Published September 21st, 2011
Weddings are among the few events in our lives when nearly everyone we know and love is gathered in one place. That’s why so many couples are extending their weddings beyond the ceremony and reception to include a full weekend of fun and events. Welcome receptions, farewell brunches and group outings give everyone more time to reconnect and savor the celebration.
Planning a multi-day event comes with some additional considerations:
Head count. When brides and grooms invest time and effort into planning a long weekend of wedding events, attendance rates tend to rise. Guests seize the opportunity to both celebrate with the happy couple and enjoy a mini-vacation or family reunion. At French’s Point, guests often fill the time leading up to and following the main event with jaunts to Bar Harbor, gallery tours in Belfast and other excursions. Only about 10% of invited guests decline to attend single-day events at our estate (lower than the national average), and even fewer RSVP with regrets for multi-day weddings.
Budget. Hosting an event over several days does add to expenses, but the largest budget driver is the headcount. Plan well ahead to nail down the final guest list with enough time to make adjustments. If more people decline than you anticipated, use the savings to plan a bonus event, like a welcome cocktail reception, or add a new element to a meal, such as hors d’oeuvres.
Lead time. Give guests as much advance notice as possible if you’re asking them to travel more than an hour, especially on holiday weekends when competing vacation plans are likely. Send out save-the-dates when you have a general idea of the weekend’s itinerary, and ideally also a wedding website with travel, accommodation and activity information. A good rule of thumb is to send out invites 120 days ahead of the wedding and give guests 6 weeks to respond, giving you a final headcount a comfortable 30 to 60 days prior to the event. Keep in mind that “fringe guests” — the ones couples feel obligated to invite but don’t expect to show up — might be more likely to attend after perusing an appealing itinerary for weeks in advance.
Itineraries. We recommend leaving 40% to 50% of each day open to give guests a mix of scheduled events and free time. While your wedding party may have additional obligations, your guests will appreciate unstructured pockets of time to browse art galleries, charter a schooner, go for a hike, or indulge other interests. Guests making the special effort to attend with children, especially, will be grateful to sneak in naps and downtime. The post suggested activities to your wedding website or pop a list in guests’ welcome bags.
Juggling act. Planning a full weekend of events can prove challenging for even the most organized brides. Consider delegating some peripheral events or activities to a planner or family member. After all, your guests have traveled a long way to see you. Devote your time to loves ones, not checklists.