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Party Like a Newlywed

Andrea Sachs

Not so long ago, I met a young woman from Atlanta who was about to be wed. I was on a bike tour of New York City's Central Park that included this perky blonde and her equally adorable bachelorettes. It was her last hurrah before she became a Mrs.

As we pedaled up and down short hills, she told me about her plans and how stressed she was ..... about the post-wedding party. The ceremony, she said, was going to be a piece of, yes, wedding cake. She and her fiance were going to fly to Maui and get married with only an officiant and palm trees in attendance. The plane tickets, hotel room and other arrangements were in place.

Since they were not inviting anyone to the wedding, she felt the need to include everyone in the fete. The number was mushrooming to 200; the cost was exploding in kind. She confessed that she wanted to be a no-show at her own party.

Her story seems to touch on a recent survey by The Knot, the online wedding bible for giddy lovebirds. About 1 in 10 couples have a destination wedding, defined as a location at least 200 miles from the couples' home. In addition, about 25 percent of destination weddings are held outside the States.

Destination weddings have multiple appeals: Besides the exotic location that feeds the romantic fantasy, the faraway locale also helps couples winnow the guest list. Only those with strong ties to the groom and bride and/or fat wallets can make the trek. In addition, the honeymoon is built into the wedding, a nice way to tamp down costs. Simply swap gown and tux for bathing suits and you are off on your honeymoon.

From my experience with destination weddings, most couples do throw a bash closer to home for those who could not make the main event. These parties have always been festive, rollicking affairs, stripped of jitters and formalities.

I wish I had a solution for Miss Atlanta's stress. Perhaps she could have held the party in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains or on a barrier island, which would keep the numbers small and the planning low-key. Or maybe she should just remember that her friends and family are gathering in celebration of a union, not to critique the hors d'oeuvres. Regardless, I am confident that with her golden Hawaiian tan and her smiling husband by her side, she will have the party of a lifetime. If only I had remembered to give her my address. What's one more person?

By Andrea Sachs |  September 11, 2008; 7:52 AM ET  | Category:  Andrea Sachs , Weddings
Previous: Destination Weddings and You | Next: Act Now: Short-lived Airfare Deals

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I'm a big fan of super-low-key weddings. You decide how many people you want to invite, then decide what kind of party you can afford. If that's a barbecue in the park or just cake and champagne in the morning, then great. Who really enjoys all the trappings of a Mafia wedding anyway? It's too late for this particular couple, but I think they should save the wedding money for mortgage payments.

Posted by: csdiego | September 11, 2008 10:16 AM

"Destination weddings have multiple appeals: Besides the exotic location that feeds the romantic fantasy, the faraway locale also helps couples winnow the guest list. Only those with strong ties to the groom and bride and/or fat wallets can make the trek."

You're joking, yes? Have you not heard from all the aggrieved Bridezillas who complain about how people must not love them because they can't afford to attend the destination wedding?

Listen - many weddings are "destinations" already, since you have to travel to the home of the bride (or bride's parents). I've been to wonderful weddings in California, Maine and Alabama because of this basic rule (the latter being exceptionally cool, because the 1996 Olympic torch ran right past the hotel during the reception - everyone moved outside to see it and there's a picture somewhere in the depths of the AOL archives of my friends sitting in a flower-bedecked horse-drawn carriage in their wedding clothes with the flame behind them).

You don't have to go to someplace exotic outside the US. There are plenty of beautiful places inside the US that don't cost an arm and a leg (and excessive vacation time) for your guests.

Despite what the Wedding Industry has churned out the past couple of years, a wedding is not "the bride's day". You are not "princess for a day"...or if you are, then you need to practice noblesse oblige and think of your guests first.

I had a formal wedding a few years back, a month before a smaller, low-key wedding of one of my husband's many cousins.

Despite the fact that the majority of my husband's family had to road-trip or fly to our wedding, where his cousin's wedding was around the corner (we were almost the only ones who traveled to it), everyone still raves about what a good time they had at our wedding, and what a horrible time they had at the supposedly more homey and casual, low key wedding.

Because the goal of our wedding was the comfort of our guests. We barely ate or drank, and spent about 95% of our time visiting with our guests and thanking them for coming. We also had open bars; plentiful, excellent food; no dollar-dances or trinkets or special mementos; and an "anniversary dance" in lieu of an embarrassing bouquet toss.

We also held the whole thing at a hotel near enough to an airport and major roads to ensure ease of affordable travel. And the hotel offered plenty of services (hair and makeup, babysitting, airport shuttle, free breakfast, etc.), where we had negotiated a very low room rate. People in my husband's family still rave about what a wonderful wedding it was and what a good time they had, because they actually felt like honored and cared-for guests.

The goal of the cousin's wedding was to celebrate themselves. They had an elaborate ceremony that kept people in a hot, un-air-conditioned church in August (though they had fans at the altar, so they were just fine). The entire wedding party then showed up late (and roaringly drunk - they had stopped off at a bar along the way) to the un-air conditioned reception hall. Which would have been okay, except the caterers were under orders to not put out anything other than one tray of cheese and crackers until the wedding party's arrival. Great for the 80 guests there - children and adults alike.

They then proceeded to take all of their pictures at the wedding hall, which delayed serving of the now-desiccated and completely unappetizing food further. Someone in the family had to coerce the caterers to at least serve soft-drinks because everyone had been there for 90 minutes and could only drink at the water fountain.

After the bridal party had lingered at the buffet, they then loudly announced a dollar dance while everyone else was just starting to eat. They then had the bridal party pretty much pull people out of their seats to participate.

At the end of the wedding, I don't think I'd even talked to the bride once - there hadn't even been a reception line at the church and I had only spoken to the groom during the dollar dance (where he was too busy looking at the line of people who were waiting to dance with him than to make small talk).

Big or small, your wedding is simply a specialized celebration. As hosts, your job is to actually think of the comfort of your guests, not yourself. People can remember weddings for bad reasons as well as good. If you cater to your guests, you will find that that wedding album is filled with smiling, happy friends and family, instead of grumpy looking people and half-empty tables from people who left out of starvation and neglect.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 11, 2008 11:30 AM

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