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Wedding Travel: The Weekend Packing List

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You know you make me wanna…. SHOUT!

Wedding season is year-round these days. If you aren’t trying to smile through the sweat for photos in June, you’re probably at a destination wedding in February. The only rule is there are no rules to when or where a couple will tie the knot.

So your sister is getting hitched somewhere tropical and sandy? Next month you’re getting down on the dance floor in your college roommate’s hometown? Either way, plan to pack it all in your carry on.

I’m an expert wedding guest and semi-professional bridesmaid here to share my stuff. Here’s your go to list of tips, tricks and what to bring if there’s wedding travel looming in your future.

First tip: line dances are the worst. Use that time to freshen your drink or use the restroom.

Make a Weekend of It

Weddings in far away places are a perfect excuse to see a new (or favorite) city. If you can travel and arrive Friday evening, plan to sneak in a little exploring, or at least brunch, on Saturday before the festivities begin (unless you’re in the wedding party).

I usually ask the bride or groom a couple of weeks before the wedding if they have any recommendations for stuff to do or places to eat that morning. Don’t ask the weekend of, they will be busy. Yelp and Foursquare won’t lead your wrong either. Keep it low-key, but might as well check out the neighborhood.

A little research and organization will go a long way to coordinate with other friends in town or those invited to the nuptials.

Save a Some Dough, Share a Room

Know other family members or friends in attendance? Go in on a hotel room, or better yet get a big group together for an Airbnb. This is especially helpful for destination weddings and makes for built-in catch up time.

Check on the hotel block when you first get the invite. Sometimes they are able to provide a discount for the whole group on rooms or transportation to and from the venue- hellllllo designated driver!

Bring a (Transportable) Gift

It’s the civilized thing to do. Gift cards are easy to pack for you, also simple for the receiver to transport as well. I’m a proponent of the Target gift card, but here and here are some other ideas for people who love to travel.

If you feel moved to purchase something off the registry, ship it to the happy couple. They will thank you for this. We do not recommend taking a knife set through security, and toasters are tough to pack.

Not that this has happened to me or anything, but it’s easy to grab a card and gift card combo at Walgreens day of the event. No, no, I always plan ahead.

In the Party?

If you are in the wedding party, please raise your right hand and repeat after me: I WILL NOT TRANSPORT MY SUIT/DRESS IN A CHECKED BAG. Ok, thank you. In my line of work, I’ve heard that tune too many times.

Guests can get away with murder. It’s easy to run to a local department store and grab a semi-decent, reasonably-priced dress (not white, please) or maybe a cheap shirt, slacks and a tie. Even if it’s not exactly what you want to wear, it’ll do.

Buying a bridesmaid dress that’s the precise shade of eggplant and in the floor length, off-the-shoulder cut that makes you look “meh” is virtually impossible. If you’re responsible for wearing a specific outfit for the wedding, keep it in your possession on the airplane or train. Don’t trust anyone to pry it out of your hands. Wear it on the plane if you have to, it’s worth it.

Carry it all on.

What to Wear

Base Outfit

Since wedding guests gotta look sharp, the ensemble for the ceremony and reception is nonnegotiable. The rest of the clothes in your bag can still be minimal and intentional. Plan on wearing pants or shorts and shoes for travel that you can rewear on the way home.

Throw in an extra shirt, and boom- you’re taken care of on Friday and Sunday. One more for Saturday morning’s activities, undergarments and toiletries and you’re set.

Party Outfit

Packing suits is not my forte, but Fred shares some tips in this handy post.

Dresses are much simpler. If they are silky, I roll them tightly to avoid wrinkles. You can also fold them as few times as possible to make them fit the size of the bottom of your bag and then pack everything on top to keep it laid flat.

Be sure to unpack your fancy stuff as soon as you get to your destination to prevent any further wrinkling. The less ironing, the better.

All the Extras

When it comes to packing, it’s all in the details. They seem the hardest to remember when you’re tossing everything in your backpack the day before.

Gentlemen, this means belt and socks. Ladies, this is generally jewelry and the right undergarments for the outfit. These are easy things to pick up at Target or borrow from a friend, but packing them would be even better.

Before I leave, I like to mentally get ready for the wedding. What shoes, makeup and jewelry do I need? I go through each step as I pack to be sure.

My packing is those departments is generally spartan, but this is the exception. I wear heels for weddings and funerals, otherwise I never bring them. The shoes I use to travel in are built for walking around town, but don’t translate to the dance floor. Men seem to have more versatility in this department.

Packing List

Assuming you’re making a weekend out of this out of town wedding, here’s what you’ll need.

The complete list for men:

Wear on Friday:

  • Pants/shorts
  • Shoes
  • Shirt
  • Light jacket, if needed

Pack:

  • Shirt for Saturday morning
  • Suit
  • Dress shirt
  • Tie
  • Belt
  • Shoes for suit
  • Socks
  • Shirt to travel home in
  • Undergarments
  • Toiletries
  • Electronics

The complete list for women:

Wear on Friday:

  • Pants/shorts
  • Shoes
  • Shirt
  • Light jacket, if needed

Pack:

  • Shirt for Saturday morning
  • Dress for wedding
  • Shoes to match the dress
  • Accessories for wedding, including jewelry, undergarments, etc.
  • Shirt to travel home in
  • Undergarments
  • Toiletries
  • Electronics

TL;DR

Heading to an out of town wedding? We have you covered. Here’s a packing list and some tips for travel.

  • Use one pair of pants and shoes as your base for all non-wedding activities for the weekend.
  • Remember the details for your outfit
  • Gift cards are your friend
  • Don’t check one-of-a-kind stuff

Meet me on the dance floor!

Image credit: Scott Webb.

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