How To Have A Wedding Weekend

Because three days are better than one

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)

5:30pm—Rehearsal/welcome dinner

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.

Have logistical questions about wedding planning? Drop us a line!

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  • One More Sara

    One thing worth noting, have a rain plan for all weather dependent activities! My partner and I met working at a summer camp, and for the majority of my pre-engagement period, I was dreaming about a wedding weekend at Camp in all its glory. When we actually started planning, 1) my partner really wanted something a bit more formal/traditional, 2) if it rained, we would be kind of stuck in the middle of nowhere with not much to do (even though I still kind of think it would be fun to play camp rain games, I’m not sure for how long that would actually be fun…). We decided to compromise by having a “Welcome Crab Feast/BBQ” at camp on Friday evening, with guests sleeping there, and then Saturday brunch followed by some optional pool time. We’ll be having a private (immediate fam and bridal party only) rehearsal dinner that evening, and the wedding on Sunday (the wedding/rehearsal is at another location, about a 90 minute drive away, and some people will be using Sat to see DC or to shop, so we’re leaving Saturday more or less open). I’m so excited for everything!!! (Esp watching non-Marylanders/Delawareans trying to pick a crab. bwahaha.)

    • Your wedding sounds like a LOT of fun!

      I was a camp counselor for a long time, so I get wistful whenever I see/read about camp weddings because they seem like the best time ever. We live in NYC, 13 hours from my beloved summer camp, and didn’t have anything close to a camp wedding, but we loved it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

      • One More Sara

        I worried for a little bit that I was planning too much. In the end, I figure everyone I’m inviting is an adult, if they don’t want to come, they don’t have to. I know that most out of town Americans won’t make it Friday night bc they can only take of so much time from work. I think I’m just so excited for all of our separate worlds to collide that I want it to last as long as humanly possible.

        • What we discovered is that the people who want to be there will be there despite all odds, unless they are physically or financially unable. And some people who didn’t have those same barriers might not come. Weddings can do strange things to people.

          We had guests who came to our wedding from out of state just after hurricane Sandy. And we had a couple who canceled a week before our wedding because they couldn’t take off work, even though it would literally be a long lunch -the ceremony was 30 minutes and a 15 minute cab ride from their work. When their work was canceled for the storm and we later got in touch to make sure they were okay, they said their apartment was fine, and they even went to the movies during our wedding.

          As you said, everyone invited is a grown up. They have the ability to make their own choices on what they can and can’t attend, and no amount of or lack of planning will change that. But everything you planned seriously sounds like a blast.

          • Caroline

            That’s so true that the people who really want to be there make a way. My fiancé’s close friend is getting married in October on a Wednesday. We’re pretty broke, but saving up so he can fly out to the wedding. We had hopes he would be able to stay and visit for a week, but since he will be on school, we will likely pay $300 to fly him out for a single day. We decided I wouldn’t go, since missing school for people I don’t know well and paying 600 for a 1 or 2 day trip seemed too much, but we are moving hell and high water to get him to his friend’s wedding.

          • Caroline, your comment stunned me for a second, because we were married in October on a Wednesday, and used the phrase “hell or high water” like 50 times as we worked out our plans!

            That’s awesome that he’s going to be able to go to his close friend’s wedding. We may end up doing the same thing for one of my closest college friend’s wedding. Money is hard for a lot of people these days, and most reasonable people understand that. But for the people who mean the most to you, sometimes there are sacrifices and compromises you can make to go.

            And, I feel like in most cases, as long as friends communicate with the couple, if money really IS prohibitive, then the couple would understand, and they’d figure out a way to celebrate from afar and see to celebrate together when it’s possible. It’s definitely not black and white.

  • We didn’t do a wedding weekend per se, but because our wedding was in Spain and a majority of the guests were coming from the States, it kind of turned into one anyway.

    We originally planned to do something similar to this timeline, and then scrapped it (not because it’s a bad timeline; it just didn’t work out that way). First of all, our wedding was at midday on a Saturday, so we didn’t need to plan any events before or after it on the same day. We decided we wanted to sleep in on the Sunday after the wedding and not have to stress about getting up (and most people weren’t leaving that day anyway), so we didn’t do a brunch but met up with everyone at a bar later that night to watch a football (soccer) game. Best post-wedding activity ever.

    We did welcome bags which I thought were REALLY important, and which the guests totally appreciated. Nothing is worse than arriving to an unfamiliar place with no idea of where to go/what to do, and no complimentary bottle of water. I made little booklets of our favorite places to go, bars, sightseeing, etc. We also included a bottle of water per person, a bottle of cava, some olives and chocolates (it was Spain, after all), a map of the town with the wedding location already marked), and I think some tissues. Stain remover wipes would have been good too.

    We didn’t over-plan because since people were coming off of long flights, we didn’t know what kind of mood people would be in and if they wanted to go straight to the hotel and sleep or if, like my dad, they were just raring to go and see the sights. What we did do, and it was free, was pick up every single guest at the airport personally (there were like twenty of them). It took a bit of effort but was worth it to make the guests feel welcome and important, help them avoid huge problems right as they arrive and have to find their own transport, and allowed us at least a car ride’s worth of conversation with each guest personally. Then we’d take them out to lunch if they’d like, and as we went we’d call the other guests to see if they were interested. We ended up having several casual, unexpected lunches that allowed guests to get to know one another before the actual wedding but wasn’t so structured that they felt that their whole weekend was planned for them. Besides, we knew our guests would have varied interests, and wanted to give them time to enjoy what they wanted to do. I think this is especially important if you think your guests see your wedding as a mini-vacation or a trip to an interesting place.

    The night before the wedding we had a casual out-of-towner’s dinner, which most people thought was the most fun part of the whole visit. It was a chance to get together and enjoy a (paid) dinner in a more relaxed setting than the wedding itself.

    Overall, especially if you live in a different place than most of your guests, wedding weekends can give you extra time to spend with those people who are coming from far away, and it’s those pre- and post-wedding moments that are sometimes the most memorable.

    Whew! Sorry for the long-windedness!

    • One More Sara

      We’re having a lot of int’l guests as well, which is why I wanted to do a little extra.. And we are getting a big group to go to a baseball game together the day after the wedding! Post-wedding sporting events FTW

    • Jessica

      Picking everyone up from the airport is SUCH a nice touch! Making a mental note.

      • After reading some of the comments below, I should also mention that even though we had guests already in town by the Monday before our Saturday wedding and got to spend a lot of time with them, by Thursday we had had enough and escaped home to veg on the couch together (ALONE!) and order Chinese food. Keep in mind that you might not only want to plan time for guests to enjoy themselves, but for you by yourselves as well. For us that was crucial!

    • SW

      It was nice reading you planned everything for your Spain wedding. The guests do feel cared for and appreciate a lot when you pay attention to minute details and plan things accordingly. I have taken your tips, right from receiving the guests at the airport to providing stain remover wipes. My niece’s wedding is next weekend and I am supposed to plan it out. These tips will certainly help me in planning the wedding ahead. Thanks a lot and this one is for the two of you – I pray and wish happiness for both of you on your wedding day; I hope you are the ones from the story that says – Happily Ever After

  • carrie

    We got married in Dewey Beach, DE, about 3 hours from our home in MD. We rented a house with friends (some of whom were taking over the house for the rest of the week) so on Friday morning, we packed two SUVs FULL o’ stuff and headed out to the beach. That night, those of us at the house and a couple of other friends coming into town early had dinner. Then that night, David and I went to visit my family (also rented a house for the week) and David’s family, in a hotel.

    Saturday, we beached it up with friends. Then rehearsed, rehearsal dinner-ed, then had an outing at a bar with all of our friends who were in town, which was like a practice reception without worrying about spilling on our whites.

    Sunday – wedding prep and wedding-ed. Monday morning, breakfast with everyone who was left and who wanted to hang out.

    So even though we didn’t have an official wedding weekend, it kinda worked out like one. We just let our friends/family know what we were doing and if they wanted to join in. Also, if you are staying *in* Dewey Beach, everything is fairly walkable, which made it easier. It was such a blast.

  • rys

    There’s a little bit of a middle ground with religous(-ish) Jewish wedding “weekends.” I’ve been to several in which there were services + shabbat dinner friday night, saturday morning services + lunch, free afternoon, rehearsal dinner or picnic or something saturday night (or suggestions for where to go out), and then wedding on sunday (and sometimes brunch on monday). It’s usually a little less structured — and options for stuff to do on saturday afternoon are given in a welcome bag or online, but it has the feel of a wedding weekend because of the communal meals on friday and saturday.

  • rowany

    Yay yay! We’re having a wedding weekend on Labor Day. We don’t have vendors besides the photographer and menu since two days of service was out of our price range, and catering or djing just one evening in the middle of nowhere wasn’t worth the cost to us. We have accommodation for our about 50 of our close friends and family for the whole weekend, with more people joining us for the ceremony and reception on Sunday, which helps us ease into being the center of attention for so many people, and lets our guests get to know each other before the ceremony. Everything is going pretty well so far, except I am struggling with cleanup. Should we try to get people to breakdown Sunday night (in all likelihood we’ll have an afterparty) , or Monday morning when people are flying out? How should we do dishes? We have 4 dishwashers spread out among different cabins, I can’t decide if I should assign small teams to be in charge of collecing plates or just ask everyone to keep their plates clean to spread out the work.

    • Sarabeth

      We had a similar situation (on labor day, no less). Although we did all the cooking ourselves, we ended up hiring 2 people (not from a catering company, just recommended by our venue) to warm the entrees, pass around the food, and clean up after. We had 35 guests and served relatively simple food (salad, lasagne, cake) and it worked well. This might be an intermediate option if you want to throw a little bit of money at the problem but don’t want to hire a full catering crew. We paid $20/hr per person plus tip, which worked out very reasonably and was still a fair deal for the folks we hired.

    • Laurel

      I strongly recommend hiring people to serve and clean up if you possibly can. DIY/DIT wedding weekends are a lot more work for your awesome helpful friends, and it’s really really great if they can eventually cut loose with you post-wedding. Rule of thumb according to our caterer is one service/clean-up person per 20 guests.

      It’s totally legit to ask people to leave their cabins in good shape Monday morning, though.

    • I think this is a “know your crowd” situation. Hiring someone would be the most convenient thing, certainly. In my family/friends crowd, team leaders would be the best option for the situation, as most of my close friends and all my family are full of assertive women and just-wanna-help-ers.

      Additionally, if you decide to ask everyone to keep their plates clean, there’s always a handful that won’t make it to the dishwasher, so a point person might still be necessary for the final clean-up sweep.

      • A-L

        We hired two women to do refill drinks and clean up afterwards. They were residents of our church’s women’s shelter and had experience in restaurants/catering. I think we paid $15 or so an hour, and a tip. It definitely was worth it to have our guests free, and to be able to choose who we were helping financially.

  • Wedding weekends are amazing. We rented a house which most (although not all) of our guests stayed at and held the wedding there. Everyone arrived on Friday throughout the day. We hadn’t planned on feeding everyone (we only had 25 guests) but my mom had the brilliant idea to pick up cheap frozen pizzas. It ended up being a great opportunity for everyone to mingle pre-wedding.

    We got married in a great scenic location so Saturday morning before the wedding there were a bunch of activities going on. I’d signed up for a 10K and personally invited all of the runners (and the sort of runners) and also put it on the wedding website. My husband went for a motorcycle ride with everyone who rides (he’d organized bike transportation to our location earlier). Just about everyone else headed to either Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, or Deadhorse Point to see the the sights. The wedding on Saturday night was super chill because everyone was just happy from a great vacation day.

    Sunday, everyone went out jeeping. We’d made sure we had enough seats in vehicles for everyone. We debated chipping in for the two jeeps that needed to be rented but decided our guests were adults and could work that out on their own. (We’d already talked to the two competent drivers who didn’t own jeeps about it.) It worked out just fine.

    A few of our more outdoorsy friends and family members stuck around until Tuesday and Wednesday and we let those adventure just happen. :-)

    Overall, we only provided Friday’s dinner, Saturday’s (wedding) dinner, and leftover pie. The kitchen was made open to everyone and my husband’s aunt and uncle even stepped in to make Sunday’s dinner! (Which was awesome awesome awesome.)

  • Rebecca

    Nearly all our guests will be coming a long way. We’re holding the wedding in my hometown, but I haven’t lived there in over ten years; aside from my parents and sister even my family are travelling several hours minimum, and all his have transatlantic flights to look forward to. It’ll be the first time most of our families meet. Of course we want to organize a whole weekend.

    We’re Jewish, so a Saturday wedding is out. I am debating whether a Friday wedding (early evening so it’s before Shabbat) or a Sunday wedding would work better. Will I just be stressed all weekend till the actual wedding? Argh. :-(

    • Nearly all our guests are from far away, too! And I’m having a Sunday evening wedding. I’m super excited about it, because it’s allowed us to have a weekend-long party. We’re not doing everything in described in this post, but our schedule looks like this:

      Friday night: close friends and family arriving, dinner of some sort in the works
      Saturday day: We’re having a big welcome party cookout at a local campground (think: swimming, grilled meat, and kickball)
      Saturday night: we’ll go to some local bars, and people can join us, if they want
      Sunday morning: my friend is leading a yoga class!
      Sunday day: getting ready for the wedding
      Sunday night: get married & dance
      Monday morning: the hotel has breakfast, so we’re not having a formal brunch, but we’ll let people know we’ll be there if they want to stop by

      If the wedding was a Friday night, then I think personally I would feel too much pressure for that one night to go well, and that I’d have to spend time with all our (many) guests in that short amount of time. With the wedding at the *end* of the weekend, I will feel relaxed and I’ll have already spent time with almost everyone. For me, it takes the pressure off.

      No matter what you do, it will be awesome! Good luck!

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      I *loved* our Sunday afternoon wedding. We had something of a compromise between “wedding” and “wedding weekend”. For us, that looked like:

      Fri night: Shabbat dinner with us, our parents, siblings, and grandparents
      Sat afternoon: my “bachelorette” party (hanging out with some ladyfriends. I live abroad and they live all over the place, so it was the only time that worked). By choice, B. spent most of the afternoon greeting guests as they arrived at the hotel. The welcome bags had suggestions for things they could do in town.
      Sat evening: casual buffet dinner for all of the out-of-town guests. I’m really glad we did this. Our friends and family had time to mingle so that they weren’t complete strangers at the wedding the next day, and it gave me a chance to meet more of B’s family. Plus it took the stress off trying to greet all nearly-200 guests at the wedding. We sacrificed other things to make this work in our budget.
      Sun afternoon: wedding! no after-party.
      Mon morning: nothing specific was organized, but we ran into a few guests at breakfast at the hotel.

  • RK

    Recently we attended weekend wedding in one of the state parks near Seattle. All guests stayed at the park and it was great fun. Couples had basic amenities provided to the guests and arranged 2 dinners (one before the wedding night and one wedding dinner). It was awesome to spend so much time with friends and families that we hardly ever get to meet. Weekend weddings are the way to go! :)

  • We Are Doing ThE Whole Big Wedding Weekend….Our Timeline Looks A Lot Like This Sample. FridayEvening Is Rehersal& Dinner Out Then A Welcome Reception (Heavy Appetizers, Booze & Dj) Back At The Inn. About 75% Of Our Guests Are Onsite At The B&B/country Inn/Restored 1920S Mansion In The Berkshires. The Rest Will Be One Mile Down The Road (With Shuttle Bus BeTween)
    Saturday Will Be Brunch,Golf, Whiffleball, Bocce And Spa Time Then Ceremony At 4 Followed By Cocktails, Sit Down Dinner And Dancing. Finally On Sunday Its Brunch And Goodbyes!
    It Has Been Crazy To Plan And Even.More Complicated Due To 2 Owner Changes At Our Alternate Hotel But I Cant Wait!
    We Are A Big Crazy Close Party Family So Thete Was No Other Option For Me Even Though This Will End Up Being quite eXpensive. Hospitality Towards Our Guests Was #1 For Us So We Skipped The Fancy Invites And Couture Dress To Just Entertain As Best We Could.

    Ps Sorry For Wacky.Format….. My.PhoneHates Certain websites

    • LOL! I was wondering about the capitalization. Phone interfaces do provide some delightful (and frustrating) text entry.

  • K

    Am I the only one (as a guest) who isn’t totally into wedding weekends? Especially for Significant Other’s friends group from college, etc, who I have never met? It can be fun, but its just a lot…a…big commitment to ask of guests for lack of a better phrase.

    • I think it really does depend on the group. I would hope that most wedding weekends would provide options for people who want to come but only for the wedding part. Some many not be able to devote that much time away.

      I went to a delightful wedding weekend in Nova Scotia a few years back, where the only people I knew were the bride, one other guest, and my date (my fiance, who at the time was just a friend. this was the road trip that started us dating.). I knew the bride and other guest from the internet, so the entire rest of the gathering was complete strangers. Yet I had a blast, and it was a great location. They provided a lot of time to just enjoy the resort we were at.

      But I can see that sort of thing being super awkward. For example, if I only knew the bride or I didn’t have a friend along or if it was nothing but togetherness for the group. I can get seriously uncomfortable in social situations with strangers, and not being able to escape in a few hours would be hell. So it could really go either way.

      No more of a commitment than any other destination wedding, though. (Which is to say, yes, it is a commitment.)

    • Amanda

      Guests don’t have to go, think of it more of an invite and less of a commitment. Just because a friend asks you to go to dinner with them doesn’t mean you have to, right? There is nothing wrong with you graciously declining. No one will hold it against you.

    • Laurel

      In my experience, people don’t HAVE to come for the whole weekend. Our basic pitch was that the wedding was Saturday, we were going to be there ahead, everyone who wanted to show up early was welcome. People mostly stayed overnight because it was in my partner’s family’s tiny hometown, but a lot of semi-locals drove up from SF on Saturday for the wedding and dinner.

      I’ve really enjoyed wedding weekends even when I didn’t know anyone (once I literally knew the groom and had met his brother and the bride), but that depends on your personality and the other people.

    • I wish people didn’t feel obligated to attend something they don’t enjoy. (I’m not criticizing you, K, because I hear where you’re coming from, but I’m just addressing something I’ve run into recently that has been under my skin.)

      My partner & I are getting married on a Sunday night, in a city that is at least 2.5 hrs away from all of our guests. We realize this is inconvenient and asking a lot of people, but on our end we are 100% understanding if people can’t make it. If the trip is cost-prohibitive, or someone doesn’t have the vacation time, or simply doesn’t want to take the vacation time/drive far away/deal with the wedding, I have absolutely NO problem with that. We’re doing what’s best for us, and we expect everyone else to do what’s best for them.

      Sometimes I read on snarky sites, people complaining about how presumptuous it is to plan a weekend’s worth of events for your one wedding…and it makes me so annoyed. No one is obligated to attend these other festivities, so why complain? I think when people feel obligated, and somewhat-begrudgingly attend something, it creates all this resentment on all sides. If everyone was just really compassionate about doing what is best for *them* I feel like we’d be better off!

      • KB

        I think that the snark probably comes from the fact that not all couples are laid-back either and complain when guests can’t come to their weekend-long celebrations. Or that they feel that a “wedding weekend” isn’t the same as just a “wedding” (i.e., more hoopla).

      • Emmers

        Maybe it helps to not call it a weekend, and instead “here’s the wedding, and other optional events”? Or “other events, that you’re also welcome to attend”?

        I agree, the snark makes me sad. While I’m probably not going to have a full blown wedding weekend (probably just inviting out of town guests to some sort of rehearsal something), I’d be sad if I felt people were coming out of obligation.

        As a guest I just go to things that work for me (which sometimes means skipping Sunday brunch because I’ll be traveling), but I guess not everyone goes that route.

    • Amy March

      Nope! I’m also not a huge fan. They epitomize my struggle with the concept that a wedding isn’t an imposition. On the one hand, I’m really good at saying no. On the other hand, if you’re inviting me to a whole weekend, I’m going to assume it’s because it is important to you to have me there, and since I probably like you back, I’m going to try and make it happen.

      Which isn’t to suggest at all that couples shouldn’t have them- I’d place them with Jordan almonds and the term “first look” as personal things I’m just not a huge fan off.

    • I went to a wedding weekend (full of people I like!) last year and while it was a blast, by Sunday I was so, so ready not to see anyone for like three weeks. I love my friends, but I don’t want to spend three days hanging out with all 50 of them at once.

    • Carla

      I do you one better: I’ve never heard of a weekend wedding! It sounds like a lot of fun, but utterly exhausting for me. I can’t imagine spending that much time with so many people (not someone I normally do) so our 4+ hour, 20 guest afternoon/evening wedding sounds just fine.

  • Amanda

    This is exciting to read! I have been very strongly considering renting a lake house for my wedding weekend and invite my bridal party to enjoy it with us. With a pool, lake, large house and deck, we are sure to have plenty to do! I am thinking bean bag toss or washers in the lawn and there is already a pool table at the house. Not only will I save some money on my ceremony/reception venue, but we can all get a great weekend away from home.

    With the bridal party staying, I have a little more help on necessary setup, some of which we can do the night before and still have some time to play! I hope it all goes well!

  • Laurel

    Couple things I learned from our wedding, in case they’re helpful to anyone:

    I kept having ideas for activities! and events! and my partner would say, sternly, “People do not want to do activities. They want to go swimming and drink beer and hang out.” She was right. I’m really glad we didn’t plan any activities.

    Here’s how we did the food: our close friends came up early and we cooked a big simple meal on Friday (chickpea stew, salad, purchased bread, cookies for dessert). People who hadn’t been cooking all day did the dishes from that one. Then there was a bonfire and some night swimming. We’d stocked the kitchens so people could make themselves breakfast (bread, pb&j, eggs, yogurt, coffee, tea) and bought some hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, pitas, and dolmas for lunch, which a friend oversaw. In retrospect we should have bought less food. Then Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch were catered. Since our caterers were staying on site, we could have asked them to do a really simple toast + yogurt spread for not that much money (but my grandmother wanted to cover a real brunch, which was very nice of her). I was so, so glad that all the people who worked really hard to make Friday happen and set up the wedding could chill once the reception started.

    We were away from home for the whole shindig; hauling and logistics were a lot of organizational and planning work. Everything had to get packed up and loaded and unpacked and repacked and loaded and hauled and put away. Totally worth it, just be prepared.

  • Lauren

    Urban budget wedding weekend, here! (Specifically, Boston.) Key things for us:

    -Hotel that was downtown, walkable to everything, and still reasonably priced. Not one person had to rent a car. (Hilton Financial District- staff was amazing)
    -Good instructions. My brother designed an amazing booklet about Boston detailing the things to do, and the things we would be organizing.
    -Enough events to see people, but enough time to themselves to have their own trip to Boston. These were:
    Friday night dinner in Quincy Market, which is basically a big food court. We got there early, pulled a bunch of tables together, put some tablecloths and balloons on them, and let everyone buy their own food.
    Saturday “welcome reception.” The bar across the street let us have it to ourselves from 7-9pm for $800 in appetizers, and everyone bought their own drinks.
    Sunday 4pm wedding, followed by a reception at a different bar/restaurant, with no minimum because it was a Sunday night. Apps, buffet dinner, and open beer/wine.
    Monday spontaneous group breakfast at Panera down the street.
    -No expectations about who would come for the whole thing. If they were there on Friday, great, if not, no big deal.

    It was a great time, especially for my far-flung family!

    • A-L

      We also did a budget urban wedding (weekend?) for about 65 people in New Orleans.

      Friday night (originally supposed to be a family dinner, but turned into a surprise shower)

      Saturday night: rehearsal dinner (all guests invited) at a bowling alley with real food. Followed up by a game night at our house, attended by the younger set.

      Sunday evening: wedding & reception

      Because it’s such a great city we left the days available for people to do what they wanted. And I got to see a variety people on Thursday night, Friday day, Saturday day, and on Monday afterwards. People who knew each other got to hang out without enforced time meeting new people, but there were enough events that new people could meet and mingle and get to know each other.

    • C

      That sounds fantastic and really fun! Especially the informal friday night dinner – that’s a great way to handle that on a budget!

      I think you also make a really great point that you can have a wedding in the middle of a big city and still have “weekend events” throughout. It’s somewhat different from a “getaway” wedding – for example, as you pointed out, because you are in the middle of a city, it’s easier to leave people to fend for themselves for breakfast than, say, if you were at a remote destination – but it seems that it reduces the logistical / planning challenges a bit.

      Lastly, in my (admittedly biased view), it’s a great solution if you know you are having out of town guests and don’t want to make the wedding cost-prohibitive. We are planning a “downtown” wedding in our city, in part because the last thing I wanted to do was to make guests who will have spent money to fly in (and in some cases, book hotels) rent cars and drive once they get here. Plus, it gives guests the option of picking from a wider range of hotels that fit their budget.

      • Lauren

        I should point out that we specifically picked a hotel that was not only downtown, but was a 5 minute walk from tourist central. Faneuil Hall is the most touristy part of the city (still historic and beautiful and I love it!) which made it SO accessible. They didn’t have to hunt for a hipster coffee/sandwich shop- they could just go to Panera or Bertucci’s. And people who wanted hipster coffee were probably more comfortable taking the train to get there- we made it easy for people who might have been nervous about being on their own in a city otherwise.

  • Marisa

    How many people can you typically handle for a weekend wedding? this would be my dream wedding but it would probably not work out as I have a big family and couldn’t get the guest list under 100 without cutting close friends.

    • Lauren

      We had 125 at ours (see comment above.) They didn’t all come for the whole time, though.

    • I’ve done plenty with over 100 guests! Again – most logistically challenging and more expensive with a big group, but very, very doable. And, as everyone else is saying – people don’t need to come for the entire time (and it’s unlikely that everyone will!) – have people RSVP to each event individually so that you know how many people to expect.

    • We Will Have 170 But I Will Admit Less Would Have Been Easier As Finding A Place To Sleep And Feed All The Guests Together Was challenginG. I Think Under 125
      Would Be best

  • Leslie

    Just want to point out that a weekend long wedding can work for a small, more private affair as well. As someone who wanted to have the whole thing with everyone present, but also overwhelmed at the thought of having to host all of those people at once, we opted more for a weekend where we could celebrate with many groups of people.

    Here is our plan:
    Thursday evening dinner with extended family
    Friday evening ceremony/dinner with parents
    Saturday brunch with parents
    Saturday afternoon baseball game(!) and barhop with friends
    Sunday brunch/recovery with friends

  • What’s the advice for having a “wedding weekend” with selective guests (i.e. not everyone that’s invited to the wedding).

    Here’s our sitch – my fiance is British; I am American, living in Texas, but my whole family is from Mississippi. We are having our wedding in a remote-ish area about 1 hour north of Houston, where I/we (well, in a few weeks!) live. His family and some friends are coming from England. My family is coming from Mississippi and then I have some far-flung friends who are graciously coming as well. I want to maximize our time with these people, because we don’t get to see them often. As much as I love my friends in town . . . I see them all the time, you know? BUT. Since we’re having the ceremony about an hour north of town (in the sweetest little lodge in a state park), it’s likely that some of the local friends/guests will want to get a hotel near there the night before? So as to minimize day-of driving (and it’s very likely that they will stay the evening of the wedding).

    So, basically . . . what’s a good, affordable, nice option here? I’d like to have maybe a rehearsal/welcome dinner for all out of town family and friends . . . and then maybe go to a bar and let other guests join in? Is there a nice way to say “hey! Pay for your own drinks!” without saying, well, that?

    And, again, I’d like for the Sunday brunch or lunch to be out of town family/friends only (and wedding party), but as technically *everyone* is out of town enough that they’ll be spending the night of the wedding at a hotel, how do we get around inviting everyone? I don’t want to spend Sunday hanging out with 150 people, you know?

    Long story very long: It’s important to me that we entertain and host our “truly” out of town family and friends, those who’ve traveled anywhere from 300 to 4000 miles to be with us, for the whole weekend. But how should we plan things so that those who traveled 45* miles to come to the wedding aren’t feeling slighted? Anyone have any suggestions about what worked for them?

    *I live in Texas; 45 miles is nothing to me. But maybe it is to some people?

    • The nice way to say “pay for your own drinks!” is to list it somewhere (wedding website is perfect for this) as:
      Saturday night, for those in town early – no host bar gathering at XXX, please come by to hang out with us, we’d love to see your smiling faces!

      As for having other events with only parts of the guest list – this is totally fine! As long as you’re not billing it as a wedding weekend to the whole guest list, but as a wedding day, they’re not going to feel slighted. Just make sure to either have a separate invitation with the additional events on it for the people who are invited to everything, or a separate part of your website listing them that not everyone can see (glosite does this really, really well, where people have to log in and can only see the events that they’re invited to. also worth noting that while they’re an APW sponsor, they’re not a sponsor of me – I just really like their product.)

      • Thanks for the advice!!

        Yeah, I love glosite, but unfortunately, it’s blocked at my work! But we have a website mostly set up – I have the option of “unlinking” pages so that you can only get to them from a direct address, so maybe I’ll just do a “Wedding Weekend” page for those invited to the whole she-bang and give them a direct link.

    • We’re doing something similar! We’re having a welcome party cookout at a campground, so there’s flexibility around how many people attend and when they arrive. Then we’re having informal bar hopping that evening, for anyone who is interested in joining us. We’re covering food and some drinks at the cookout, but not for the evening.

      We’re including an RSVP card for the cookout, which makes it clear that it is a hosted event. As for the bar-hopping, we’ll likely include something in the weekend itinerary we’re providing. We’ll likely say something like “N& K will be at xx bar around 7pm. Please feel free to join them.” I don’t think anyone expects everything to be covered all weekend by the bride & groom, so I don’t think you will have to go out of your way to say “Pay for your own drinks.” I feel like making it informal carries that implication.

  • April

    We had a “wedding weekend” from Thursday – Sunday and our guest total was 65 people. Not everyone was present for each of the daily events (except the actual wedding day), so that helped keep things a bit more sane and manageable. It involved a Thursday night pizza party for a small group of 15 (no-host); a welcome / rehearsal dinner on Friday night for 30 (hosted), the wedding for 65 (hosted), and brunch for 23 (hosted).

    The upside: getting to chat with darn near everyone multiple times over the course of four days.
    The downside: EXPENSE. And also, losing my voice after chatting multiple times with damn near everyone over the course of four days.

    But the conversations, memories, friends made, friends re-acquainted, and time spent was so worth it. Three years later we still have people telling us it was the best vacation they can remember with a group of friends.

  • lynn

    My husband and I got married in NYC last December with only our parents and a good friend/photographer, and then had a wedding celebration weekend a few weeks ago in St Pete, where we live.

    We chose a boutique hotel downtown in the middle of everything for people to stay, which was perfect since we live within walking distance of downtown. Everything people needed was walkable, a trolley ride away (50 cents a ride!), or carpool-able with our guests who drove from other places in state.

    Our itinerary:
    Friday night: Major League Baseball game (purchased at a group rate for about 30 friends and family for upper-deck seating). We bought tickets and let everyone buy food/drinks they wanted. Free trolley ride to and from stadium. We had an Open House afterward with snacks and an open bar so people could see our new home.

    Saturday morning: Our city’s huge Saturday market is a stone’s throw from the hotel, so we met people there throughout the morning as they wandered and sampled whatever foods they wanted.

    Saturday afternoon: Took a tour of one of our sister city Tampa’s award-winning breweries. We called in advance and booked/paid for the entire hour’s tour. Everyone who wanted to go met in the hotel lobby to carpool or met us there on their way into the city. Those who stayed behind wandered the city.

    Saturday evening: Main party at the city-owned World’s Largest Shuffleboard Courts and solarium. :) After party in the hotel’s meeting room, hosted by both parents and including everyone who stayed.

    Sunday morning: Different groups met up for brunch at different locations throughout the city.

    I’d say about 30 people did all the events, with 70 at the main party. The key for us was a great wedding party website, including a Google-questionnaire RSVP form that allowed me to capture guests’ preferred email addresses and numbers for each of the events we held. We also developed a personalized Google map of our city with all the events, favorite restaurants, bars, and activities highlighted for guests to access.

    Once we were a couple of weeks away, I sent out a detailed itinerary email to guests including what we were doing, when we were doing it, and links to things that were important (trolley route map, baseball stadium information, directions on getting to each event, etc).

    We are still getting thank you cards from guests who had a fabulous time. :)

  • A

    How do you handle paying for accommodation if you’ve chosen a “book the whole place” venue? Most of our guests will be travelling and would need to pay for accommodation no matter where we have the wedding, “weekend” or not. I’m looking at an amazing venue: it sleeps 20+, and can host both the ceremony and the reception for 60, but it doesn’t take or manage room bookings. I really really really can’t remotely afford to rent the whole thing myself, but if people paid even $75 each for the whole entire weekend (3 nights!), I could get the venue of my dreams and save my friends loads of money on a hotel or B&B.

    I just can’t come up with a tasteful way of doing this: I’d need to ask for and collect the money myself and it just seems weird and tacky.

    • Haley

      We’re getting married in a State park and have rented all the cabins for Fri-Sun, and a few of them Thurs-Mon. We’re offering them as an all lodging and food included option on our invites, as well as giving info for the hotel block we worked out around the corner. The cabins have a generous cancellation policy, so the early/late arrivers/leavers can be sorted out without worry.

      On our save the dates we put ‘accommodations available at a group rate, details and formal invite to follow’ to make it clear that lodging is already arranged but they will still be expected to pay for it. No one has misunderstood or seemed offended so far. Haven’t quite worked out how to handle the actual money collection, but probably going with either paypal or cash/checks at the rehearsal/welcome dinner.

    • Caely

      We’re dealing with a similar situation – we’re renting a summer camp that sleeps 60+ for Labor Day weekend, and its up to us to collect money, assign rooms, etc.

      To keep things simple, we decided to offer a weekend package covering all food and lodging Friday dinner through Monday brunch (excluding rehearsal dinner and wedding dinner, which we’re paying for). I’m hoping we won’t run into too many people who want to arrive late/leave early or skip meals or whatnot – that’s one of my big worries. It comes out to $150/person for everything, which I think is really reasonable, especially for the San Francisco bay area.

      Our plan is to request that guests mail us a check made out to the camp (the camp said this was ok, as long as I was coordinating everything). Somehow it feels slightly more professional to ask for a check made out to the venue, instead of to us personally.

    • J

      We are in a similar situation and handling it this way-

      Booking a gorgeous inn that can accommodate everyone (about 45 ppl). It is pricey and so we are subsidizing the rooms. Meaning that we will pay the inn so that the balance for the guests is reasonable. I think we decided on $125 per night for the guests, so if the room is $250, we’re paying $125 and the guest pays their $125 directly to the inn, just as they would when booking any room. This way we do not have to collect money from guests, which is a big no-no in my book.
      Good luck!

    • (Late comment but could still be useful!)
      We had a summer camp wedding weekend. Guests could choose to stay on site and whether or not they wanted meals included (apart from the wedding dinner). So you could choose 1 night, 2 nights, all meals, or half meals (if you were only staying one night), or no meals at all. I handled it like a conference – registration on our wedding website, with charges clearly displayed, credit cards accepted (or people could mail us a cheque). Might sound tacky but we really had no issues. I paid the camp in a lump sum!
      I researched many different online registration systems and had trouble finding the perfect one, settled for a functional option that mostly did everything we needed.

      • Natalie

        Maxime, which online registration system did you end up using? And how much did you have to pay in credit card fees? I’m looking at doing the same thing – summer camp wedding, people pay us for lodging – and really like Wufoo for the form and it has Paypal integrated. Thoughts?

        • Hey Natalie, very exciting :)
          I think anything integrated with Paypal is best – but be careful about having Paypal fees PLUS fees for the registration system.
          I went with RegOnline/Active Networks, seems to be used by summer camps and sports teams and such. They paid directly into my bank account at the end, through a bank transfer (not paypal). They have their own credit card processing platform. I probably paid a few hundred dollars in CC fees, quite a few people opted to mail me a cheque (which was smart of them).
          I also very much liked ticket leap, the pricing was good but I couldn’t work out their form to do what I needed (because I had so many options and add-ons, it wasn’t just “one ticket”).
          Good luck and don’t hesitate to write for any questions :)

  • Kat

    We didn’t have a full on wedding weekend but we did have a Friday night BBQ, a Saturday wedding and Sunday lunch. It was lovely to get plenty of time to spend with our guests.

    On the Friday we had a bring-your-own everything BBQ at a motel where we had suggested our guests stayed (and it was entirely full with our guests). People brought enough meat for the BBQ, salads, drinks etc for themselves (usually with extra as people do) and people eneded up sharing all the food in a very relaxed way. We didn’t do RSVPs for this, just let everyone know a few days in advance and those who felt like it turned up.

    We had a fairly normal wedding timeline on Saturday. No activities or plans for Saturday morning.

    On Sunday we had people RSVP for a lunch (which my parents fabulously organised and catered).

    Lots of fun! :)


    We’re planning a wedding week. :) We’ll be at the venue from Sunday to Sunday (wedding on Saturday), and our US-based guests will be arriving Tues/Wed-ish. We’re planning on doing sightseeing/group activities Wed-Fri, wedding Saturday, and everyone (including us) scatters on Monday.

    We haven’t figured out what activities will happen when, as we don’t know who’s coming on what day(s) and what they’re interested in doing, but once we have more firm numbers we’ll put together an itinerary. I’m hoping it’ll give people a chance to get to know each other (not to mention see England) before the wedding.

  • Kate

    So are destination weddings also wedding weekends, or are they mutually exclusive? ;)

    Our wedding events page is still up: but I really wanted to chime in re: the activities. If you’re in a city, you probably only need to stick to 1, 2 max per day. If people are paying to get to you they’re most likely going to want to explore on their own time. Also, not everyone will refer to your beautifully-designed brochure & overview of all events and will ask you and the groom 10x a day when the first shuttle to the next activity leaves and that can make a bride go crazy.

    Also, +1 to the losing your voice thing! My Mom and I are both big talkers and she lost hers the Friday night before our Sunday wedding and mine was starting to fade Saturday night. Of course, it didn’t help that I had to yell trivia answers about me and my man over 83 people yapping, but it’s a good thing to be aware of when entertaining lots of folks.

    Wedding weekends are naturally alot of work but well worth it when people won’t stop talking about then almost a year later.

  • J

    Any suggestions for invitation wording for a wedding weekend?

    The standard “please join us on May 1, 20xx for our wedding” obviously doesn’t work since there’s more to it, but stating all three dates for Friday, Sat & Sunday is too long.

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions-

  • Molly P

    I just wanted to give a great big (huge, huge) thank you to Elizabeth for this and the other Ah-MAZING posts about wedding logistics. Seriously, I don’t even know how I was planning before these posts. I wish you lived in New Orleans! (And you even give personalized feedback in the comments!?)

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  • littleboots

    What a fab post :) I’m a UK bride getting married in August. We are lucky enough to have the use of the most beautiful youth hostel Fri-Sun (fiances aunts place) which is set in the beautiful Lake District. Most people are staying Fri-Sun, however we are getting married legally with just parents on the Fri as the venue isnt liscensed for weddings, so having a blessing by the waterfall on Sat. We’re staying in a hotel nearby on the Friday, and as the hostel has a self catering kitchen, just asking Friday guests to all bring up a dish. Friday entertainment will be sitting around the Lake to acoustic music. So do I need to schedule events, or put them on our website? I’ve only ever been to one wedding, a very traditional one, so a bit confused as to what to do! This site has proved to be amazing!

  • Kristina

    hi! how do you distinguish between what you will pay for, vs. what you will not? For example – we plan to pay for all day Sunday cruise around San Francisco, breakfast, and dinner. But, we want to give the option of doing wine tours in Napa on Friday. I will coordinate logistics like getting a bus, but I can’t afford to pay another $40 per head.

    Appreciate any and all advice you have on the subject.

  • future mrs. u

    While our wedding isn’t a destination wedding per-say, everyone will be traveling from at least 2 hours away and many are flying in from our of town (We live in San Francisco as does about 30 of our 100ish guests and we are getting married in Carmel, CA – 2 hours south. Most of my family is coming from the LA area, my fiance’s immediate family and half his groomsmen are coming from Tucson, AZ and there are about a dozen or so people coming from as far as Florida, SOuth Carolina and Ohio). Should we plan activities and meals for our guests since most will be staying overnight if not for the whole weekend? We are paying for the wedding ourselves with no help from either of our families and are on a budget, so besides the rehearsal dinner for immediate family and the wedding party, I don’t see us being able to afford much else. Should we plan and invite our guests to activities and meals for the weekend even if we can’t pay them? The wedding itself will have an open bar all night and full dinner on Saturday evening.

  • Awesome tips. We have almost all out friends and family flying in to Austin (when we live in San Antonio) for the wedding next Memorial Day weekend so this is PERFECT. Figured if we are having everyone come, we should give them a vacation! The team leader idea is brilliant too, because I tend to take everything on myself. That can get scary.

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