Details: The Out-of-Towners
Here's how to take care of your well-traveled guests.
WHILE IT’S EASY FOR THE HARRIED BRIDE to obsess over the To Dos of the I Dos—dealing with the dress and the flowers and the first dance—don’t forget that most crucial of elements to your wedding day: your guests. In particular, the out-of-town guests, who are, after all, laying out major cashola to fly in from points north, south, east and west to ooh and ahh over your dress and flowers and first dance.
While the nitty-gritty etiquette dos and don’ts abound for everything from how to phrase an invitation to how to thank your bridesmaids, when it comes to how to treat your out-of-towners, not so much. So here, a guide to what you really should do, and what is simply nice to do, for these far-flung folks.
NO WAY AROUND IT: YOU SIMPLY MUST provide your out-of-town guests with a list of lodging facilities. “That’s the first thing, and that’s a must,” says Tasha Bracken, owner of Simple Details in Newton. “What I suggest is a high-end, a mid-range and a low-end option.” And, if the hotels allow you to set up room blocks, that’s a great idea, too. “That way you’re assured those places will have rooms,” says Bracken, particularly important for weekends when, say, the Head of the Charles regatta descends on Boston and gobbles up all the rooms. “And you also get a discounted rate.”
Make sure to send hotel information out with the save-the-date—not your invitation, says Tricia C. Shaw, owner of Attention to Detail Events in Boston: “The rate is usually discounted only up until six weeks prior to the wedding.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING UP—AND paying for—transportation for your out-of-town guests depends on where you’re getting married. “If you’re getting married 30 miles outside of Boston, it’s not as important because people are usually renting a car anyway,” says Danielle Cameron, owner of Details Within Wedding Planning in Merrimac. “But if you’re getting married in Boston, I think it’s important.” The city is expensive, and simply cabbing it from Logan to the hotel can feel like it costs almost as much as flying there. At the least, say wedding planners, arrange for a shuttle between wedding events in the city and, if you can swing it, consider doing even more. Shaw had a client who arranged transportation for every single guest from two different airports and a train station out to Andover. “People really raved about it,” she says. And if you really want to go whole hog, hire a private jet. “If you have a large crowd coming over from London or France, it can actually be less expensive to charter a plane,” says Bracken. “It’s a nice perk.”
The Amenity Bag
THOSE CUTE LITTLE BAGS—OR BASKETS—that you leave for guests at check-in are a really nice gesture, if you do them right. “Don’t do, ‘Oh, here’s some bottled water and a snack,’” says Cameron. “It can be a lot of money for something sort of lame.” This is a time for some creativity. If you’re getting married in Boston, throw in some baked-bean candies; on the Cape, some Cape Cod potato chips. If your fiance is from, say, Wisconsin, adding a nod to his home state, like a nice block of cheese, would be sweet—“something that represents the couple,” says Bracken. Most importantly, add an itinerary of wedding events (who remembers to pack that invite?) and as much information as you can (see sidebar below).
Information, Information, Information!
DON’T FORGET THAT THOSE FOLKS from Boise may know nothing about Boston, so set them up with some information about your wedding locale. “We’ve done a wedding in Salem, and we gave guests information about the Salem witch trials and they loved that,” says Shaw. “We did a wedding at Astors’ Beechwood Mansion in Newport and we did a history about the mansions.”
A map of the area, of course, is absolutely key, as is any information about local shopping and dining options to point your guests in the right direction—maybe even include a list of your faves when it comes to dining, shopping and seeing. “People sometimes don’t realize that guests are flying in and they might be there for four days before your wedding and there’s not a heck of a lot for them to do,” says Shaw. So, hook them up with information on museums, the Freedom Trail and Duck Tours.
WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY FLUNG across the country, brides these days are feeling the pressure to provide days of entertainment (and meals!) for their guests. The morning-after brunch has become de rigueur, and rehearsal dinners that include all of your out-of-town guests are increasing in popularity. “It’s wonderful. It allows you to spend more time with your guests who are spending so much on airfare,” says Bracken. “It’s a nice way to be able to expend extra time.”
If that’s an expense your budget can’t handle, there are plenty of non-hosted ways to mingle with loved ones. Plan an informal gathering somewhere after the rehearsal dinner or the reception, suggests Bracken. “Weddings with a lot of out-of-town guests are doing it more and more because they want people to feel like there’s a lot going on, that they didn’t just come for the four-hour reception,” she says.
That can even mean things like setting up a guided tour of Boston between events. Just make sure you know your guests, says Shaw. “If you have an older crowd, they may not want to be bothered with these kinds of things. Maybe they’d rather go get a pedicure at the hotel salon than schlep all over the city,” she says. “It’s a balancing act. Some brides will say, ‘I just want to keep everyone busy,’ but not all your guests want to be kept busy.”
HAVING AN ADULT-ONLY WEDDING? Consider providing a babysitting service for your out-of-town guests. “I’m seeing more and more couples do this,” says Bracken. “Coming to an unfamiliar city with kids, where they don’t know anybody, can be hard.” You can either provide a list of local sitters, or hire a service that can send someone right to the hotel—and that way, everyone can enjoy your wedding in peace.