Out in the Open

Are destination weddings selfish? Ask Polly's Heather Havrilesky weighs in

"There's something about a wedding specifically that, even under the best of circumstances, can incur a little bit of guilt in the recipient."
Is it worth escaping to a tropical location to get married, knowing that half of your guests won't make it? (iStock)

Is the real focus of a wedding the couple or the friends and family of the dearly beloved? As we've seen with Olivia's and Kinsey's stories, this question inevitably crops up for every ceremony. But the situation that highlights the biggest difference in opinion is the destination wedding.

There are many reasons why couples decide on a destination wedding. Some do it to accommodate big families living overseas; others pick a location to avoid their relatives. Many see it as a way to combine a mass vacation with their family and friends with the celebration of love.

But some also think the idea of a destination wedding is selfish. It's a big ask—and not just financially.

Heather Havrilesky says such weddings are hard on the guests' pocketbook, but also weigh heavy on their conscience. She writes the advice column Ask Polly for New York Magazine, and she's also the author of a new book, How to Be a Person in the World.

"If it's a destination party, without the 'wedding' attached, when you get that invitation to Morocco in the mail, you could say, 'Well, I can't afford to fly to Morocco this year, I hope they have a great time,'" Heather told CBC's Out in the Open host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"There's something about a wedding specifically that, even under the best of circumstances, can incur a little bit of guilt in the recipient."

The challenge for the couple is to ease that guilt and avoid their own disappointment at the number of guests who might not be able to make it to the wedding.

There's something about a wedding specifically that... can incur a little bit of guilt in the recipient.- Heather Havrilesky

According to the advice columnist, the bride and groom should ask themselves, "If we're sure that we want to do this, will it feel acceptable if only half of the people we invite come?"

It's also important that the invitation comes with no strings attached. "Send a note with the invitation, saying 'We understand this is a considerable ask and we completely get it if you feel that you can't do this,'" Heather advised.

Heather said she would never call destination weddings selfish.

"It's your wedding—do whatever you want! Keeping in mind that many people view weddings as a way of serving their family and serving their friends and getting as many people together," Heather said.

"If you don't want to look at it that way and you want to fly to Australia and you don't care if only 30 per cent of the people show up, then fantastic!.. I think people should do what they want."