The idea of a destination wedding is inherently romantic. Even when considered in the abstract, the phrase immediately evokes mental images of immaculate white sand beaches, magnificent chalet hotels, barefoot vows and glimmering sunsets. But it’s no news to anybody that family weddings are often a logistical frenzy, and destination weddings add yet another set of kinks to the big event — particularly for older relatives, who may be unable to attend due to difficulties with travel. This can even cast a shadow on family weddings that are not explicitly “destination.”
For older relatives and friends who are able to attend your wedding, great! But let’s assume that your wedding venue/destination is not within spitting distance of your grandmother or favorite great uncle. Since travel, whether by air, train or bus, is generally something of a trial regardless of one’s age, it’s pretty safe to assume that your relative will undergo some stress just trying to make it to the venue. However, a little pre-planning means this doesn’t have to be an attendance deal-breaker.
Ask for help
If your older relative lives close to other family or friends who are attending your ceremony, consider asking the younger relatives to include the older folks in their travel plans. Depending on individual circumstances, other relatives can also travel to an older relative’s location expressly to serve as chaperone for anyone who might have trouble traveling to attend. Or, consider hiring a travel companion who can help accompany the older person to and from the airport, bus or train station. If the person is flying, this will probably require special security clearance for the hired companions, so plan accordingly.
As a general rule, TSA will offer an expedited screening to people older than 75, which also means that folks fitting this criteria can also leave their shoes and jacket on during screening. You can obtain a special TSA notification card for folks with disabilities or medical conditions, and they may be eligible for TSA PreCheck, which can help expedite the screening process. For more tips on easing the strain of travel for older adults, read our post on traveling with aging parents.
For older adults who cannot attend your wedding, you still have plenty of opportunities to include them in the festivities, in many different ways. This could start shortly after you get engaged, with a simple phone call or even video chat with your aging relative; you can discuss the news of your nuptials and let them know that you are thinking of them. Make sure to send them a wedding invitation, even if you are aware they won’t be able to attend.
Another way to honor an older relative is to ask to “borrow” a sentimental object for your wedding day. The object could be as simple as a hanky, a small piece of jewelry, or a ribbon; whatever item you borrow, it will help you and your relative feel connected during this important time. Make sure to take plenty of photos documenting the special object.
Host a local event
If your older relative is unable to travel to attend your family wedding festivities, it can be a nice gesture to host a small bridal shower wherever they are. This doesn’t have to be a large or lavish event, but it’s a great way to show this person that you are thinking of them and that you and your extended family wish to include them in this important family moment. You may have other extended family members living in the vicinity of your older relative, and this is a good opportunity to connect with these extended relatives as well.
Small and thoughtful gestures
Other small ways to include your older family include reserving a special seat for them in your ceremony (you can mark their place with a photo or memento). You can also plan to give them a brief and sweet shout-out during the ceremony or mention them during a speech, whether during the ceremony or in the reception. Send your relative a recorded copy of the ceremony and invite them to view your wedding photo album online, or even put together a special photo album (analog, not digital) or scrapbook to give to them so they don’t feel they missed out on this important occasion. You may even be able to save them a piece of wedding cake!
Did you take special steps to include an older relative in family weddings? Tell us in the comments.