1. I've done A LOT of reading both in Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette book and others, as well as online. The answers are varied, but most basically say that you are getting married so gifts are customary. Hopefully they will ship them to your home instead of bringing them to the wedding. Emily Post's Etiquette book also says that you should not include wedding registry info in the invitation (like the ones they give you when you register), which makes it easier for guests. If they want to give a gift, they can ask (your mom or maid of honor) where you are registered. If not, they won't feel pressured by the insert in the invitation.
We are not going to include the inserts, but we will put up our registry info on our website, in case anyone really wants to give a gift. I think that even if you tell guests "no gifts, please" there are some that will do it anyway... we just won't expect it:)
2. We are going to do a Chiva a couple of nights before the wedding, so as not to have any guests hung over for the actual wedding. It's only about $25 per person (and that includes drinks and snacks), which makes it a nice and inexpensive way to get the party started!
Dev and I did the registry online. It was a honeymoon fund and we just told the people that asked about wedding presents to go to that website. People who did not ask we didn't say anything. However, there was link to it in our wedding website. A lot of people did gave us at the honeyfund before traveling. I recommend you do a registry even if you do not want presents because the majority of people expect to give you something.
About activities, La Chiva is a must. Some things to have in mind: The food offered at la chiva includes arepa de huevo. Some vegetarians that eat eggs were offered this one, but then one of our guest as she was getting to the bottom of the arepa found ground meat!!!! she threw up and I was so embarrassed and sorry this happened. If you have any vegetarians guest in the chiva make sure you arrange from separate vegetarians snacks. Other thing is the bathroom, as the chiva makes a stop in la muralla for people to see the dancing they can use the bathroom, but there is a lady charging at the entrance about 2.000 pesos. So make sure you have the cash on hand in case some guests don't have it in la chiva... no matter how the necessity is, if you don't have the coins the lady wont let you in!
if you want bring rattles, noise makers, hula necklaces and all sort of stuff to the chiva trip. We did and it made things more fun and festive. Also, there are guys that sell maracas to everybody before departure. I personally negotiated with a guy a cheaper price for everybody. Have in mind that street vendors in Cartagena loooove to take advantage of tourists. Be ready to defend your guest from overpriced stuff.
Other activities we did was the volcano!! really good and different. Las Islas del rosario, trip is a little too long if done on big boat, you can try rapid lanchas, but they can be a little too rough for the elder guests. Just advise that the trip is very long but worthy, we saw wild dolphins on our way!!
La Casa de la cerveza for a dinner out with guests was amazing!!!
some of our wild guest also went diving!! we were too scare...
About Welcoming guest:
Upon arrival each of our guest had in their hotel rooms a welcoming bag. They absolutely loved this!! This is what we did:
A paper bag with a lace matching our wedding theme, stamped with ours and our dogs silhouette, it had a hanging note personalized for each guest thanking them for coming from so far etc. It had my mom's cell phone number (you can chose the person in charge)in case something happened and they needed some main number to communicate or a person that spoke fully spanish (although nobody used it, this made them feel safe and cared as some expressed later). Inside, the bag had: a pair of flip flops, a hand sanitizer, a sun block, a granola bar, a package of gum, a SPF chapstic, a tourist map of Cartagena and a postal card of Cartagena (wanted to include a water bottle but didn't happen). You can vary the stuff you put inside, I highly recommend doing this, our guest felt so special! You can buy all the stuff here (ebay is a good place for sunblock, chapstick and hand sanitizer just watch out for expiration dates, Granola bars and gum from BJ, etsy is great for personalized stamps, in Cartagena your wedding planner can get wholesale maps and postal cards, you can even get whole sale maracas if you can afford it (we couldn't) and send it or bring it if you arrive ahead, ask your wedding planner if she will do this for you, or ask a family member or do it yourself. We did it ourselves with my mom's help.
Click on each tool to see a sample.