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Two Ways to Get to A Wedding

Hi. I’m Marielle. I’m a staff writer for Chicagoist and I love to travel. I used to live in New Mexico, and have friends scattered throughout the country, which means plenty of travel, especially for things like weddings. Weddings are great, but they complicate packing. Here are my hard-learned tips on how to make it all work.

Recently, my boyfriend and I packed up to go to my cousin’s wedding. It was just a few hours south of our home, so we drove. This is a HUGE advantage when it comes to getting ready to go to a wedding, and made me consider the differences between flying and driving with regards to my packing advice. The differences and similarities ended up being interesting to assess!

Weddings generally require an entirely different set of apparel and shoes than you’d otherwise bring with you. We’re not discussing one pair of pants you can wash once a week and pair with five tops, we’re talking about a nice outfit (that probably requires extra care). We’re also now talking about finicky small things like cufflinks, ties, dress shoes and socks, jewelry, shoes, hair products and makeup. This is not the time to Reader’s Digest it, folks. And if you want to be comfortable and enjoy yourself, there’s even more to think about.

A platter full of colorful, circular cakes from LUSH cosmetics. Two are squares. Orange, pinks, blue, green, gold, beige.

IF YOU’RE DRIVING:

You will have more space. This is awesome, but going overboard can hurt. First things first: Pick and pack the outfit. The WHOLE outfit, from top to bottom, underwear to jewelry. If you can, use a garment bag to hang it all up. It’ll help prevent wrinkles, and ensures if your shampoo somehow explodes, your carefully picked outfit will not be DOA.

Immediately thereafter, pack the gift and card. When there’s “can’t miss” items, cross them off the list first.

Plan on a shoe bag, since you will likely not want to wear your shiny, pinchy wingtips or 6 inch heels the day AFTER.

Got makeup? Think back to the days of the Caboodle1 here. You will probably need a handled box or bag which you can store your makeup, nail polish and hair goodies in. I like to keep this in the car to grab first when I’m checking in, since all these things are prone to melting.

Once you have the outfit down, consider backups. Extra socks, extra shoelaces, another tie or Oxford or consider a second, backup dress or outfit. I once got to the hotel to find an impossible grease stain on my dress with no backup and no coverup. Bad news. The Tide Pen worked, but it was pretty tense. Ladies will likely also want different shoes for the ceremony than the reception. What I find brilliant for weddings are the VERY minimal ballet flats. They come in tons of neutrals, are pretty comfy, and still manage to look nice with more formal wear. The smaller they pack, the happier you’ll be, and they might even fit in your purse!

Plan on bringing a bit of a pharmacy. There will likely be drinking and dancing. This is no time to be caught without standard pain relievers, some antacids for funky road food bellies, band-aids and the like for random accidents.

Plan for DEVICES: Chargers, SD cards and batteries get expensive if you’re always buying them. Make sure your camera and its accessories are in shape, you’ve cleared off your cards, and that you have what you need to make your laptop go. You’re going to need to know where you’re going and how to get there, and there’s no room for error.

Lastly? Plan for comfort. Once you’re done shellacking your hair or hanging out in a blazer WHILE dancing and dining, you’re going to be tired. Exhausted, even. The day after the festivities IS the time for loose, casual clothing, sneakers, comfy pjs and outfits you can roll out of bed into.

IF YOU’RE FLYING:

Flying is a different animal. Weddings aren’t the time to pack light, but if you’re watching your budget and don’t like forking over $50 just to check bags, then you’re going to need to be savvy about your stuff.

Again, pack the outfit first. Keep EVERYTHING together except for shoes. Check and double check to make sure it’s all there and all in order, and if you can, plan some “sides.” This could mean flats for after dancing or a neutral sweater for if it’s cold.

For gifts: If they can’t be shipped ahead (though lots of things can now, it’s neat!) consider gift cards. Some may consider it boring but, especially in the case of weddings, I feel a financial gift of any sort is more than appropriate for starting a life together.

If you have room for a backup outfit, I still recommend this. Even if nothing happens to your outfit, you may find yourself suddenly invited to a party at the family’s house, and a second formal option will mean you don’t stand out as an unprepared guest.

Try to limit yourself to two pairs of shoes for the whole trip, and try to fit them in your main bag. The key to shoes is versatility and comfort.

Tech: Make sure you have something with you capable of googling for nearby necessities, like restaurants, grocery and convenience stores. Make sure you have chargers. Bring a camera, and make sure you have all its cards. An extra battery is a wonderful idea for those with DSLRs going anywhere.

Here’s my controversial tip for wedding packing if you’re flying: Plan on using what hotels have to offer so you can pack lighter. Hair dryers are a good example of this, and most hotels will also have an ironing board and iron that can be used, if not already in room, just a call away.

Take the money you’d have spent on checking your bags, and budget some for most toiletries. In almost every town, you’ll find a Walgreens or similar store. If you’ve got your own wheels, you’ll be able to purchase shampoo, soap and various other things that could easily leak or not make it past the 3 oz rule. For me, this saves the worry of spills or leaving my favorite bottle of hairspray in the hotel.

This does not apply to makeup, sadly. But, if you save space on things like hairspray or shampoo, you’ll have more room for palettes, foundations and brushes.

If you’re not going to be terribly mobile, consider travel size items if possible, and solid shampoo bars2, like those sold at Lush.

Two piles of blue and yellow circular cakes of solid shampoo in the foreground. Black tubs of other cosmetics in the background.

IN GENERAL:

Be strategic. Consider what you can’t do without, and be prepared for weird situations like last minute parties, late night or early morning (late morning!) hangovers, and stains. (Get a Tide pen!)

Then? Go celebrate love, because there’s way too much bad stuff to not celebrate every last ounce of good. Eat, drink, be merry, and then drive home in yoga pants and your favorite tee. You’ve earned it.

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1 Natasha here! I actually still have and use my 1980s-era “Caboodle” carrier. I love that thing, though I do not own makeup. It’s just useful for wrangling small items.

2 GUYS! LUSH makes solid conditioner now too!

Foreground is some slightly blurry seafoam green cakes of conditioner. The background is a sign describing the conditioner.

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