One of the most endearing aspects of your California wedding is how loved ones come together from the four corners of the world to celebrate. And it’s not just the endless sunshine, great wine and proximity to the Pacific Ocean that attracts them to the Golden State: these guests are investing their time and money to be there for you and your fiancé. By adding a few thoughtful details to your wedding festivities, you can return the favor and make your out-of-towners feel like VIPs.
The following suggestions are meant to be helpful—don’t think that you need to do everything on the list!
Before the Event:
- Send a “save the date” card to all your guests so the out-of-towners have plenty of time to plan their trip.
- Include a list of local hotels (with either the “save the date” card or wedding invitation) with phone numbers and websites for each. If you limit your choices to three neighboring hotels (one high-end, one moderately priced, and a budget option), then larger groups of guests can conveniently meet and mingle.
- When recommending accommodations to your guests, consider choosing a hotel that will arrange a hospitality room that you can stock with snacks and beverages, like the contemporary Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills; that way, out-of-towners can gather and get to know one another before the wedding. Hotels with a lively bar scene are also great spots for travel-weary guests to unwind—Happy Hour at the unusual curved bar at San Francisco’s King George Hotel, for example, is bound to put guests in a sociable mood.
- A month before your wedding, ask your local Chamber of Commerce to send brochures of area attractions to your visiting guests so they can plan their activities during their stay. Here Comes The Guide gives you even more ideas for how to entertain your out-of-town guests at your Southern California wedding in our Article File.
- Design your own wedding website and use it to collect all the nitty-gritty details of your wedding weekend. Here’s where you’ll post restaurant recommendations, tourist attractions, hotel listings, places of worship, and map links. Ewedding.com offers free wedding websites, with reasonably priced upgrades to help you stay organized—like map & direction features, online RSVP, registry links, and virtual guest books. Print out the most useful info and include it in your itinerary packet for each hotel guest.
- Create a complete itinerary and deliver it to each hotel’s concierge so your guests can receive it during check-in. The itinerary should have the events scheduled over the course of the weekend with maps, plus your phone number (and/or the phone numbers of local friends who want to help) in case your out-of-towner gets lost or needs advice. Other helpful info to include: phone numbers and directions to the nearest dry cleaner (one that’s already been road-tested would be best!), hair and nail salons, and drugstores for forgotten travel items.
- Have a gift basket delivered to each guest’s hotel room with items to make them feel welcome, like a t-shirt with the city’s name on it, a bottle of wine from a local vineyard, or other souvenirs with regional flavor. Exclusivelyweddings.com offers bags with “welcome to our wedding weekend” printed on them to stuff with goodies. In addition to the usual helpful information tailored to your event, guests will also appreciate practical items: snack packs, bottled water, coloring books for the kiddos, and (why not?) a few doses of trusty Advil for that inevitable hangover!
- For guests traveling with children, provide a smaller bag with age-appropriate toys, activity books and kid-friendly snacks along with the grown-up’s goodies.
- Spoil your guests with a gift certificate for indulgent spa services at their hotel. Hotel Vitale in San Francisco even offers a pillow library and plush robes and slippers to make travelers feel more at home.
During and After the Event:
- Some brides invite their out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner or an after-dinner gathering. Click here for creative ways to involve your guests in the pre-wedding festivities.
- Plan the seating at all wedding events so that out-of-towners are at tables with some of your more outgoing local guests who’ll introduce them around and make them more comfortable.
- After the event, send a special note (in addition to your thank-you for the gift!) explaining how much you appreciate the effort your out-of-towners made to be with you on your special day.
For relatives and friends who can’t make it to the wedding:
- Make your wedding a live internet event. Certified by the Guide videography duo Jewel and Chuck Savadelis of Savadelis Films can create wedding webcasts, available online for a month after the initial “I do”. To be there in real time, online guests click on a link 10 minutes before the vows begin and sit back and relax in the best seat in (their) house. No black tie required.
- Send non-attendees a copy of your wedding program with a personal note that explains how they were missed. Also include a favor and few photos that they might enjoy.
- Incorporate an absent loved one into your “something old, something new” tradition—your groom could wear his grandfather’s watch; you might use the same kind of flowers in your bouquet that your favorite aunt carried as a bride. (Be sure to send the honoree photos of your special tribute!)