The wedding day has been replaced by the wedding weekend, which includes a jam packed schedule of activities. Some are fairly standard (the rehearsal dinner), while others are definitely popular, but optional (the golf tournament). This is a guide to get you started on planning a weekend of wedding events.
For a Saturday wedding, the wedding weekend will likely begin on a Thursday. This is the ideal time for the bride to host a ladies’ luncheon, a lunch which she gives to show her appreciation for her bridesmaids. The guest list is small for this event: the bride, the bridesmaids, the flower girl, and the mothers of the bride and groom. During the luncheon, the bride will give out the pearl earrings, or whatever gift she selected for her bridesmaids. The ladies’ luncheon is typically held in a nice restaurant, since the last thing the bride needs to be doing the week of her wedding is cooking and hosting a party at her house!
Once upon a time, the first party of the wedding weekend was the rehearsal dinner the night before the main event, but many couples are now choosing to have informal Thursday night gatherings as well. They are generally pretty loose affairs, with any wedding guests who are already in town welcome to attend. Relaxed dinners like barbeques and clam bakes work particularly well for the Thursday night party. If you are not up for organizing anything, just book a private room in a family style restaurant and spread the word that all are welcome to join the bride and groom for dinner.
Friday is when things really ramp up. A trip to the beauty salon is usually the first order of business for the ladies in the wedding. This can be a really fun time for the bride, her bridesmaids, and the moms to bond over manis and pedis (and maybe a few Champagne cocktails, if the spa is really posh!). If you did not host a ladies’ luncheon, this would be the perfect time to present your bridesmaids with a pair of pearl earrings or other token of your appreciation. After that, you can leave some free time or get the group together for lunch somewhere fun. Friday afternoon is the usual time for the wedding rehearsal, and it is important that all hands are on deck for this event. Some couples like to line up an activity to entertain their out-of-town guests on Friday who will not be attending the rehearsal. A sight-seeing tour or trip to a local attraction like a vineyard would be a good choice.
Friday night is the traditional time for the rehearsal dinner. The customary guest list includes the bride and groom, their immediate families, the wedding party with their spouses, and the officiant and his or her spouse. Adding out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner guest list is optional, but very thoughtful. In recent years, some couples have opted to host a wedding welcome dinner instead of a rehearsal dinner. The difference is that the welcome dinner is open to everyone, which can make a lot of sense if a large percentage of your wedding guests will be out-of-towners. The rehearsal dinner or welcome dinner can be as formal or informal as you like. You could rent a yacht and serve a five star meal or have a picnic in a neighborhood park; there is no right or wrong. The only rule of thumb is that you don’t want to have a rehearsal dinner which is more lavish than the wedding reception!
On Saturday will come the wedding ceremony and reception, of course, but that is not all. For ceremonies with a 4pm start time or later, it has become very popular to arrange a group activity to keep people entertained before the wedding. The golf tournament is a particular favorite, although you could choose any activities which you think your friends and family would enjoy. The comes the wedding itself, which is of course, the main event of the weekend.
The final thing to add to your wedding weekend is a post-wedding brunch on Sunday morning. This is always a fun and relaxed event, where guests can see the newlyweds one more time before they head off on their honeymoon. It is often convenient to host the post-wedding brunch in the restaurant at the hotel where the majority of the guests will be staying, though it could also be in someone’s home. The brunch does not need to be fancy, especially if it is in your home. It is really just a great way to cap off a wonderful weekend of wedding fun.