Q: Can you share you experience with planning a whole wedding weekend? My fiancé and I are excited about our DIY wedding (a year from now), which will be at a historic resort in a state park for about fifty guests all staying on-site, our friends camping and older folks staying in little cottages. So, kind of like a family reunion, kind of a destination wedding, but there aren’t a TON of amenities in the middle of the mountains.
I’d appreciate any advice about how much of the weekend to plan out versus leave my guests to relax and do their own thing (Thursday arrival event? Friday optional morning hike? Sunday farewell brunch?), are we responsible for feeding them for every meal or can we politely ask people to bring potluck dishes/plan a few meals on their own? Also, how do we figure out how much food we need? We need help on all those kinds of logistical things that we didn’t consider when we were just so excited about an excuse to spend a long weekend with our BFFs and family. We’re still excited, just a little overwhelmed and not sure how to proceed, as we’ve never been to a wedding like what we’re envisioning.
A: Yay wedding weekends! As someone who planned her own, I’ll tell you—they are amazing amounts of fun. However, they’re also more complicated, and (sometimes) more expensive, since you’re adding a few more events to plan and execute over the course of a weekend instead of just over one day. However, I’m going to focus less on telling you what events to plan, and more about how to plan an entire weekend and a wedding without losing your mind or breaking the bank. Or at least without losing those two things entirely.
Logistically, think of the wedding weekend as a family reunion—something happening at the same time as your wedding, but separate from it. Every event doesn’t need to exist on the same higher plane as your wedding, and it shouldn’t have to. None of your guests are going to leave the weekend thinking, “Well the wedding was great, but I can’t believe we had to eat sandwiches for lunch one day.” And if they do, send them to me and I will punch them in the nose.
Open Up The Rehearsal Dinner
If you’re planning on having your rehearsal dinner at a time when the majority of your guests are already in town, don’t split the group. We expanded our rehearsal dinner into a welcome dinner, did low country boil instead of catering, and invited anyone that was going to be in town to join us. If you’re already having a welcome dinner, but aren’t feeling like you can sneak off to rehearse, then consider cutting the rehearsal dinner in favor of rehearsing during the majority of the guests’ “free time.”
Simplify Your Meals (Or Cater Them)
The rule that we followed for our wedding weekend went like this: only one “fancy” meal per day. The rest of them, we simplified down so if people decided to go off and do their own thing during the lighter meal times, we wouldn’t be left with tons of food just sitting out. For the fancy meals, catering is certainly an option. Or you can make a reservation at a local restaurant, but make sure to get a relatively solid headcount before hand.
For the rest of the meals: simplify! Instead of waffles, eggs, and bacon for breakfast every day, think cereal, bagels, muffins, or fruit—things that can scale up to accommodate a larger group, but aren’t going to be rubbery and gross if you use the leftovers as breakfast the next day. Nothing sucks more than cooking off three pounds of bacon for your morning breakfast, and only using half a pound. This holds for lunches and dinners as well—find things that scale up well. Some other ideas for scalable meals include pasta meals, barbecue/grill items, and my personal favorite, low country boil. Since you describe your event as part family reunion, I wouldn’t shy away from doing one meal as a potluck, so long as guests have the ability to pull it off, given their accommodations.
You Don’t Have to Feed Everyone All The Time
When we realized that most of our helpers would be busy during lunchtime, we cut our plans to offer food for lunch. We made a little map of restaurants in the area, and people found their own way. No one starved, no one complained, and we had a good time the next week looking through our guests’ midday mini-adventures on Facebook.
Don’t Fill The Entire Weekend
Your guests obviously want to be with you over the weekend, but they’ll also need their own downtime. Plan on having one or two activities in a day, and leave room for people to head back to their rooms and just chill out. If guests don’t come to your planned activities, don’t be offended. Some folks will make their own plans, go explore, or use their free time to catch up on sleep. It’s not them passing judgment on your plans, it’s just people, being people.
Host Only What You Really Want to Do
When we were planning our wedding weekend, every other post I found about weekend long weddings went on and on about sunrise yoga. Or sunrise running. Or sunrise blah blah blah, whatever. You know what I like doing at sunrise? Sleeping. Or drinking coffee and talking about how pretty the mountains look, if I’m feeling ambitious. So that was our morning activity: breakfast and coffee in the main pavilion, watching the cows in the field across the river from where we were staying, telling bad jokes, and remarking on how pretty it was up there in the mountains. Host activities that you like, that you want to share with people. Don’t twist yourself into awkward positions for the sake of, “morning yoga is so hot right now!”
It Will Take a (Small) Village
Whether you hire that village, or get family and friends to volunteer is up to you. But it will take people, and those people need to have ownership over the pieces they’re putting together. So tell them what you want, give them a captain’s hat (or badge, or feather, whatever you like) and let them handle it. Trust your people, and everything should turn out fine.
Did you host your own wedding weekend? What activities did you include, and how did you pull them off?