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Attending a destination wedding? Experts suggest keeping these tips in mind while packing

"The most essential thing guests can bring to a destination wedding is an excited and fun mindset."
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Wedding season is officially upon us, and many couples are opting for less traditional, more intimate ceremonies after the last few years. With the resurgence of travel, numerous engaged couples are instead planning low-key destination weddings with their close friends and family.

Whether you’re attending your best friend’s beachfront nuptials in Bora Bora or your daughter’s waterfront wedding in Portugal, we’ve got you covered with all the travel essentials to pack for an epic excursion. We also spoke to some experts on the items they consider must-haves for destination nuptials.

Expert tips | Gift vs. no gift | What to bring to any destination | What to bring to a beach destination | What to bring overseas | Meet the experts

Expert tips for attending a destination wedding

Experiences are invaluable.

Attending a destination wedding is very exciting, but it can also be stressful if you’ve never traveled for a ceremony or reception before.

“There has been a shift away from focusing solely on the wedding day itself and a shift towards curating a weekend full of experiences,” says event planner and fashion stylist Yhasmina Tiphaine.

“Choosing a place that has a great beach club nearby or interesting activities for their guests to enjoy has become just as important, if not more important, than the ceremony venue itself. The most essential thing guests can bring to a destination wedding is an excited and fun mindset. A lot of love, time and money goes into planning a wedding, and when guests embrace every moment with joy, the bride and groom will feel so appreciated and loved.”

Pre-plan your outfits ahead of time.

“When it comes to packing, destination weddings can oftentimes have tight schedules leaving little time to change outfits!” Tiphaine emphasizes. “I suggest guests carefully review the trip's itinerary beforehand and pre-plan their attire so they're able to seamlessly transition from one activity to the next instead of spending precious vacation time on worrying about what to wear and what they packed.”

Tiphaine suggests packing these specific staples in particular:

  • Shapewear: Formal attire usually calls for formal undergarments! Weddings can have hours of mega bright flash photography, and the perfect shapewear will ensure you look your best from all angles.
  • Eye mask: Every guest needs their beauty rest! The lighting in your hotel room may be tricky, so to ensure a perfect snooze, make sure to pack your favorite sleep mask.
  • Pashmina: Destination weddings can have unpredictable settings and weather, so play it safe and pack this handy accessory that takes up virtually no space in your luggage. Choose a neutral color that won’t compete with your wedding outfit.

Fashion strategy executive (and former bride) Nicole Lora Westerlind also mentions that an extra dress is a destination wedding travel essential, as well as a second pair of shoes.

“It sounds crazy, but some destination weddings will put you in the middle of nowhere and you don't want to be stranded with an outfit malfunction!” she says.

Don't forget to pack these items!

  • A travel steamer: "A lot of hotels will have an iron and ironing board, but it can be really hard to find a good steamer. Wedding clothes can be very fragile, so nothing beats a portable steamer,” notes travel content creator & photographer Jules Nguyen.
  • Ample sun protection: “I always pack extra sunscreen — many destination weddings are outdoors and you can’t guarantee you’ll get some shade, especially during the ceremony,” Nguyen mentions.
  • The wedding invitation: “Remember to bring the wedding invitation with you or take a picture of it on your phone. The invite has all the information you will need for the wedding festivities, including the type of attire to wear as well as what time to be at the ceremony," urges Mitra Amirzadeh, union airline employee and wedding photographer.

Gift or no gift?

As you start to pack for a destination wedding, many guests are asking themselves the million dollar question: Do I need to bring a wedding gift?

“I would not create a registry for a destination wedding. If you’re asking guests to travel for your special day, they are already taking time off work, finding pet sitters and buying plane tickets, so I wouldn’t expect a gift as well,” says Amirzadeh. “If you have extra and want to contribute, some couples will set up a “honeypot” or honeymoon fund for guests to contribute."

Etiquette experts, though, suggest that you do give the bride and groom a gift, though it's acceptable to send a "small yet heartfelt token" ahead of time. If you’re set on not arriving empty-handed, one sentimental and inexpensive way to honor the lovebirds is with a handwritten card. “It's a lovely and almost forgotten gesture to write a few beautiful words to the couple on their wedding day; [it’s] a memento they can hold onto for years to come,” Tiphaine says.

What to pack for any type of destination wedding

Weekly Pill Organizer

Material: Plastic | Number of compartments: Seven

Don’t miss any medications while you’re away with this rainbow weekly pill organizer. Each lid is a unique color and marked clearly with the date for easy access. Each day's push button — designed to be arthritis, according to the brand — is made to stay closed and securely shut once locked to keep your pills extra safe.

Queboom Travel Makeup Bag

Measurements: 9” x 3.1” x 6.2” | Colorways: Five

This Amazon’s Choice for makeup bags is the perfect solution for storing all your cosmetic travel essentials. This waterproof makeup bag is made of high-quality fabrics and features three separate compartments as well as a double zipper design. “The material is perfect, I love that it is waterproof. It is very spacious and lightweight. I fit all of my makeup and lotion in it and take it everywhere I travel” said one five-star reviewer.

Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit

Number of pieces: 160 | Recommended uses: Emergency

Don’t travel without this all-purpose portable kit from Johnson & Johnson as you never know when it will come in handy. This resourceful first aid kit includes Band-Aid branded adhesive bandages, gauze, Neosporin and more.

Portable Charger Power Bank

Capacity: 15,000 mAh | Compatible with: Androids and Apples

Snap dozens of photos of the bride and groom without your phone dying halfway through the ceremony with this portable charger power bank. This bestselling portable charger features two USB ports so you and your date can charge your devices at the same time.

Shapermint Tummy Control Body Shaper

Material: Nylon, spandex | Machine-washable? Yes

Step into the reception looking and feeling your very best after slipping on this tummy-control shapewear from Shapermint. This high-waisted body shaper is Amazon’s bestseller in women’s shapewear thigh slimmers and is lightweight and breathable. It’s designed for all-day comfort and stays in place for a more secure fit, so you can dance like nobody’s watching.

Hilife Portable Handheld Steamer

Steaming time: 15 minutes

Keep all your party dresses in pristine condition with this handheld steamer. This 700W steamer is portable and lightweight, plus it can be used on a wide range of fabrics including chiffon, silk, wool and cotton, according to the brand.

Stow-N- Go Luggage Organizer

Dimensions: 12" x 12" x 1" | Shelves: Three | Closure type: Zipper

Save ample time on unpacking when you reach your destination with this luggage organizer. These small hanging shelves are crafted from imported-quality polyester for optimum durability. One five-star reviewer said this organizer “just makes travel easier, especially if you're only staying a night or two. It eliminates the need to unpack and repack.”

17-Inch Laptop Backpack

Dimensions: 17.2"x 11.15” x 7.5" | Waterproof? Yes | Special features: USB charging port; RFID pockets

Whether you’re going for a hike in the woods or working remotely from the hotel lobby, this Amazon's Choice laptop backpack is both fashionable and functional. It's made of environmentally-friendly nylon poly fabric and includes four compartments and two side pockets for added storage.

Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Satin Lipstick

Colorways: 16

Rock that runway (or aisle) with this radiant satin lipstick from Yves Saint Laurent. This hydrating shade offers up to six hours of ultra-rich, full-coverage color and feels breathable on the lips.

Verafied New York Essential Pearl Necklace

Pearl size: 4 mm | Extendable chain length range: 16 to 18 inches

You’ll surely be named the most elegant guest at the wedding with this stunning pearl necklace. This affordable necklace is set with freshwater cultured pearls and is strung on an 18-karat gold plated cable chain. Complete the look with a matching pair of gorgeous pearl earrings.

Hydro Flask Wide Mouth with Flex Straw Cap

Colorways: 11 | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Personalization available? Yes

Stay hydrated while on your next flight with this 32-ounce wide mouth Hydro Flask. Its Tempshield double-wall vacuum insulation keeps drinks cold up to 24 hours and hot up to 12 hours. Its wide-mouth opening is ice-cube friendly, making your drink even colder and more refreshing. This water bottle is made with 18/8 pro-grade stainless steel for durability and features an insulated flex straw cap, which is leakproof when closed.

Samsonite Go Clear Packing Cubes

Material: BPA-free plastic | Water-resistant? Yes

Keep all your travel essentials untouched with this three-piece packing cube set from Samsonite. This clear set is made of durable plastic and includes small, medium and large pouches.

“I purchased the packing cubes and very happy that I did. They are exactly as described online, fit perfectly in my suitcase, and are made out of sturdy material. I love the fact that you can see what's inside of each cube due to being see through,” said one verified reviewer.

Athleta Ultra High-Rise Elation Tight

Colorways: Two | Material: Nylon, elastane | Machine-washable? Yes | Sizes: XXS-3X

Whether you’re game for an early morning yoga class or an evening run around the resort, these ultra-high rise tights are the real deal. These lovely leggings hit right above the ankle for a less-restrictive feel and fit.

Hoka Bondi 8

Size range: 5-12 | Colorways: 17 | Widths: Regular and wide

No big deal, but we just found your sole-mate for in-between wedding activities. This Hoka sneaker features a symmetrical bed of cushion and has been upgraded with an extended heel, brand-new foam and pillowed tongue.

“The cushiest, most comfortable ever! I walk miles with my dog and for me Bondis are the best!” said one verified reviewer.

What to pack for a beach destination wedding

Waterproof Phone Case

Compatible with: iPhones, Samsung Galaxy and other smartphones up to 8.3” | Material: Polyvinyl chloride

Splash around in the pool or ocean with this waterproof phone case. With 58,000+ verified five-star ratings on Amazon, this phone pouch features triple layer lock-down technology, providing complete protection against water, snow, dust and sand. Safely take underwater selfies as this phone case provides a crystal clear photo capture with its high transmittance transparency technology.

Boho Flower Statement Studs

Colorways: 18

Be leaf in yourself with these statement studs. Inspired by bohemian and Hawaiian styles, these acetate earrings are made of high-grade safe materials and 925 sterling silver needles.

A.J. Morgan Tortoise Walker Sunglasses

Colorways: 2 | Lens protection: UV400 | Special features: Scratch- and impact-resistant lenses

You’ll be too cool for school all summer long with these fashionable tortoise sunglasses. Pair with a floral bikini and you’re ready to hit the beach.

Mebien touche de la nature Turkish Towel

Material: Turkish cotton | Colorways: 21

You won’t dare to hit the beach or hotel pool without this Turkish towel. This quick-drying towel is made from a specific dense fabric that repels sands from getting on it, so you won’t be finding traces of it weeks later.

Supergoop! Glow Stick Sunscreen

Good for: Dry and combination skin | Water-resistant for: 40 minutes

Avoid getting burnt when you invest in this stick sunscreen from Supergoop! The SPF 50 option is the ideal choice for travel and is designed to protect your face, chest and shoulders against UVA & UVB rays. This oxybenzone-free sunscreen is completely invisible, ultra hydrating and never leaves an oily residue, according to the brand.

Wide Brim Straw Panama Hat

Material: Paper, polyester | Care tips: Hand-wash only | Colorways: 10

Hatters gonna hat? Not when you purchase this super summery (and bestselling) wide brim straw hat. This straw sunhat can provide UPF 50 rated protection to block the sunlight and can easily be folded down to fit in your beach bag or suitcase.

Amika Perk Up Talc-Free Dry Shampoo

Targets: Oiliness, volume | Good for: All hair types

Keep your hair nice and clean with Amika's dry shampoo. It aims to absorb excess oil, buildup and odor without talc or aluminum. Rated Amazon’s Choice for dry shampoos, this spray is also designed to add volume and cool down your scalp, according to the brand.

Summer Boho Spaghetti Strap Dress

Colorways: 24 | Sizes: S-XL

We’ve found your new favorite vacation outfit with this boho summer dress. Slip on this adorable sundress before brunch, dinner or just lounging around. This casual maxi is made of polyester and features a tie closure. Complete this look with a pair of platform wedges or solid color flip-flops.

Urban Expressions Bonjour Large Straw Tote

Dimensions: 17” x 12” | Materials: Paper straw

This charming straw tote will be the envy of beachgoers everywhere. This beautiful “Bonjour” bag features dual top carry handles, pom pom trim and two interior slip pockets for added storage. ‘Tis the sea-sun!

Cupshe Women’s Bikini Set

Sizes: XS-XL | Material: Chinlon, spandex

Strut your stuff along the shore in this bestselling, ultra-feminine bikini set from Cupshe. This darling design features a twist bikini top with adjustable shoulder straps and a high-waisted bikini bottom.

Summersalt The Poolside Scrunchie & Headband Set

Material: Recycled polyamide, elastane | Care tips: Hand wash cold, do not bleach; line dry

Accessorize your beach look with this poolside scrunchie and headband set from Summersalt. This limited-edition Markarian x Summersalt floral set is perfect for summer days spent by the water. Crafted from the brand's quick-drying swimwear fabric, you’ll be able to wear this set over and over again to accessorize all your favorite swimsuits!

Farm Rio Ancient Garden Havaianas Sandals

Sizes: 6-12

These patterned Farm Rio x Havaianas thong flip-flops are stunning and makes the perfect accessory for any tropical vacation. They’re available in a range of sizes, so there’s no excuse not to click “add to cart.” Complete the look with a bohemian sundress and straw clutch.

The Beachwaver Co. S1 Dual Voltage

Good for: All hair types

Get those luscious beach wave curls without spending a fortune at the salon. This hot tool provides easy, quality beach waves in minutes. Plus, this product was recently named a winner in Shop TODAY's Beauty Awards!

Mark & Graham Wicker & Leather Crossbody with Bamboo Handles

Dimensions: 7” x 8.25” x 3.5” x 6.5” | Colorways: Two

Nobody will regret calling you a fashionista when you start carrying this wicker & leather crossbody from Mark & Graham. This chic miniature handbag is handmade by artisans in the Philippines and features a natural bamboo handle, tan leather detailing and twist lock closure. Personalize your bag by adding your initials so everyone will know this crossbody is yours and yours alone.

What to pack for an European destination wedding

Vinmate Cashmere Pashmina Shawl

Colorways: 20 | Material: Cashmere, cotton

Attending an outdoor wedding? Prevent getting cold in the evening with this elegant pashmina. These cream shawls are made of fresh cashmere from inner Mongolian lambs and drape nicely over formal evening wear.

Universal International Travel Power Adapter

Colorways: 3 | Compatible with: USB-C powered phones and tablets

If you’re traveling internationally for a wedding and want to stay connected while overseas, look no further. This five-in-one international power adapter includes four USB ports and one universal socket, which is enough to charge five devices simultaneously. This travel adapter works in over 150 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Japan.

Apple AirTag

Battery life: One year | Special features: Water- and dust-resistant; compatible with iPhone accessibility features

Easily find your luggage at the airport when you purchase this Apple travel accessory with a simple one-tap setup that instantly connects to your iPhone or iPad. Play a sound on the built-in speaker to find your belongings should you misplace them.

Kelly & Katie Jeweled Clutch

Dimensions: 6.5” x 1.5” x 4.5” | Colorways: Two

Sparkle and shine all night long with this metallic clutch. This glittery handbag features rhinestone covered fabric, a fold-over snap closure and a removable chain link shoulder strap so you can also wear it as a crossbody.

Bee & Kin The Pilot Passport Holder

Dimensions: 5.5” x 3.75” | Colorways: Six

Never lose any important travel documents again with this adorable passport holder from Bee & Kin. This chic case is 100 percent genuine leather and is available in flirty colors such as black, capri and lemon. Bon voyage, fellow wanderlusters!

Lulus How Much I Care Midnight Blue Off-the-Shoulder Midi Dress

Colorways: 3 | Sizes: XS-XL | Material: Rayon, nylon, spandex, polyester | Fit: True to size

Get ready to take the dance floor in style with this midi dress from Lulus. This flirty frock features a sweetheart neckline and a darted, lined bodice that is framed by short off-the-shoulder sleeves.

“I bought this for my daughter's wedding. It looks very classy with white pearls and high-heeled little sparkle shoes. I'm wearing it to a wedding in the Hamptons this summer,” raved one verified reviewer.

Meet the experts

  • Yhasmina Tiphaine has been an event planner for 12 years, is currently engaged and is hosting her own destination wedding this summer.
  • Jules Nguyen has been a travel content creator and blogger for six years. She is also the co-founder of wedding photography business A Dream of Color, which specializes in capturing and preserving BIPOC love stories.
  • Nicole Lora Westerlind is a fashion advertising strategy executive and blogger and has been happily married for the past three years.
  • Mitra Amirzadeh is a union airline employee and wedding photographer.