by Alexandra McCray
The joys of multiday wedding celebrations have long been experienced in countless cultures throughout the world. And, thankfully, more people in the United States and other countries are starting to catch on.
Extending the jubilee of a wedding ceremony and reception by incorporating complementary events that turn the entire experience into a three- or four-day celebration, called a “wedding weekend,” is growing in popularity.
If you’re considering taking your nuptials to the next level by hosting one, you’re in the right place. Read on for tips and ideas for planning a spectacular wedding weekend, no matter where you are.
Basking in the Benefits
One of the beautiful aspects of weddings is that they bring together family, friends and other loved ones you likely haven’t seen in years. Lauren Hines, a certified wedding planner and founder of the event company Hinesmark Affairs in Atlanta, says couples often decide to host wedding weekends to make the most of this precious time with the people they hold dear. The extra events are ideal for couples to further extend their hospitality and remind guests how much they mean to them, she adds. Given the events of the past few years, people are valuing face-to-face time more than ever, especially for major life moments.
Wedding Weekend Defined
So, what specifically does a wedding weekend entail? Well, as with a regular wedding, at the end of the day, there really are no hard and fast rules regarding what constitutes a wedding weekend. Typically, in addition to the rehearsal, it includes the wedding and reception, and one pre- and post-nuptial event for guests. For example, if your wedding is on a Saturday, an event could be held Friday evening and another on Sunday morning.
Which guests are invited to which events all depend on your and your partner’s opinions and the types of events you plan to host. The initial event is often designed to welcome guests and kick-start the weekend, and the final event is designed for guests to bid farewell to the happy couple and each other. Welcome parties and post-wedding brunches are usually open to all guests, while a special bridal party luncheon the day before the wedding would likely only be open to those in the wedding party and, possibly, their families.
The thought of incorporating events in addition to your ceremony and reception can be exciting. It’s the chance for you to create a full-on occasion that people won’t want to come to an end. Here’s some expert advice for making that happen.
Be Realistic About the Budget: Before you go down the rabbit hole of a wedding weekend, Hines says to make sure your budget and timing allow for extended events. “Do it right, or do not worry about hosting an event at all,” she says. “Too often, we force something to happen when budget or timing does not allow it. In such cases, make the main event more spectacular since the ball—and funds—are already allotted there.”
Think Carefully About When and Where: You’ll need to consider the feasibility of guests being able to clear their schedules to attend your events. “Choose a weekend that lingers over a holiday weekend, like the 4th of July or Indigenous People’s Day, that allows for invited guests to easily be off from work at the start of the next week or the end of the prior week,” suggests Hines.
Andrew Tobon, senior sales manager for The Candler Hotel Atlanta, Curio Collection by Hilton, says there are some important questions to contemplate when planning where you’ll host your wedding weekend. “Couples often have to think of everything from A to Z regarding a destination; where is the location relative to home, what’s the travel time and does it involve a time change? The guest experience starts when wedding invitations or save-the-date notifications are sent out,” he says. “Couples have to make sure to give their guests time to plan their lives, whether that involves taking time off work, planning childcare, etc. It’s often wise to include information on the venue in a wedding website if guests will need to travel far distances. Of course, this process becomes a lot simpler when the wedding takes place locally.”
Solidify Who’s Invited to What: Hines says it’s vital for couples to have a clear understanding and agreement on the guest list for each event. Though those conversations may not always be fun, they are necessary.
Don’t Go It Alone: Besides helping you maintain your sanity, hiring a full-service wedding planner can have added benefits if you decide to host a wedding weekend. Hines explains that working with a professional and their team for all the events will help create a cohesive look and feel. And your wallet will thank you for the ability to tap into the connections a planner has with venues, vendors and caterers, and any discounts they can offer.
Know Your Main Location Well: Tobon says it’s important to know what’s around the main destination, be that the wedding venue or the hotel where you have a block of rooms, etc. Not only can this help you when brainstorming what kind of events you want to have, but it will also help you provide information to guests about activities they can do outside of the preplanned events you’re hosting.
Consider the Types of Events: While a welcome party and send-off brunch are common, they’re not the only kind of events available to you. Think about what makes the weekend’s location unique and interesting, and factor those into your events. Say you’re near a harbor or the sea; instead of a traditional welcome party, why not invite everyone to join you for a relaxing sunset cruise to kick-start the festivities? Other ideas could include a pool party; a dinner party with a live performance; a tasting with hors d’oeuvres at your favorite winery, brewery or distillery; or a scavenger hunt followed by a catered dinner.
Give Some Goodies: Finally, for an extra special, personal touch, Hines says to consider welcome baskets and/or on-theme gift boxes for guests to take after an event. A welcome basket could include a local magazine, bottled water, a list of recommended activities and restaurants, local food or snack-type items, a hard copy of the weekend’s itinerary or reminder that the itinerary is available via your wedding website, and other items. For event goodie boxes, you could work with a gift box company to create a custom offering.
A wedding weekend is a wonderful way to extend the joy of your Big Day for you and your guests. If your budget and timing allow for one, we say go for it!