There is so much you can customize about your wedding. And we’re not talking about the ceremony and reception! More and more couples are spending the entire weekend celebrating, not just a single day. Instead, there may be a post-rehearsal dinner bonfire or even a day full of golfing with guests. But a big weekend blowout may not be in the cards—or the budget—for some couples. A wedding welcome party is the perfect blend between a traditional single-day celebration and a weekend bash.
What is a wedding welcome party?
Weddings are busy for the newlyweds. Some couples miss the chance to eat, and it can be difficult to get enough time with friends and family—especially out-of-towners. Wedding welcome parties are a casual way to spend time with your guests outside of the busyness of a wedding day. They typically take place the day or two before the wedding at a local bar or someone’s house. Remember, we said casual! And although wedding welcome parties are mostly for traveling guests, you can certainly invite everyone.
We’ll talk about the guest list, location, menu, and date in more detail in this post. But because it’s a more casual affair—and because you just planned a whole wedding!—keep the planning simple. That means you can skip the catering and decorating. Yes, you’ll still want food and ambiance, but it should all come with the location.
The Guest List
As we mentioned earlier, the wedding welcome party typically focuses on guests who are traveling. It’s a way to get more time with them—time that you don’t get otherwise because, well, they live out of town! So, you’ll definitely want to put any out-of-towners on your welcome party guest list.
Whether you invite local friends and family is totally up to you, though. On the plus side, wedding welcome parties give everyone a chance to get to know each other before the wedding. That way, the reception is more of a party because everyone is already friends. But if you have a long guest list, a big welcome party might be just as challenging as a reception. While you certainly don’t want guests to feel left out, consider the purpose of your welcome party—and who you really want to connect with.
Ideally, your welcome party is near the hotel, venue, or local transportation. Out-of-town guests may not have access to a car, so you don’t want them to be traveling all over town. After all, they already traveled to you!
Once you determine the general area, choose a location where you don’t need to do much. If you want food, make sure the venue has food. If you need tables and chairs, pick a spot that will handle set up for you. And, finally, keep the decorating to a minimum. The venue should already have the ambiance that you want. Again, you want to keep this easy for you!
You don’t need to worry about catering or offering a full meal. Instead, focus on small bites that your venue can accommodate. For example, if you’re planning a wedding welcome party at your favorite bar, order appetizers for the group and open a tab at the bar. You can even order bottles of champagne for the group, too! On the other hand, if you host at someone’s house, order pizza or have someone else pick up the take out. Keep it simple, and keep it casual.
Wedding welcome parties are typically hosted a day or two before the wedding. Of course, you’ll also have to coordinate with your rehearsal dinner, so consider that when picking the date and time. You certainly don’t want to tire yourself out before your big day, so be sure to spread out your events.
For example, you can throw the welcome party in the afternoon, before the rehearsal dinner. Or you can plan the rehearsal dinner two days before the wedding, and the welcome party the day before. If your guest list is short, you could even combine the events, and have everyone meet wherever you’re hosting the rehearsal dinner for post-dinner drinks and dessert bites.
No matter where your wedding welcome party is, who you invite, or what you serve—communicate clearly with your guests! If you’re only inviting select guests, add a card insert to your mailed invites. But if everyone is coming, put it on the invitation and on the website. Don’t forget to include directions and set (and enforce!) an end time. That way, you’re able to get to bed on time. Hair, makeup, and other day-of activities start early the next morning!
Have you attended any wedding welcome parties? How close to the wedding was it?