I got a call -- out of the blue -- from a distressed wedding guest. She's not the guest of one of my clients (we have no connection), she just found my information online and decided to call me to ask my advice on how to handle a situation with an upcoming wedding. She'd looked everywhere online and couldn't find a good answer to her question. I find that somewhat amazing because the Internet is saturated with wedding advice, but I'm always willing to help out if I can. She was right - it was a new question for me, too.
The woman explained that she's in her 60s, and one of her best friend's daughters is getting married at a very expensive destination wedding venue away from home. Initially, when she received the invitation, she and her husband booked hotel rooms near the venue at their hotel of choice at the destination, and made their travel arrangements accordingly. She's very excited about the wedding.
With the wedding just a few weeks away, the guest received a call from her friend, the Mother of the Bride. Her girlfriend was bearing a very special invitation to stay with the wedding party at the wedding venue, which has only 12 hotel rooms and suites. It won't cost her and her husband a penny - they'll be guests of the parents of the bride. And she's seriously perplexed about this.
"It's very expensive," she told me. "And I'm sure there's somebody else who might need a place to stay. We already have our reservations." Obviously, the lady has good manners. But this is one case where she doesn't need to worry about taking advantage of anybody.
At large hotels, the wedding couple will have a room commitment they must fill, or pay a penalty for the unbooked rooms. Most small wedding venues require the bride and groom to book the entire place - including all of its rooms - for the duration of their wedding weekend. Even if the room stays empty, it must be paid for by the wedding group.
When it's a small venue but a lot of guests are invited, it's not uncommon for the couple to block off all of the rooms and assign them to their closest family and friends. It serves two purposes: 1) They fill the hotel as required, and 2) The people they love most will be staying close to them.
I explained this to the worried wedding guest, and she confirmed that they had, in fact, needed to book all the rooms at the venue. She told me the bride and groom had reserved six of the rooms for the wedding party and themselves, and that the bride's parents and the groom's parents each had two surplus rooms to fill, in addition to taking one themselves.
Unlike many guests (especially the younger, budget-challenged ones), this guest felt very uncomfortable letting the parents of the bride pay for her own accommodations. She offered to pay for the room and the Mother of the Bride waved her off - it would have been awkward to accept on any terms as the bride and groom's parents were splitting the entire venue tab, and the guest would have had to reimburse the bride's parents directly for the expense. Also, this invitation came at the last minute, months after the guests had already booked their own accommodations.
I didn't ask if she was going to lose a deposit wherever she'd made her own reservations because it didn't seem to be an issue for them, but that was only the real downside of the situation. Unless, of course, the guest didn't want to stay with the wedding party for some reason. But she assured me that wasn't the issue. She was just worried about the etiquette of letting her friends pay for her hotel room at their daughter's wedding. She didn't pay for the friend's room at her own daughter's wedding, and the inequity was really bothering her.
Here's the thing - every wedding is different. And in this case, the hosts appear to have the resources to pay for the entire venue without a problem. They aren't asking these guests to switch to the wedding hotel to fill a room so that they don't get charged for an empty one (I run into that all the time with my own clients who choose not to assign those rooms), they're inviting them to be their guests for the weekend at the venue, in addition to attending the wedding.
Let's be clear - the reason this guest is struggling is because this very generous invitation has been extended just a few weeks before the wedding, long after all the responsible guests have already made their travel and accommodations arrangements. I'm guessing that somebody else (perhaps a family member) dropped out, and they ended up with the empty room at the last minute. The Mother of the Bride jumped on the opportunity to have one of her besties stay in-house with her at the venue. It certainly will make things more fun for her, especially if she's not that close to the groom's parents who are sharing the venue, too.
This particular guest truly believes the extension of generosity, in this case, is just too much. She asked if she should get a bigger wedding gift for the couple to compensate. The short answer is no. This isn't something the bride and groom did for her, it's a gift, so to speak, from the parents of the bride. The long answer is that if she wants to acknowledge or reciprocate the gesture, she should do something nice for the parents of the bride, who are actually picking up her room tab. I suggested she treat them to dinner and a show, or something similar, since the two couples enjoy socializing.
The wedding guest should consider herself much-loved and fortunate to have gotten the invitation to stay at the wedding venue, and to accept it and enjoy it. While she certainly doesn't want to take advantage of a good friend, it would be very rude to insist on paying for her room at their daughter's wedding at this point, especially since she's already offered, and they've already declined. It might even make the hosts regret extending that invitation, especially if it's a spendy place, and they didn't mean to force their friends to pay for it.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!