Weddings nowadays can either be elaborate, week-long destination events, or casual events that are close to home. Regardless, you might have people who are traveling long distances to celebrate with you. A wedding welcome party is a great way to carve out extra quality time with your favorite people and let them know how much their presence means to you!
Must-Haves for Any Welcome Party or Event
Before you plan what kind of welcome party you want to have, there are a few basics every welcome party must have:
Make sure your guests know when and where your welcome party is! You can send a separate welcome party invite with your wedding invitations, and you should put the details on your wedding website, too. If you're planning it last minute, send out texts to notify your most important guests!
Don't let guests go hungry! If holding an event at a private home, set out plenty of hors d'oeuvres, order pizza, or whatever you want. Depending on where you hold your event, you might not be able to bring food in, but try to ensure people can get food at the venue (like a sports stadium).
If your crowd likes to imbibe, there should be an option for people to have a beverage. It could be a cash bar, you provide drink tickets, people B.Y.O.B. or you have some big coolers that include the basics - nonalcoholic options included, of course. Just let people know what to expect or plan for ahead of time.
Music makes everything feel more fun. Make a playlist of your favorite tunes, or select songs to match the vibe of your welcome party (a tea party might call for different music than a BBQ).
Seating, Shelter, and Bathrooms
These things should go without saying, but I said them anyway, just in case.
Think about when you want your welcome party to be before deciding what you want to do. Many have it after the rehearsal dinner on the night before their wedding. But if you're having a small destination wedding with some extra days, you could host yours whenever all of your guests have arrived.
Welcome Party Ideas for Your Destination Wedding
A destination wedding can be like a vacation for you and your guests, but it requires them to travel and usually means they're spending a lot of money to attend. It's proper etiquette to host a welcome party to make sure you get to spend as much time with your loved ones as possible and to show your appreciation.
Pool or Beach Party
Kick off your wedding weekend by taking advantage of your resort's pool or a nearby beach you've had your eye on. Who doesn't love sitting by the water and sipping on a piña colada? Your guests definitely will.
Plan a day to go root on a sports team - baseball, hockey, football, or whatever you and your partner are both into. Ask guests ahead of time who'd like to join so you can make sure you get enough seats together.
Hit the Club
For friends and fam who love to dance, check out some clubs near your wedding's location. Make sure there are transportation options to get safely there and home.
Especially if your destination wedding is on the coast, a seafood or lobster bake is a fun way to get to experience fresh, local flavor and will definitely make your guests excited to travel to your wedding!
Host at Your Airbnb
If you've booked a large Airbnb that allows parties and has plenty of space to host your guests, invite them over! Have coolers of drinks and plenty of finger foods to go around.
Take a Group Tour of the Area
Depending on your location, see if there are options to rent tour buses (or buy tickets in bulk) so you can cruise around the city or island with your favorite people. Even a walking tour can be lots of fun - just make sure it's not too long for those who want to join (and check the weather ahead of time).
Meet at the Hotel Bar
One of the most convenient options for your welcome party is to invite guests to your wedding hotel's bar. There's usually plenty of space for guests to hang out and mingle. You can let the hotel know ahead of time how many people you think will come to give them a heads up.
Rent a boat big enough to accommodate your out-of-town guests and cruise around on a nearby lake or ocean. Everyone will want to come to this one!
Check out your location's wine scene and live your best life with your guests. Rent a few taxis or a bus (depending on the number of attendees) so you can easily travel to each spot.
Not every destination wedding is at a tropical location. If a snowy wonderland is your idea of the perfect wedding spot, plan a winterfest welcome party with activities like sledding, ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding. You can even have a snowman building contest to build snowmen/women that look like the soon-to-be-married couple.
Make sure there's a place for guests to get warm and sip on some hot chocolate - arguably the best part of winter (if you ask me).
Wedding Welcome Party Ideas for Out-of-Town Guests
Even if you're not getting married in some faraway place, you might be inviting some out-of-towners to your wedding. They're traveling a long way to celebrate with you, and you want to get to spend time with them other than on your busy wedding day. Host something that's comfortable and convenient for everyone to have a good time before your big day.
Have a BBQ in yours or a family member's backyard. This is a fun and affordable way to get everyone together. Make some cookout cocktails to tie the event together and let the socializing begin!
Bonfires are always a good way to gather around with loved ones and spark conversation. Keep with the theme with a s'mores bar, and make a batch of something warm and boozy that'll make your guests eager to stay awhile.
Come Up With a Theme
Whether your party is based off a favorite movie you share, a hobby you have in common like hiking, or even a favorite decade (like the one you were born in), having a theme makes it that much more fun and memorable.
Picnic & Lawn Games
Set up at a park or in someone's backyard for an outdoor picnic. Bring plenty of blankets to lounge on, and either pre-make your picnic foods or provide a sandwich station. And don't forget the lawn games to entertain kiddos and adults. Your traveling guests will appreciate this relaxed setting.
A taco bar is another budget-friendly and oh-so-tasty way to keep your guests happy. Set out some pitchers of margaritas and you've got a winning welcome party!
Get out all of your favorite board games, card games, and team-based games and get ready to have a fun night! This is also a prime opportunity to order a bunch of pizzas from you and your boo's favorite local joint.
Local Live Music
Find out which local musicians will be playing in the days leading up to your wedding. Whether it's an upbeat cover band or an artsy singer-songwriter, you and your guests can bond over this special shared experience. Have guests meet you at the venue or pre-game at a nearby bar.
Speaking of bars, a good old-fashioned night of bar-hopping is a foolproof option. If you're getting married in the place you grew up, hit up some of your old stomping grounds with friends. Again, make sure there are transportation options, or provide them if not.
Your welcome party doesn't have to be casual and laid back if that's not what you're going for. If you and your partner like the finer things in life, why not host a classy tea party? That doesn't mean you can't also serve some fancy cocktails or fine wines, but keep it posh with finger sandwiches and garden-party dress code.
Card Game Tournament
Is your group big on poker, blackjack, euchre, or other group card games? Set up a card-playing tournament for a fun and competitive welcome party. Give a prize to the winners of the tournament!
Other Ways to Welcome Your Guests
Your welcome party doesn't have to be the only thing you have planned to greet your guests. Here are some other ideas they'll be excited about.
- Welcome Packages - Give a welcome bag to everyone who travels to your destination wedding, or to your guests who are traveling in for your home-based wedding. This small act of thoughtfulness goes a long way!
- Welcome Toasts - Tell your guests how much it means to you that they've traveled to come celebrate your big day!
- Spa Day - Hire an on-site masseuse to give free short massages to guests who want them, or plan a time to go get your nails done with your group. Not only will your guests get to spend quality time with you, they'll also get to enjoy some pampering!
- Yoga or Workout Class - Stay active even if you're in vacation mode. A private yoga or Zumba class is a super fun way to spend time with your people and relieve some wedding weekend stress.
- Group Run - This one's probably not for all your guests, but if running is important to either you or your future spouse, plan a "fun run" at a certain time and invite friends and fam to join you!
- Cook or Bake Together - Especially for couples who love making kitchen creations, set aside a few hours where guests can come and join you to make something fun and delicious.
- Have a Cocktail Contest - It takes a little planning, but a cocktail-making contest will be an awesome experience for your guests, whether they're competing in it or simply reaping the benefits.
- Newlywed Games - Technically, you won't be "wed" yet, but if you won't be playing newlywed games on your wedding day, the welcome party is a good time to do so!
- Hiking - Heading to the mountains to get hitched? Plan a group hike before the wedding day to get some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Plan a Welcome Party Your Guests Will Love
A welcome party may not be the main event of your wedding weekend, but it lets you make even more memories with your and your partner's favorite people. Plus, there's a little more flexibility in planning your welcome party, so have fun with it! Your guests will thank you for making their traveling extra worthwhile.