I love the energy that comes with destination weddings. People are setting aside more than just an evening to be together—truly together, immersed in the celebration of your love, in a special place away from life’s usual landscape. Northern California is a popular destination because of its stunning views of the ocean, the mountains, and the redwood forests—not to mention the precipitation-free summers that eliminate the fear of rain on an elaborate outdoor wedding ceremony.
Destination Weddings Present Extra Challenges
Along with the unique benefits, inviting people to travel from their scattered homes to your California wedding also brings a handful of new variables to your wedding planning.
- Travel details and arrangements are much more complicated.
- People need somewhere to go and sleep after the last dance.
- Guests need to be packed and prepared for an unfamiliar climate.
- The expectations are higher because your wedding may also be a dedicated vacation for some people.
But before you feel the pressure building, let me say that it’s possible to approach the planning in a way that embraces these variables. It’s what I do every day.
The first thing to keep in mind is that all-inclusive venues exist to catch some of these variables and others that fall through the cracks. You can forego the all-inclusive options, but a lot more of the planning will fall on your shoulders, and your total cost will likely be higher after all fees—big and small—are factored in. If you live outside of California or even in a distant part of the state, most of your planning will happen remotely. A lot of your stress can be relieved when you have someone on the ground, intimately connected with your wedding venue and all the logistical parts and pieces already working together.
Take Advantage of a Wedding Website Generator to Connect and Inform Your Guests
Beyond coordinating with your distant venue and vendors, early and consistent communication with your guests is critical to avoiding mishaps—and also to getting people more involved. Wedding websites, or wedsites, are becoming commonplace, but they are even more important for destination weddings, as you can only say so much in your mailed invitations. Let’s look at the ways in which wedsites can organize all the information your guests will need, and address the four extra variables your getaway wedding presents.
- Travel Arrangements. Since guests will be on their own in terms of arranging their travel—whether long or short—the more helpful information you can provide, the better. The bare minimum would be to list the address, but wedding website features and widgets make it possible to offer a lot more. You can embed a Google map, centered on the venue location, for guests to interact with, or incorporate flight widgets on your website from booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz. Consider that your guests may be flying into the San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose airports, and do your research into local transportation options. On your website, you could include discount codes for Uber and Lyft, bus schedules, and shuttle information if your venue is so good as to provide the service. You can even feature forum widgets on your site that allow people to chat, to connect with people who might be traveling from similar areas, and to arrange carpools from home or from the airport.
- Lodging Arrangements. It’s not just about people having somewhere to stay; it’s about hosting people in a way that allows them to come together for more than just the ceremony and reception. If you’re reserving a venue that will host all of your guests and provide them with shared spaces to gather, you need to worry only about assigning people to their rooms—which a wedsite can help you do with features that allow you to manage your guest list. If, instead, people will be staying in hotels, you can include a list of recommendations and the places where you’ve reserved blocks of rooms. The forum widgets can also come in handy for people to discuss with each other where they’ll be staying and how they plan to gather during the weekend.
- Packing Suggestions. Don’t underestimate the value of letting your guests know as much as possible about what to expect from your destination. A lot of people will hear “California” and think sunshine, but Northern California presents a wide range of conditions: refreshing coastal winds, cool evenings and nights, and bright sunshine. If, through your website, you can help your guests master the art of layering, you’ll all settle in as comfortably as the locals. So, include a clear list of suggested clothing and other items, including sunscreen, sunglasses, varying and versatile clothes for layering, comfortable shoes for hiking and playing, and maybe even a kite. (I’m only half-joking here.) You can easily incorporate a weather forecast widget on your site—not that it will give information your guests can’t find elsewhere, but it will remind them to pack consciously. Of course, you’ll also want to spell out the dress code you’re hoping to see at the wedding, if you have one in mind.
- High Expectations. Destination weddings are more interactive in the first place because the party is happening before, during, and after your wedding. It’s not just about the fun you provide; people will be bringing the fun all weekend long. Destination wedding websites make it possible to get that guest involvement started early and to continue the connection even after the weekend is over. You can incorporate a Twitter or Instagram feed on your website, so that when guests label their photos with the hashtag you’ve come up with for your wedding, their photos will automatically sync up and be visible there. There are widgets that allow you to create quizzes and polls for your guests to dive into just for fun—or to give their input on your music playlist and make requests. Widgets and some wedding website generators themselves offer a feature for guests to upload their favorite photos for everyone to see and share. And, remember, we’re not just talking about reception photos and memories; we’re talking about adventures on the dazzling Northern California coast, in the mountains and the redwoods—all once-in-a-lifetime backdrops.
Let Your Website Set the Tone and Invite Your Guests with Open Arms
Appy Couple and Glo are a couple of wedsite creators that make it really easy to incorporate widgets, along with the tried and true features: wedding registry details, the e-RSVP option, your story and photos, the schedule for the weekend, and trendy templates to help set the tone long before your wedding day. Like I said, there is no reason to invite any more stress into your planning; just let your wedding website be an early part of the process, so that as soon as your guests receive their Save the Date, they can go right to your site. In fact, if your website and all of its bells and whistles make the destination seem really accessible, you may have more guests committing to join you.
At our Northern California retreat, all guests stay in the same private village for the weekend, so there’s no need to bring people together from multiple hotels. Plus, yours will be the only party on site—a site tucked into the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Get in touch with us to learn more about how our customizable Destination Weekend Wedding Package may be right for you.