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And It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

And It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic | A Practical WeddingThe secret ingredient to our wedding was this: a welcome picnic. First of all, I’m not going to kid around, having a welcome picnic wasn’t cheap, because even though we went simple (hot dogs, hamburgers, beer) we did have to pay to feed people twice. But both David and I felt pretty strongly that we could care less about a rehearsal dinner (for goodness sakes, we didn’t even have a traditional wedding party). So we decided we’d much rather that the money that would have been used for a fancy-fancy dinner for 20 be used for a really-un-fancy dinner for 100.

Ok. But why was it the secret ingredient, you’re asking yourself? Well, here is why: it allows you to get everything out of the way, and clears the path for you to spend your wedding day doing what you need to do. For example:

  • The evil twin to the wedding f*ck it moment, is the wedding moment no one ever mentions in polite company. It’s the “I’m going to f*cking kill you all moment.” Very common really. I had mine at our rehearsal, right at the beginning of the picnic. First of all, I have literally *never* been to a wedding rehearsal where the bride didn’t end up looking like she’d rather jump off a high dive into an empty pool rather then continue the rehearsal for one more minute. The internet is filled with pictures of blushing brides joyfully gliding through their rehearsals as if floating on a cloud of peace and light, but as David always points out to me, “Those brides have PLANNERS.” Right. So there I was trying to walk through our relatively complicated service, yell just loud so everyone could hear me in this crazy enormous space, try to get everyone to be quiet so we could hurry through, and cope with the fact that my entire family wasn’t there rehearsal because they had gotten horribly lost. And then, ladies and gentleman, someone rolled their eyes at me. And I sort of lost my sh*t. And two seconds later, I realized this was a bad bad plan, I turned to Kate-stage-manager-of-wonder, said, “its yours” walked to the back of the rehearsal and shut my mouth. Why am I telling you about my least-proud wedding moment? Well, because, first of all I wanted to let you know that I’m human so if you’re human too, we’re cool. And second, because I firmly believe that having a welcome picnic allowed me to have my required “I’m going to f*cking kill you all” moment EARLY, and be totally chill and loving on our wedding day.And It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic | A Practical Wedding
  • The picnic also meant to see everyone from out of town a day early, which meant we could spend our wedding boogieing down, knowing that the meet and greet had already happened. At the picnic we wandered around and talked to parents friends and family (one question, “So, are you ready to become a wedding professional tomorrow?” Me: “Um. I’m hoping to stay an amateur.”)Then we sat around with tables full of old friends and made jokes in horrible taste and reminisced, without any pressure to feel like a blushing bride/ gallant groom.And It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic | A Practical Wedding
  • Oh. And we had a Pinata. I mean, that’s reason enough, right? It, er, fell off the tree, and we couldn’t get it back up, so uh, we ended up beating it, um, ghetto style.* (Have I mentioned I grew up in gang-land? You don’t believe me do you? Well, that’s just because I haven’t showed you the pictures of our friends flashing our hometown gang signs at the wedding and us literally laughing so hard we cried at the total inappropriateness of it.) Anyway, the Pinata:And It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic | A Practical WeddingAnd It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic | A Practical Wedding

And It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic | A Practical WeddingAnd It Begins: The Wedding Welcome Picnic | A Practical WeddingThe head was severed by our friends, and secretly carried to our apartment on our wedding night for tucking into our bed. It now lives in our living room.

So wedding welcome picnic. The secret ingredient. The way to get everything out of the way, encourage the family reunion aspect of your wedding, greet everyone, try to get your friends to get to know each other, get over wanting to kill people, and let everyone know that your wedding isn’t taking itself all together seriously. (Also, for the record, our picnic was thrown by two amazing friends who ran with my idea of Mexican Festive, and rocked its socks off.)

*The real joke was more over-the-line, but lets leave it at that.

First four pictures by One Love Photo, last three by friends

Read about the rest of our wedding:

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://accordionsandlace.wordpress.com/ accordionsandlace

    Love this, love you. The crazy and the calm go hand in hand–we totally can't have one without the other. And that pinata looks FUN.

  • Desaray

    yeah, my rehearsal was pretty terrible in a comical sense as well. I was disagreeing with the head of the marriage and family committee at our Quaker meeting. I was trying to use the "broken record technique" where you just repeat yourself over and over. But that 90 year old woman was just as stubborn as me. Afterwards, at the bar, my friend were cracking up as to what a loon she was. Really coulda used a pinata at that point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02567097973987043341 Lauren

    Meg, this is hysterical, and so true! I had my "kill you all" moment at the rehearsal as well- the being in charge and herding cats and trying to find everyone a ride through a busy city, and then my mom threw a tantrum, and then some hapless tourists walked into the MIT Chapel with cameras and I barked (from the altar) "The Chapel is CLOSED FOR A PRIVATE EVENT." And that's when I thought, I have to get over myself. It's REALLY good to get that out of the way the day before!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05955067991628905693 Bookbag

    My biggest regret about our wedding is that I caved on the rehearsal dinner — I wanted to have everyone over for pizza, my grandmother wanted the usual formal but small shindig. And I should have — your picnic looks amazing!!! What an awesome party. And I hear you on losing you sh*t — I too had a minor/major freak out at the rehearsal, got it out of my system, and then loved it up at the wedding. Can't wait to see the rest of your pictures.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05987184147935636439 Emmalinda

    Awesome. Love the pinata, and your honesty. This is what the internets need to here.

    In order to give you some hope: Before getting married, I'd planned/led a couple worship services, so I treated our wedding as a worship service with the added perk of getting married. A few days before, we met with the pastor, who walked us through where everyone should stand, when we would stand/sit down, etc. By the time we reached the rehearsal, we let the pastor take over, and for the most part, I wasn't mean/stressed. I had already let go…except for a few stressful moments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12997875522614810785 Mouse

    Yeah. I can see that moment coming at me. I hope I deal as gracefully as you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15103047512463828864 jamie

    yeah. totally. ask my best friend about the look i gave her when she came with the xxx pounds of ice [i asked for] 10 minutes before people started arriving to our welcome bbq, after i had been fielding everyone's questions for the last hour. and wasn't dressed yet.

    it wasn't a nice look.

    but it got it outta my system, i guess. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18209861350905135093 LPC

    Papel. Yay. Pinata head in bed. Clever yay!

  • Anonymous

    I assume the pinata horse head in your bed was inspired by "The Godfather" movie? ;-)

  • Anonymous

    I *so* wanted to yell at our families after our (partially self-catered) rehearsal (while they leisurely sipped coffee in the next room): "Could we get some help with the dishes and the cleanup, as we are freakin' getting married tomorrow and we'd like to get some freakin' sleep tonight!" Still to this day when I read stuff on wedding blogs like "Your friends and family will be thrilled to help out! Everyone will pitch in and it will be like you're all throwing this party together!" I'm like, what? I simmered instead of exploding though, that's just my way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15082554090481175349 A Los Angeles Love

    Thank you for sharing your human failings. And the pinata. J looked at me like I was a nutcase when I said I wanted one for our wedding, but I think he could be convinced for the welcome bbq…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Emmalinda,
    Ours was a worship service too, big time. Difference? Most Rabbi's have a policy that they don't attend rehearsals. THAT will up your stress level.

    @Jamie,
    What is it with the bride fielding hours of questions? And then people wonder why she's in a bad mood. "Just need beer! Do not care about questions! Bride! Beer! Now!"

    @Anon
    People do and don't pitch in. That's a whole other story. They pitch in in ways that blow your mind with generosity, and then at other moments you find yourself totally flabbergasted by the total lack of pitching in. I think in the end it usually ends up a net win, but there are almost always a few tears/ screams of frustration. Think of it this way… from here on out we'll bend over backwards to help on other people's weddings.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03209113339750185034 nina@mount pleasant wedding

    I love your blog more and more everyday!! Our wedding is 10 months away and my fil's were here for 2 1/2 weeks (staying in our 2 bdrm apartment in our room!!) and I've already had a few "I don't want to talk about it" moments. When his mom first heard we were having a DIY wedding (as in our own food and everything) she said "Well, I don't want to do any work on the day of!" and I thought "what else are you gonna do? Watch all the rest of us work our asses off?" Well, from reading some of these comments, I guess it is a definite possibility!! aargghh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07701697903367110498 Amy

    I heart you… My guy is planning the rehearsal dinner for… oh like 70 people (gasp) and I am praying for something low key where I can grab a beer in between awkward questions. Beer,beer beer… awesome… I'm sure I will have a melt down moment around that time too… just hope there is a pinata for me to take my frustration out on :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02111123909212699733 April Elizabeth

    Now I really want a pinata. This looks so wonderful. I love this idea, i love blog

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00901177853918418064 qasiaraine

    We did a bbq picnic for our rehearsal dinner too and it was great! Though I was completely and totally out of it in a sleepy daze. But everyone else liked it. :)

    I was too busy hiding behind my shower-ribbon "bouquet" at the rehearsal to have any "kill you all" moments. I'm not a fan of being the center of attention. :)

  • http://amountainbride.blogspot.com A Mountain Bride

    I love doing a super informal welcome dinner – I think we might do that now after reading this post. At first, we were just going to include our family and attendants, but it seems so much more FUN for everyone to get the intros outta the way up front.

    And. Pinatas are the bomb.

    http://amountainbride.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13424616103795706999 LindsFM

    I love hearing about how this made your wedding more sane. We are currently deciding between doing this exact same thing (but it will be with beer, brats, and cheese since it will be in Wisconsin!) or having a smaller more intimate rehearsal dinner. I blame the movie "Rachel Getting Married" for this indecision because the boy saw their personal rehearsal dinner and now wants that too. Hmmm.
    My only fear with the big barbeque rehearsal is who will organize it! Because I know I don't want to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/sarabaltman?ref=profile Sara A.

    So I've been reading your blog and lurking around since I got engaged in February. Thank you for being a voice of sanity in this culture that says it's ok to have a hissy fit over the fact that something is mint and you wanted celedon.

    I love this idea. I've been trying to strike a middle ground between my mom's crazy Jewish wedding ideal of the rehearsal dinner and the reality of my future father-in-law's budget for the event. My mother wants all of the out-of-towners to be there, but the budget just won't support it and the formal-ish dinner she wants. Plus, introvert that I am, I was enjoying the idea of a smaller get together before the huge one so that I can get used to the idea of surrounding myself with about 150 people. Also I'm not terribly fond of some of my extended family. A picnic barbecue would be really fun for everyone and wouldn't cost another chunk of money. Especially if we grilled our own meat. Plus there's this really nice community center just down the road from our venue!

  • http://budgetbeautiful.wordpress.com/ budgetbeautiful

    I so appreciate your candor. There's no shame in admitting imperfection. I had a panic attack at our rehearsal dinner and had to be talked off the ledge (figuratively, of course) by my mother and husband. It happens. We left early and went home and took Tylenol PMs and went to bed. I was fine by wedding day, so I'm actually glad for my freak-out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16294864366284434807 Rosalie

    Yeah I got told to apologise to my best friend for snapping at her by my husband the afternoon before the wedding. I was in such a crazed mode of fielding questions and DIY I didn't even realise. Best thing was she was like you did? I didn't notice! I got over it by the morning of the wedding. I don't know how any bride can avoid the crazy completely.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04707441750165767852 Princess Christy

    I love it! I've got to remember to get the "kill you" moment out of the way – I'm hoping it comes during decorating so I can walk out and no one will care too much!

  • April

    Love the picnic idea! We're doing a welcome cocktail hour at a Mexican restaurant the night before the wedding, and roughly half of all the invited guests are attending. Totally awesome and what sold us on a "reunion" vs. traditional rehearsal dinner was because, well – we love Mexican food, we love our friends and I was so concerned about the possibility of not getting enough dance time at the wedding I convinced future husband all socializing must be done the day before.

    In 5 days, we have "The Rehearsal" & I will say I am hoping to remain calm and peaceful on my cloud. ;)

    …will let you know.

  • Cate Subrosa

    Such a good idea, especially if you're having a lot of guests. Suddenly "rehearsal dinner" sounds so… stuffy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05987184147935636439 Emmalinda

    Meg, I also never said that I loved your wedding vows. There's something so cool about saying the same words so many other married people have said!

    And yes. No rabbi at rehearsal=bride/groom as default people-in-charge. Hence the stress.

  • http://anotherdamnwedding.wordpress.com lyn

    I am not glad that you had to go through that moment, but I am so glad you shared. The internet has a way of making everything look so perfect and twee — of course, the content is editable, unlike real life. I know everyone goes through moments like these, but it's so nice to hear about it.

    Bonus inspiration: I think the picnic idea is terrific! Gonna have to consider that one ourselves.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03367631935043016430 Mrs T

    Oh now I want a mexican picnic too! Looked like so much fun. We have three Chihuahua dogs that I would love to have an excuse to dress in those hilarious taco outfits. Too funny. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11841162467916897873 Clare K. R. Miller

    Haha, the pinata thing happened at one of my birthday parties as a child! We did the same thing. It was fun, though my mom was finding pieces of candy stuck in the carpet for literally months afterward…

  • La

    (Years later) I just laughed aloud at the ghetto style piñata. Thanks Meg!