Fact: I'm going to be an out of town guest at my own wedding therefore everyone else will be too! Let's just say that a little extra planning will have to be done.
My wedding isn't the first wedding to have guests coming in from out of town. I would say every wedding has at least one family member or friend that has to travel a significant amount. As a result the wedding plan coordinator needs to plan accordingly for those specific guests.
The first thing to plan for is how many guests are coming from out of town and need a hotel to stay. A lot of guests would like to stay at a hotel rather than drive more than an hour home from your reception location. Receptions also can get a bit out of hand when liquor is present and you want those guests to be responsible, therefore make sure there is a hotel option for everyone so they do not have to drive home. Even if guests only like a half hour away, they would rather stay at a hotel so they can enjoy the weddings festivities to the fullest! Having a place for everyone to stay will leave peace of mind for those guests and you.
Next, book the hotel block. This is what we are currently in the process of doing for everyone at our wedding. Usually there is a small down payment to cover the rooms in case the block does not fill. Once you figured out how many guests are from out of town, count how many rooms they will need. There is no cool mathematical way to do this but count the families and guests likely to room together to get a good estimate. With our wedding, we are paying for the DJ, photographer and videographer's hotel room which equals close to the down payment to reserve the rooms in the first place. Majority of hotels and resorts will work out deals based on how many expected rooms will be used and how many nights.
Make your hotel block about 9 months to a year in advance! With my wedding weekend near a popular time for those to go on vacation, I want to make sure everyone can stay in the same place. Just in case they don't book a hotel within your block or time frame, give them other options of places to stay nearby as well.
Transportation is another thing to think of. Are these guests flying in from out of state? If so and they have travel away from the hotel that they are staying at, make sure you can help with transportation. Either let them know the number of a car rental service from the airport or have transportation available for them. We are having a shuttle that will pick up all the guests at the lodge they are staying at and it will bring them to the wedding location. That same shuttle will be going back to the hotel every half hour so the guests do not have to drive anywhere once they reach the wedding location.
My ceremony and reception are in the same place therefore guests do not have to drive at all. If your ceremony and reception are in different locations make sure you have printed directions for everyone, especially for those not familiar with the area or are smart-phone capable (plus every cell-phone can lose service at any point in time!).
You want the guests that are traveling to have a seamless experience because that relates to your wedding. The more plans you can plan for them, the more likely they are to have a great overall experience on your big day!
Lastly, if those guests do not know anyone you will want to find ways to include them. No one wants to feel like an outcast at a wedding so let's find ways to incorporate them! Assuming they arrive a day before your wedding you can have a social hour that night. It's a nice meet and greet for everyone that's staying in the hotel. You could also schedule a breakfast the morning of to help keep everyone occupied while you get ready. Sometimes it can get long when one is sitting in a hotel room for 5 hours before they are expected to arrive at the ceremony. Filling that time with a wedding festivity, even if it is just breakfast, gets everyone comfortable and on the same schedule.
In the end, pretend you are a guest at your own wedding. What would you expect from the bride and groom to help make the travel easy? The little details matter and account for the entire time they step off the plane. Go through a day in their shoes. Once you feel like there is no room for error or question send it to a friend or family member (or maid of honor) and have them do the same thing. After that it should be complete and you can have all those plans booked, planned for and directions given to everyone in need of them. Using a wedding website and having all this written will help even more.
I hope you learned a little something today about guests traveling to your wedding. And if you are like myself and traveling to your own wedding, you understand that planning needs to be done sooner rather than later. My wedding is over a year a away and my mother is already on my back about booking the hotel/lodge we want everyone to stay at. "Yes mother, I will get on that..." next month. :)