Whether your wedding guest list has lots of out-of-town visitors or you're getting hitched in a destination wedding where all the guests are out-of-towners, you need to show these special people how much you appreciate their time, travel and willingness to be a part of your big day.
"They have traveled a long distance, so no matter how busy the bride or groom is, they must make time to welcome and show their gratefulness to all out-of-town guests," says Angela Kear, author of "The Busy Brides Bible."
Harriette Rose Katz of Gourmet Advisory Services agrees, "Anytime you invite out-of-town guests, these people are important to you, and you must take care of them."
*Keep Them Informed
Once you know where and when you're getting married, send save-the-date cards to out-of-town guests. Try to give everyone at least six months' advance notice. They'll feel in the know, and you'll start to get a good idea of your actual guest count.
You can also set up a wedding website to update family and friends about your wedding plans.
That's what Lauren Bell and Phil Vandermeer did when they planned their August 2011 wedding for 400 people, which included about 100 out-of-town guests.
"I grew up in a military family and consequently have friends all over the world," says Bell. "Some traveled a great distance to be here, so we wanted them to know how much we appreciated the extra efforts they took to be here."
Bell used her wedding website to give guests insight into places in the host city that have meaning for the bride and groom, such as the restaurant where the couple celebrated their first Valentine's Day.
You don't have to pay for the airfare and lodging expenses of your out-of-town guests, but it's a good idea to provide them with travel details such as hotel and transportation information.
"Send them your wedding itinerary so that they know what is going on and when," explains Kear. "This will also let them know when they will have time to do things on their own. Remember, many will plan their vacation around your wedding, so allow them time to enjoy the area."
Your guests may be away from home, but you can do a few things to keep them comfortable.
"Stock it with a map, a list of activities, transportation information," says Katz, who also recommends including water, candy, crackers and other snacks in the welcome bag.
*Show Them a Good Time
It's important to include your out-of-town guests in wedding-related activities such as group spa days, hiking and parties.
"Always invite your out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner; it's a fabulous way to make them feel more included," says Kear. "More and more brides and grooms are also including some special words of thanks to their out-of-town guests in their reception toasts."
Bell and Vandermeer hosted a party for their out-of-town guests.
"The party was an opportunity for out-of-town guests to visit with other guests they already knew as well as a time for them to meet people they could visit with again at the wedding and reception the next day," Bell says.
Many couples and their families host a day-after-the-wedding brunch at a private home, restaurant, park or beach.
The day-after brunch "is a nice touch, and the bride and groom are usually there," says Katz.
Some guests will drive to your event from out of town or out of state. Others will fly to your event. Whether your guests travel a little or a lot, they deserve recognition.
"It is such an honor for friends and family to travel to witness a wedding," says Bell. "Anything you can do to express appreciation and love will reinforce your gratefulness in tangible ways. You want people to know that you know they made an effort to be there and that you really appreciate that expression of their love and regard."
Kear suggests showing your gratitude through a "handwritten welcome note or poem" left at the guest's hotel desk, which the guest will receive upon check-in.
You can also send flowers to your out-of-town guests once they arrive home. Be sure to personalize the note once again to show your appreciation.