1. Send a Save-the-Date card. A save-the-date card sent about six months before the wedding will provide all the important information out of town guests need to make wedding plans. Include the time, date, and location of the wedding and reception, as well as information for making hotel reservations. Reserving a block of rooms at a comfortable hotel will ensure your out of town wedding guests have a convenient place to stay.
2. Post information on your website. Out of town guests may turn your wedding into a vacation. Be sure to provide information on your wedding website about directions to the wedding, hotel and reception, as well as suggestions for local activities and attractions. Be sure you are explicit about wedding-related activities so guests can plan their itineraries accordingly.
3. Provide welcome bags. When out of town guests check into their hotel, having welcome bags waiting for them is an excellent way to ensure they immediately feel welcome. Leave the bags at the front desk and instruct the hotel staff to give one to each guest staying in your block as they check in. My husband and I provided candy, homemade kettle corn, playing cards, and gifts with his company logo on them. At my cousin’s wedding, she provided a mix CD of Colorado-themed music and sunscreen to combat the Colorado sun.
4. Include out of town guests in the ceremony. There are always special roles to be played in a wedding ceremony. Perhaps you could invite your out of town guests to perform some of these roles to make them feel more involved. Out of town guests could distribute programs, do a reading, seat guests, or provide music.
5. Host a pre-wedding gathering. Many out of town guests will arrive several days before the wedding. Especially if you have a large number of out of town guests, you may want to provide a social activity to allow everyone the chance to get together and see you before the big day. When my family traveled to Colorado for my cousin’s wedding, she and her fiancé hosted a dinner party on Thursday night for out of town guests. Because most out of town guests at my wedding didn’t arrive until Friday, we invited them to attend the rehearsal dinner.
6. Provide an activity between the ceremony and reception. If there is a gap between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception, out of town guests might not have a place to go – especially those who have only traveled in for the day. If possible, you could provide an activity for out of town guests between the ceremony and reception, such as a small gathering at someone’s house. Providing suggestions for activities would also be perfectly acceptable. You could include this information in your wedding program, on your website, or in a card included with your wedding invitation.
7. Make sure there is space for your guests to lounge at the hotel. If you have lots of out of town guests coming who know one another, they may want to spend time hanging out together. Make sure you visit your hotel to ensure there is adequate gathering space, such as a patio or a large breakfast room. My husband and I had a Country Inn & Suites as our hotel for out of town guests, and the management allowed us to book a meeting room for the weekend for free. We kept refreshments and games in the meeting room, and our out of town guests spent Friday and Saturday evenings gathered in there.
8. Consider seating arrangements for out of town guests. When your out of town guests arrive at the wedding, they may be concerned they will not have anyone to sit with. This is when having assigned seating would be especially helpful. When you assign seating, give special consideration to the tables at which you seat your out of town guests. If you can’t seat them with people they know, make sure you place them among people their own age or who have something in common with them.
9. Include special entertainment at the reception for out of town guests. Out of town guests will feel especially welcome if you give them special attention at the reception. We also played “New York, New York” for my family visiting from New York State, and everyone gathered together to make a kick line. You could also have an out of town guest group picture or include an inside joke or hometown memorabilia in your wedding décor. Special touches such as these will make out of town guests feel more included and make their trip more memorable.
10. Thank them for coming. Above all, remember to thank your out of town guests for coming. Although it’s difficult to pay close attention to anyone at your wedding, try to go out of your way to speak with your out of town guests. Thank them in your wedding speech. Be sure to include a very special thank-you in the thank-you card.
You might not have the time or resources to consider all of these suggestions as you plan your wedding, but your out of town guests will appreciate any little touches. Keep the sacrifices they’ve made in mind, and take the time to embrace the understanding of how much these people must love you to have traveled so far for your wedding!