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Destination Wedding Etiquette

Letitia Baldrige Advises


Letitia Baldrige is America's leading arbiter of etiquette and the author of 20 books on manners. Weddings - and their out-of-town relative, destination weddings - are topics that propel normally calm men and women into a frenzy over whether or not they are doing the proper thing.

Apropos of that topic, the following email arrived in the Honeymoons/Romantic Getaways mailbag, and Letitia Baldrige was kind enough to offer her advice.

The Prospective Bride wrote:

"I need help! My fiance and I decided that we wanted to get married on an island - just the two of us. So what's the etiquette? My friends and family are asking about engagement parties and gifts, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding gifts, etc.

"I don't know what's considered etiquette. We're planning on celebrating with our friends and family in early summer (we're getting married in February) with a really casual bbq party.

"Should I tell them to give us gifts then? I was thinking that they wouldn't give gifts because we didn't invite them to the wedding.

"Please help! I'm lost in the world of etiquette and how that fits with my perfect wedding."

Letitia Baldrige replied: "It's all so incredibly romantic - slipping away to be married by yourselves on a cozy island in the sun. Remember that some of your best friends will be sad that you're doing it without them, and you might miss the fun of parties for the wedding attendants and the rehearsal dinner.

"Nonetheless, a really good pal could organize a bachelorette party before you leave for your island, and your fiance's friends could organize a similar event for him.

"Assure your closest friends they would have been in the wedding party, had you been married at home, and give each one a personal gift, as if they had been in the wedding. For example, after you return, a small frame with a wedding photo of you two on your island is likely to be appreciated.

"You can pass the word around that you would not mind if your best friends sent you a modest gift around the time of the summer party you plan to give after your wedding. They should want to salute your union with a gift from the heart, regardless of whether there was a wedding ceremony and reception involved."

More Q&A with Letitia Baldrige Q: Do you have to send a gift if you are invited to a wedding, but can't go?

A: "If you are going to the wedding, you need to send a gift. If you turn it down, you do not have to. If this is a really great friend, even if you can't go send one anyway as a gesture of your friendship."

Q: What if you receive a gift you already have?

A: "Return a duplicate to the store and write a note to the gift-giver saying that you already had one, you returned it for whatever, and you are delighted with that. It is rude to return a gift for cash."

Q: Is it okay to regift?

A: "Yes, provided that you keep a complete record when you receive gifts of who gave them. Make sure your recipient does not know the donor of the first gift. I have personally regifted successfully - and also horribly!"

Q: Is it acceptable to email a thank-you note?

A: "It is, provided that the gift was modest and the person didn't have to go to too much trouble to get it to you. But if someone sends you a special, personal gift, that merits a hand-written letter on beautiful stationery. "

Etiquette Library

Want to know more about proper etiquette and beautiful weddings? Consult these books by Letitia Baldrige:

Letitia Baldrige's New Manners for New Times: A Complete Guide to Etiquette (buy online)

Letitia Baldrige's Legendary Brides: From the Most Romantic Weddings Ever, Inspired Ideas for Today's Brides (buy online)

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