So, you’d like to have a wedding weekend. Awesome, as someone who has been to them as a guest, let me tell you—they are super fun. As someone who has helped clients plan them, I will also tell you that they are more complicated, and let’s go with almost always more expensive, than a wedding day, since you’re signing up to entertain people for a whole weekend rather than just half of a day. Wedding weekends, like all formats of weddings, have an infinite number of variations, but for this post we’re going to work with the baseline wedding weekend:
- Friday dinner
- Saturday breakfast
- Saturday activity with a lunch break
- Saturday afternoon ceremony
- Saturday wedding dinner
- Sunday breakfast/brunch
Do you have to have all of these? Actually, the answer is—more or less—yes. If you’re hosting a wedding weekend (key word there being hosting), you need to provide things for people to do for the whole weekend. Otherwise, it’s just…a wedding! Which is great! But let’s call a spade a spade.
Wedding weekends generally work the best if the majority of your guests are staying in a concentrated area: the same hotel, resort, campground, lodge, you name it. Can you do an urban wedding weekend? For sure, but if you want maximum people at maximum events, you want to make it sure that it’s as easy as possible for people to get to them. (As I told a client at a walkthrough last week, groups of people are generally happiest when things are easy. Whether that means getting to the bar or to your second brunch of the weekend, this holds true.)
That said, do you have to entertain your guests for every minute of the whole weekend? Nope! They’re grownups, and grownups are good at doing things like keeping themselves entertained for reasonable amounts of time. That said, you should entertain them for a good portion of the weekend, and should provide them with at least suggestions of things to do with their time. Welcome bags, which are always optional, are especially great for wedding weekends—you can include brochures for things to do nearby, a handy printed list of suggestions, a timeline of the weekend, and some snacks. Everyone likes snacks, and if you’re holding your wedding weekend in a remote place without a ton of easy access to snacks, it’s particularly nice.
Wedding websites, while also always optional, are also especially nice for wedding weekends as they can give guests a good idea of what to expect and what they need to bring with them. As a girl who constantly shows up to places that have swimming pools without a packed suit—it’s nice to let people know before they travel what they should throw in their bag. It’s also nice to let people mentally plan ahead—you don’t want someone to schedule a work call or breakfast with an old friend in the middle of what looks like a really great activity that they didn’t know would be happening.
Now, let’s get into some slightly more fleshed out timelines:
The wedding weekend:
4:00pm—Rehearsal (wedding party and immediate family only)
6:30pm—Rehearsal dinner/welcome toasts
8:00pm—Optional: Some type of activity! Campfire stories, board games, talent show. Or dancing, bar hopping, city lights tour!
8:30am–10:30am—Buffet/drop in breakfast
10:30am–2:30pm—Activity! Lawn games! Pool time! Wine tasting! Hike! With sandwich spread/barbeque/picnic lunch in the middle. Or bus tour of the city! Farmers market suggestions! Shopping! Museum trip! With box lunches in the middle.
2:30–3:45—Give people time to get ready for the wedding
(Insert standard wedding timeline here)
9:00am–12:00pm—Drop-in buffet brunch
Wedding weekends at their best are like summer camp for grown ups—lots of things to do and fun people to do them with. At their worst they leave people with awkward periods of time to fill and stress about finding food. It’s worth mentioning that “eating and socializing” are totally valid activities, and there may be people who would really rather stay behind and do that or hang out by the pool much more than they want to go on a hike, or visit a museum. That’s totally fine—don’t force people into activities they don’t want to do. But it’s nice to provide some type of structure for the people who want it.
Also, remember to think about the logistics of this many meals and set ups—do you have one caterer who’s doing everything? Are you bringing in people for different things? If you don’t have a team or a professional coordinator running the entire show, I’d suggest assigning specific people to be “team leaders” and give them a team—say, your aunt who’s a morning person to be the Saturday breakfast “team leader” with three other such people under her. Or your crafty cousin to be the decor “team leader” in charge of decorating the different spaces throughout the weekend. (Note: please don’t make a non-paid volunteer be in charge of five complicated decor set-ups. Some flowers for brunch in addition to the wedding decor? Sure. A whole different set of complicated tablescapes? That might be too much.)
One of the loveliest parts of wedding weekends is that they give you much more time to spend with your guests—you can hopefully actually spend time with everyone, because you don’t have just five hours of reception in which to do it. That said, you don’t need to feel obligated to attend the daytime activities if you’re busy doing, say, hair and makeup, or taking photos—people will understand! Or at the very least, they’ll be too distracted having fun to notice.