written by Shelby Kirchner, Owner of Plan On It
photos by Feather & Twine Photography
Weddings are meant to be celebrations where you can truly connect with your guests. They are part of your history and love story with your partner! And to be completely honest, true connection can’t happen in a four hour wedding reception. You are often whisked from table to table, with only the chance for light conversation so you can talk to everyone. What if I told you there was a better way to connect with your guests?
Imagine stretching out your “big day” across a few carefully planned events throughout the weekend. Maybe you kick it off with a welcome happy hour at your favorite brewery in town that allows you the chance to sit down with old friends from college. Maybe you spend the next morning getting coffee with the early birds and chatting with your grandparents and aunts you don’t get to see often. Any way you swing it, planning a full weekend wedding will help you create space and opportunity to just hang out with your guests...and that’s where the real magic happens.
L photo by Holly Marie Photography | R photo by Feather & Twine Photography
Out of Town Guests Will Thank You
Let’s be honest: we have all been invited to that one wedding that was pretty far out of town and cost a lot of money for us at the time. Whether you were involved in the wedding as a wedding party member, a close family member, or even just attending as a guest, traveling for a wedding means committing to a lot of extra expenses. Your guests have to pay for things like lodging, food, and lots of other things while they are in town to celebrate your wedding. They love you and they’re excited to do it, but it can sometimes feel like a big stretch on their budget! To make that experience even more worthwhile, consider giving them a few extra things that you set up in advance for them to do.
This makes your celebration feel more like a vacation and less like an expensive trip they need to plan themselves. Going the extra mile to plan a few structured activities for your guests shows them you care about the extra money they are spending to celebrate with you and that you want to make the most out of the time they are there!
Think about this from the perspective of the guest: they want to celebrate and spend time with you. Why else would they spend the time and money to come to your wedding? Having structured time throughout the weekend to just hang out with your guests beats rushing from table to table at your reception every time. If you are able to connect with your guests leading up to the wedding, your reception will feel much less stressful!
Photos by Brooke with Honeygem Creative
Types Of Activities You Can (And Should) Plan
Here’s the fun part: thinking of all the different things you could plan for your full weekend wedding! The most common things I see as a part of a full weekend experience are:
- a welcome happy hour
- a rehearsal
- a farewell brunch
Depending on the timeline of your wedding and what day of the weekend it falls on, you can mix these up!
For example, if you are getting married on a Sunday and guests start arriving on Friday, you have lots of time to add events that will help your guests experience the city you are getting married in. You could do a welcome happy hour on Friday and then on Saturday schedule a few group tours of local tourist attractions or even invite them to just come and hang out at a nearby park. Then by the time Sunday rolls around, you’ve had time to talk with each of your guests and really connect with them so you don’t feel the need to visit with every single person during your reception.
If you’re wondering how to choose elements to plan for your full weekend wedding or things to do, start with these questions:
- Imagine you were coming to the city for a vacation. What are a few things you would want to visit while you are there?
- Think about significant events throughout your relationship. Did you meet at a park? Was your first date at a brewery? Incorporate things of this nature by inviting your guests to your local favorite brewery or a nearby hiking trail!
- Are there any big tourist attractions in the area where you are getting married?
- For the guests that are traveling into town for your wedding: do they often come to this area? Or will it be the first time they’ve really experienced the city? How can you help them experience it in a better, easier way?
- What sounds fun to you? Don’t do anything if it feels stuffy or unnatural. After all, this whole weekend is to celebrate you and for you to feel comfortable so you can connect with your guests! If you love to be outside, plan some outdoor things. If the thought of bugs and mosquitoes makes you shiver, find an indoor activity good for groups you know that everyone will love!
These are the types of questions that can help you brainstorm ideas flowing for what you might want to plan for your weekend experience. Make sure it is personal to you! Cookie-cutter weekend events will not suffice in this case; this is an opportunity to be extremely personal and connect with your guests over the weekend in a way that feels natural and comfortable to you.
Photos by Brooke with Honeygem Creative
It Doesn’t Have To Break The Bank
Planning a full weekend wedding experience does not have to cost a fortune! You are not providing and paying for an all inclusive full-service resort experience to your guests. (You can certainly do that if you want, but that isn’t the only way!) In fact, other than the rehearsal dinner, there really isn’t much that you should have to pay for depending on what you want to do with your guests. For a welcome happy hour, try calling around to different restaurants that have outdoor patios and ask if you can reserve their patio for free. It is not uncommon to have everyone pay for their own drinks so you aren’t responsible for footing the bill. If you are planning to stop by a local tourist attraction, tell your guests you are planning on getting there at a specific time and if they would like to join they are free to do so! There’s no need for you to facilitate the buying of tickets or get group passes for anything like this. Your guests are smart and they can take care of that all on their own if they would like to attend!
The general rule of thumb here is that if you are putting guests in a situation where they will need to pay for food around a meal time, you should be the one to pay for it. But if you are setting up a time to have a shared experience with your guests, such as going on a hike or going bowling, then they can usually set up the reservation themselves and there’s no reason for you to have to worry about paying.
Planning a full weekend wedding experience can be as expensive as you’d like it to be. You can do it with a small amount of additional space in your budget, or you can pay for all of the experiences for your guests and really make it feel like an all-inclusive vacation. All of this, of course, depends on the type of budget that you have for your wedding and what kind of experience your guests may expect, depending on the social circles you are in.
At the end of the day the whole reason why you’re having a wedding is to gather all of your favorite people together to celebrate your love. If you’re like me and you absolutely want to spend quality time with your guests and family over the course of your wedding weekend, you know in your heart you cannot achieve that level of connection during a four hour reception. Your wedding day will be so busy and you’ll be running from one thing to the next trying to enjoy every little last moment of that day. Genuine, honest time where you can sit down, take a breath, and really connect with your guests is often missing on wedding day! Planning a full weekend wedding gives your guests a much more meaningful experience, makes it feel like a vacation for them, doesn’t have to break the bank, and gives you so much more space to relax and enjoy time with your guests leading up to your big celebration.
Your love deserves to be celebrated in a big, big way! Don’t limit it to just one night; spread it out over the weekend. Your guests will not only have a great time, but will be talking about your wedding for many years to come!
Shelby Kirchner is the owner of Plan On It, an Austin based wedding planning company for the intentional, relaxed couple who wants to enjoy the season of engagement and wedding planning. We specialize in full weekend weddings that are centered on a high guest experience. When she’s not planning events, you can find her at a local coffee shop with friends, playing board games at home with her husband, or going for walks with her sheep dog mix pup.
Photo by Hannah Black Photography