Instead of hosting a single evening party, many couples are expanding their wedding experience to encompass a full weekend of festivities. While this initially rose as a destination wedding trend, it has spread across the industry as people embrace the idea of making the most of their celebration with friends and family.
However, that often leaves couples wondering: How can we fill out the weekend with fun and exciting activities? Furthermore, how can we do this without blowing the budget?
We spoke with wedding experts from across the industry for insight on planning wedding weekends and here’s what they had to say.
Nail down your activities
“The most popular events we see planned time and time again are: The Rehearsal, The Welcome Dinner, The Wedding Ceremony, The Reception, The After Party, and The Farewell Brunch,” explains Kelley Nudo of Momental Designs. “Other events such as golf outings, boat cruises, spa visits, wine tours, etc. are fun activities that some couples might offer to a small group of guests as well, but these are far less common.”
Settle your budget
“Often, the guest lists for a weekend’s festivities are determined by who is paying,” says Gretchen Culver of Rocket Science Events . “Have a large group discussion with all the decision makers to look at the wedding weekend budget holistically. After the budget is in place, it is easier to figure out who should be invited to what.”
Plan events separately
Jamie Chang of Passport to Joy says: “You want to go through the planning process for each event similarly as you plan your wedding. So, create a separate budget and guest list. Create separate to do lists and timelines. Keep your documents and communication separate. Make sure you title your emails according to the event, topic and date and create separate folders to hold proposals and research.”
“You should add to your wedding invites a check box next to each event so guests can choose if they will attend each,” says Simone Vega of Coordinated to Perfection, LLC. “Make sure to mark this off on your spreadsheet or guest list manager, and carefully go through the final list with your planner to ensure that you have the right numbers for each event.”
Save where you can
“There are ways to host a weekend full of events while staying on budget,” assures Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events. “The welcome can be drinks and desserts starting at 8 p.m. The rehearsal dinner can be a beer and wine bar. The day-after brunch can be more continental in style. The most important thing is to be very clear with your guests on what to expect. We don’t want them showing up to a party with an empty belly and be on the receiving end of a small tray of petit fours.”
Kylie Carlson of The Wedding Academy says: “With the exception of the wedding, it’s never required that you invite all attendees to each event. The rehearsal dinner is often limited to those involved in the wedding party, family, and any other VIP guests. Not only will you need their undivided attention to perform a run-through of the wedding ceremony, but it can serve as an intimate last ‘hurrah’ before your big day.”
“There are varying opinions on who should be invited to what,” elaborates Laura Maddox of Magnolia Celebrates. “At minimum, you invite the honorees to each event. If you are not inviting the out of town guests to the rehearsal dinner, it is typical to see a larger welcome reception after the rehearsal dinner where those guests would be invited.”
Jennifer Borgh of Borghinvilla Wedding Venue suggests: “Have your invitation designer make matching schedules for your guests so everyone knows what time and what to expect.”
“We typically have 2-3 different types of ‘schedule of events’ or ‘details’ cards created,” elaborates Renée Sabo of Urban Soiree®. “The first includes the full weekend events for those invited to everything, the second is for guests invited to the welcome reception and brunch only, and the third for those only invited to your wedding day.”
Mix it up
Emily Sullivan of Emily Sullivan Events shares: “Our ultimate goal is to host different events and give different experiences instead of just having the same event over and over. For example, if we are doing a formal seated dinner for the wedding, we may do something more casual such as a shrimp boil the night before. We’ve incorporated so many unique things over the years including haunted history bar crawls, swamp tours, food truck meet-ups, and more.”
Hire some help
“If you want to stay organized and keep your sanity, hire a planner to manage the weekend,” encourages Nora Sheils of Bridal Bliss. “Not only will they save you time and keep on top of the details and logistics, you will likely save money as well. A planner takes the reins while you make final decisions and executes the entire weekend so you can enjoy it.”
Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services shares: “Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Calendar all work seamlessly together to schedule appointments, outline agendas for each day, coordinate with creative partners, and help you keep track of various guest needs and accommodations. You and your partner can have the peace of mind that everyone will be on the same page!”
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember when planning your wedding weekend is to have fun with it! While you have your friends and family all gathered to celebrate your love, be intentional about making memories and enjoying every minute of the weekend.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.