching 40, you probably already have your own towels and ice bucket.
10. Meet new people.
Introduce yourself to the bride and groom’s families. Dance with an older uncle. You’ve traveled all this way and don’t have to worry about getting up at 7AM to have a tea party with your daughter. Mingle, talk and enjoy.
What is your best tip for a destination wedding? Share with us in the comment section below.
This post was written by Carissa Howard. She is a former litigator turned wife, mother, and writer. Her work has appeared on @ScaryMommy, @Mamalode, @MommyEffect, @theMighty, and @HoldinHolden. Her parenting and lifestyle blog is My Misadventures in Mothering. Follow her on Twitter @carissathoward and on Facebook.