Destination weddings in Ireland and DC/MD USA. Your Irish wedding planner – styling and coordination to die for weddings since 2006. Based in Dublin and Maryland.

Be Our Guest: Planning for Your Guests for Your Destination Wedding


Photo courtesy of Peter Gordon of Big Day Out Weddings

Most of our posts are about Ireland and tailored for couples who are in the planning process of their own dream destination wedding. But the reality is that the guests who attend also play an integral role. This post is written from their perspective: what they want to know, what they wish they’d known, and advice they have to help you plan your trip as guest to your friend or loved one’s upcoming wedding.

What makes a destination wedding so great is the destination! It’s not just a fabulous evening celebrating two people, but rather a long weekend at the very least of celebrating, exploring, touring, experiencing, and having fun. And Ireland is the best place to host this. As a guest, whether you are traveling alone or as part of a group for the destination wedding, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make the trip about yourself too; see what you want to see, visit where you want to visit, do the things you’ve read about in preparation that excite you outside of the actual wedding. But how do you go about it? How do you balance out making the trip your own but still supporting your friends and family’s big day? Waterlily Weddings is here to help!

After a comprehensive interview of destination wedding guests and talking to couples who’ve planned their destination weddings, here’s a bit of advice from both perspectives to help you, the guest, in navigating the destination wedding experience and you, the couple, in organizing your event.

YOUR ROLE AS A GUEST. There are some expectations of you as a guest attending a destination wedding as would be for any wedding. You were invited because you mean something to the couple getting married, and your presence truly is an honor for them to have on the most important day of their lives. Be respectful of that and as a guest, keep in mind the following:

  1. Be present on and around the wedding day. You don’t have to overdo it, offering to place the veil on top of her head or tie the bowtie, but, but be present in case they do need help with something. Planning to do something out of the area on the day of the wedding is probably not a good idea; save that for the day before or day after. Knowing their friends and family are there, getting ready and taking the time to enjoy the venue the couple spent hours deciding on will make the couple happy. Just having that feeling of security for a nervous couple will help put them at ease.
  2. Be in a good mood. Everyone has jetlag, everyone’s traveled from far away, everyone has work projects they left behind, phone calls and general stress about something. Leave it behind.  You made the effort to travel to Ireland, so have a positive disposition and have a great time.
  3. Have an open mind. The couple might have chosen a ceremony site at a cliff’s edge, with windy whipping up and freezing winds. Maybe an estate with sprawling grounds that might ruin your stilettos you want to wear, or the ruins of a castle or monastery. It may not be what you’d choose, but it’s what they chose and with good reason. “Find out where you’re going, prepare accordingly, and go with an open mind and heart to take it all in. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.”

What the Guest Wants To Know: How involved do you want us on the actual wedding day? Are we free to explore around the grounds that morning on our own and report at time of ceremony? Let us know when, where, and how to dress and we’ll take care of the rest!

WHAT TO BRING. A happy destination wedding guest is one who is prepared. Not just for the wedding day itself, but also for the rest of the trip. The good news is traveling in and around Ireland is pretty easy. With some attention to details and proper packing, you will have a very comfortable and enjoying trip.

  1.  Check the weather! The number one complaint people have when traveling is they didn’t bring proper clothes and shoes. They end up being miserable while venturing out or spending a small fortune outfitting themselves properly. Figure out the time of year you’re planning to go to Ireland and make sure you’ve got the right clothing and shoes for it. Remember, being an island nation means even the summers can have a wicked wind whipping up along the coastlines requiring a decent enough jacket. On the wedding day, bring a coat or shawl to help cover your shoulders even if it’s the summer and a garden wedding; there can always be a chill in the air.
  2. Sunscreen and hats. Even in spring months, a good sunny day can leave you with an unexpected parting gift. Bring the sunscreen and a good hat.
  3. Walking shoes. This is no joke. As a card-carrying heel-wearer, even I had to bow down to the humble street shoe and invest in some good flats. Cobble stones, pebbled roads, inclined streets are a nightmare for bad footwear. And not to mention grass, rolling hills, hiking trails, and riverbanks after a few days of rain can be a muddy disaster. A good pair of walking shoes for the city is great, some rain boots if the forecast calls for it, and walking shoes for the country are a necessity to pack. This goes for the wedding day also! Many couples will have their ceremony site different than the reception, many times out in the elements. For our vow renewal our guests had to walk up a long pebbled path; I made sure all of the girls knew to wear boots for the ceremony and heels for the reception (myself included!)

What The Guests Want To Know: Where are we going and how should we dress for it?

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE KIDS? If you’ve got children then the question becomes if you bring them along on the destination wedding or not. First, the couple should have made a decision if children are welcomed to attend or not. Some couples opt for a childless wedding for a variety of reasons, and as guests it is expected for you to abide by the couple’s wishes. Assuming children are invited:

  1. Make sure they come ready and dressed for the part. If it’s an outdoor ceremony make sure to bring them a good coat or jacket, boots or walking shoes if it will be in rougher terrain. Warm children are happy children and less likely to cry and complain during the ceremony.
  2. Have younger children napped and fed before the ceremony. Pack a couple of their favorite snacks with you if you think they’ll get hungry. If you’re traveling out to a destination for the ceremony, bring some water or juice. And make sure everyone uses the potty!
  3. If you have a smaller child that requires a stroller, check with the couple to see if their ceremony site as has access for a stroller; if not, consider taking a Baby Bjorn or other carrier.
  4. Seriously consider bringing a nanny or getting a babysitter for the event. Mostly for yourselves so you can enjoy the festivities later in the day. For our vow renewal, Michelle coordinated childcare services for us with some local sitters for the weekend who were fantastic; our kids absolutely adored the girls and they helped with everything from feeding the kids breakfast the day of our ceremony so I could get my hair done in peace to helping with dinner and putting them to bed. Our friends brought their nanny/cousin along as well to help with their children and it let them be able to enjoy the trip and wedding day. If you can’t bring your own sitter or nanny with you, Waterlily Weddings is happy to help you find local sitters.
  5. Keep them occupied. Most kids are great about parties and will eat and dance right alongside the adults. But some do get bored. Know your children and bring some activities to help keep them busy (coloring books, books to read, small games like Uno or workbooks with puzzles).

What The Guests Want To Know: Are the kids invited? If so, can we get help from you and your planner to get a sitter while there so we can enjoy your wedding day too!

MAKE A TRIP OUT OF IT. Your actual wedding day will be but a part of the entire destination wedding experience. Your guests will use your wedding day as a starting point, end point, or apex in middle of their own trip to Ireland. As hosts, encourage them to plan a fabulous vacation in and around your wedding day. This will not only make them excited about coming to Ireland, but excited about your wedding; the more research they begin to do on the culture and places to visit the more emotionally invested they will become in your big day.

  1. Plan some bonding activities.  Especially if your guests all don’t know each other, planning some activities on the days leading up to and after your wedding is a great way to get your guests to get to know each other before your wedding day. Plan easy things, like visiting a famous site together or a dinner out at a local pub the night before your wedding. For our vow renewal I hosted a high tea for the ladies and asked them to come dressed in fancy dresses and skirts and their best fascinators; the men and boys (children were invited to our renewal) did clay pigeon shooting the morning of our renewal while the ladies all dressed in peace and quiet. By the time our ceremony began everyone knew each other by name and were laughing and joking and dancing together by nightfall. Even to this day they all remain friends!
  2. Give some insight into your host destination for your guests. Gives some background information about the place, the venue, its history, and why you chose to host it here. This helps your guests get to know the theme of your day and how to prepare for it.
  3. Give them space to explore. Yes your guests are coming to support you, but they also want to see Ireland. Give them permission and encourage them to explore on their own, do some of the things they’d be interested in and eat and drink where they wish. Their experiences will make fantastic conversation at your wedding reception.

What The Guests Want To Know: Where are we going? I want to see everything…can we go off on our own to tour the area?

BE MINDFUL OF FINANCES. You may throw everything into your dream destination wedding, but the reality is you’re asking a lot from your guests to travel and attend. Between airfare, accommodations, and travel expenses (on top of clothing, etc.) the average guest will spend around $3000 to attend a week-long destination event. To increase attendance and decrease stress:

  1. Research and coordinate group rate discounts for your guests.  Many venues will offer a discounted rate if your guests stay at the hotel together. Negotiate with the venue to provide the best deals, maybe even throwing in a discounted spa service or complimentary food or drink item upon arrival. If the hotel won’t cover that, consider covering that expense yourselves as a “thank you” for traveling to Ireland for our destination wedding.
  2. Give your guests different options for accommodations to suit different budgets. Perhaps you’ve budgeted a castle venue for a week but others may not be able to afford it. Research and provide your guests with 2-3 options ranging in price within close proximity of your venue that could suit their budget.
  3. Two words: Open Bar.  If you can allow it in your budget, consider hosting with an open bar as a “thank you” to your guests for making the long travels.

What The Guests Want To Know: Am I required to stay at your chosen venue? Can I stay somewhere else close but more affordable for my budget?


Keeping in mind these questions and tidbits will help you plan your destination wedding and you, the guest, maneuver through the wedding weekend. The end result will be a wonderful time had by all; exploring a new and beautiful place together and on your own, taking in the culture and celebrating two people whom you love.

As always, Waterlily Weddings is here to help you coordinate any of these efforts, from accommodations to sitters, and advice on preparing for your trip. Check out our other post on What To Pack.

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