Aside from wanting their weddings to be spectacular and memorable for all attending, many people place importance on the days before and after their weddings being exciting and enjoyable. Your guests may have traveled quite a distance to attend, and it may be the first time most of them have seen one another in years. According to Sharon Naylor, author of "The Smart Guide to Wedding Weekend Events," "the latest trend is planning multiple social events during the three-day wedding weekend, providing you and guests with chances to enjoy more quality time together and have fun on various adventures."
*Creating Your Plans
Begin by scoping out the hotel where your wedding guests will be staying. Most hotels will provide you with a list of on-site amenities and local attractions that can inspire your plans. Consider the crowd you'll be hosting and the types of attractions in the area. "Is your crowd into adventure sports, such as hiking, or would they prefer a gourmet dinner?" mentions Naylor, who also suggests talking to the hotel's concierge to see whether you can get discount tickets to local shows or attractions. As you assess your guests, you can tailor parties and outings to suit their styles. The local tourism department (check http://www.towd.com) is a great source for nearby attraction listings and also for budget-saving coupons and freebies.
One idea to kick off this special weekend is to host a welcome party for your arriving guests. "Talk with the hotel manager to plan a budget-friendly cocktail party with passed hors d'oeuvres, a buffet or a casual sit-down lunch to welcome arriving guests who may be hungry after their long travels," Naylor says. "Or invite guests to your home for a laid-back pizza party or more upscale wine and cheese party." You might present arriving guests with their welcome goody bag filled with a copy of your itinerary, map printouts, bottles of water, snacks and other treats. "Or you might leave these at the desk for guests to pick up as they check in, to avoid having any late arrivals miss out on their swag bag," Naylor says.
*Wedding Rehearsal and Dinner
Your wedding rehearsal will include your immediate family and wedding party. If you choose to plan an all-inclusive rehearsal dinner afterward, you can invite other guests to your fun barbecue, picnic, bonfire or even campfire singalong. Ask your hotel wedding planner for availability of picnic grounds and free beach access, or plan this event at your home. "Some families make this a game night, and some invite guests to join them at a local sports bar or lounge after the rehearsal is complete," Naylor says.
*The Day of the Wedding
To give yourself private time on the morning or afternoon of the wedding, have your guests gather at breakfast on their own, use the pool, spa or game room, or even visit local family and friends. They might use the list of nearby malls and tourist attractions to arrange their own group outings. You won't have to worry about keeping them busy, because guests enjoy having free time to arrange on their own. You might choose to plan a spa afternoon just for your bridal party as a perfect way to relax all of the key players.
"After your wedding reception, guests will often gather in the hotel lounge," Naylor says. And on the morning after the wedding, it's lovely to host a breakfast or brunch for hotel guests, either at the hotel or at your home, sending them on their way with a fabulous meal and an edible treat as a take-away party favor, Naylor suggests.
*The Day After
For guests who will stay the day after the wedding, you might plan an outing to take in a local sporting event. "Minor league games are especially affordable," Naylor says. A sample invite for a baseball game might be: "We will be cheering for (mention team name) at the stadium (specific location) as they play the (other team). The game begins at (time). If you would like to join us, we have reserved (price) tickets in section 307. To purchase tickets, please contact (give contact info)." You can use the same format for dinner theater, a museum visit, a candlelight tour, a bowling night, etc.
A few tips to keep in mind, courtesy of Naylor:
--Make weekend events optional, because not all guests will want to participate in, say, a softball game.
--Ask your hotel about special events, such as tours and shopping excursions, that are offered to wedding groups, perhaps with use of a free hotel shuttle bus.
--Provide disposable cameras at all pre- and post-wedding events so guests can capture special moments themselves.
--Plan easy-to-prepare catering platters for your at-home parties so that you're not overworked during and after the event.
--Feel free to plan separate events, such as ones for the bride and groom's friends and ones that the parents' friends will enjoy.
--Don't overdo it. The wedding weekend will be hectic for you, so just one or two special events are all you need.