In the not-so-distant past, it was normal -- even expected -- for a person to grow up within a few blocks of grandparents, aunts, uncles and assorted cousins. While this kind of idyllic (or not-so-idyllic) situation certainly still exists today, it's much more likely that your friends and family will be somewhat more far-flung. So while you plan each aspect of your wedding experience, take a moment to recognize the special effort made by those guests who will be arriving by planes, trains, and automobiles in the days preceding the main event. With that in mind, here are some ideas to help you make your guests' stay easier, and plan the perfect 'welcome,' without breaking your budget.
Room Sweet Room
You can start making your guests feel appreciated even before they arrive in town by reserving a block of rooms at a local hotel. Many hotels offer reduced group rates, and you know the area better than out-of-towners, so booking accommodations in advance is an all-around great idea. See how you can find group hotel rates for guests and hold rooms for them without a credit card. The minimum number of rooms required to make a block at most hotels is around 10 rooms per night, but can sometimes be less if you are holding the reception at the hotel. If you are looking for over 30 rooms per night, try to split the group blocks among two to three hotels so your guests can have a choice between different locations and prices. You can do the preliminary research on the Internet, and add the information to your wedding website for guests to refer to. Not only does the gesture save your guests some of the hassle of making travel plans, but shows them you appreciate their effort to attend.
Food for Thought
Nothing hits the spot more after a day of airline food or rest-stop take-out then an assortment of yummy treats waiting on the hotel dresser -- especially ones your guest won't be billed for by the item. But before you pick up the phone to order the standard fruit basket, think for a moment about the message you want to send. A gift tailored to your friend or family member's individual tastes will often speak louder than a generic snack pack -- no matter how extravagant. If you know that your guest likes to unwind at the end of a long day with a glass of white wine, why not have a bottle of his or her favorite label chilled and waiting in the room? A chocoholic might be thrilled to find a plate full of gooey brownies waiting with ice-cold milk upon arrival. If your out-of-town guest list is too extensive to afford such personal attention, consider gift baskets stocked with local goodies to give your guests a taste of the area. Call the hotel ahead of time to work out with the front desk or concierge the best way to get the gifts into your guests' rooms before they arrive, as well as when you should drop them off.
A day spent in cramped seats with little legroom is enough to make anyone cranky. Think about greeting your guests with an assortment of spa products geared towards soothing their aching bodies. With the rise in popularity of aromatherapy, many companies offer collections of scented products formulated for specific results -- such as stress relief or extra energy. There are even a few geared specifically towards travelers, with formulas touted to promote restful sleep and reduce the effects of jetlag. Add colorful bath salts, a mud mask for the face, and perhaps a gift certificate for a mini-massage -- if the hotel offers such services. Your guests will probably be pleased to know that you recognize how little fun traveling days can be, and how much you appreciate their efforts.
The Best Medicine
A friend recently attended an out-of-town wedding and received a basket of goodies containing, among other things, the bride and groom's favorite hangover remedy. You don't expect your wedding to be a solemn affair, so why not start the merriment early by greeting your arriving guests with a gift of the giggles. Put together a welcome basket that will prepare your loved ones to dance the night away at your reception. Stock your goodie box with vitamins, herbal energy boosters and nutrition drinks to fortify your guests for the party to come. Add an eye mask, aspirin, and some recommended steps for post-party recovery to send the message that your wedding will be as much about fun as formality.
If your guests will be arriving with small children in tow, why not greet their parents with a little post-travel relief? Prepare a kid's activity pack with age-specific games and activities to keep the little ones busy while their parents take a well-earned rest. Be sure to include any batteries, pens, and paper that might be required and avoid anything particularly noisy or messy. You might also want to steer clear of any toy guns or weapons, unless you know in advance that the parents would approve. Those extra large boxes of crayons are generally a safe bet, and travel versions of board games work well if there will be several children within the same age group. If you haven't the foggiest idea about your five-year-old niece's idea of fun, check with your local toy store. Odd are, the salesclerks can point you in the right direction.
Traveler's Survival Kit
What's that you say? After the catering, the dress, and those cute little monogrammed cocktail napkins, you don't have a nickel left over for welcome gifts. Fear not. You can still let your friends and family know how much you appreciate their presence. Put together a local survival kit, containing all of the information your guests might need for their short stay. Some items to include:
- Directions to the nearest sundries shop if there isn't one in the hotel
- Menus from local restaurants
- A list of taxi and car services, including phone numbers
- Brochures for local amusements
- Maps and guides for local public transportation -- include directions to the closest pickup points
- Directions to the nearest same-day dry cleaners (accidents happen)
- Local sources for fax, email, and FedEx (work doesn't always stop because you get married)
- Driving instructions from hotel to wedding location and back again
Much of this information should be readily available at the hotel front desk, and the rest can be gathered with a minimum of legwork. And if you've ever arrived in a strange town, tired and hungry, you'll know how pleasant it will be for your guests to find that you have already handled many of these pesky details. Just make sure you gather everything you need ahead of time to make the baskets at home -- trying to put together traveler's kits in the lobby of the hotel won't be a fun time. Welcome gifts are a wonderful way to extend a special thank-you to those guests who have traveled long distances to join you on your big day, and there are lots of options to choose from beyond the standard fruit basket. With a little extra time and energy, you'll not only be able to help your guests find comfortable lodging, but pull together a present that brings a smile to your travelers' faces (without placing a sizable dent in your wallet). Whether you opt for humorous, helpful, or just plain delicious, you will ensure that your friends and family remember the wonderful time they had at your wedding, not the stress and aggravation of the preceding journey.
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When should I send save-the-dates before a destination wedding?
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