Whether you're planning a weekend of activities or simply want to welcome guests with celebration the evening before the reception, these ideas are sure to wow your attendees.
Photography: Carrie Patterson1 of 13
There's no denying that blowout wedding weekends are hugely popular right now, but three days' worth of events aren't always in the cards (or budget) for every couple. Whether you're looking to bookend your ceremony and reception with a full welcome party and post-nuptial brunch, add in just one more party, or celebrate the night before your "I dos" with a toast, a welcome party is one of our favorite ways to get the party started.
We're not the only people who love a good welcome party, either. That's why we asked some of our favorite industry experts to share their best ideas for welcoming your guests to the biggest party of your life. Not looking to plan an additional party? Our experts agree that guests will be wowed by a "hospitality suite" in the hotel. Instead of having welcome bags delivered to their rooms, invite guests to join you and your future groom for cocktails, snacks, and goodies. Each guest can pack up their own tote or basket with a selection of items you would have provided in a traditional welcome gift, like pain relievers, water bottles, and treats.
If you find you have a little money left in the budget and want to treat everyone to something special, think of turning your welcome party into an experience. A local wine tasting or cooking class are fun ways to get everyone together, as is a dessert party in the hotel lobby. Want something more low-key? Organize a game night for all your guests and appeal to everyone's competitive nature.
No matter what kind of welcome party you're looking to throw, our experts are offering 12 creative ideas that will inspire your pre-nuptial celebration.
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"Welcome your guests with a hospitality suite in the hotel complete with snacks, drinks, and any first aid or travel items they may have forgotten to pack! It's a great way to greet your guests as they arrive and a wonderful place for friends and family to meet up during down time throughout your wedding weekend."—Melissa Porter, Managing Partner and Wedding Planner, Asheville Event Co
Photography: Courtesy of Branco Prata3 of 13
Opt for an Experience
"In lieu of a big welcome party, consider taking your guests on a wine tour to give them a taste of the local culture. Especially if you have guests traveling for your celebration, this is a nice, causal way to welcome everyone to your wedding weekend."—Kaitlyn Hostetler, Event Planner & Director of Marketing, Evoke
Photography: Michael Segal Photography
Photography: Katie Lopez Photography
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Photography: Courtesy of Glass Jar Photography6 of 13
Plan a Casual Bar Night
"If your wedding is taking place at a relatively central location to where your guests are staying or live, consider a post-rehearsal dinner soirée at the hotel's bar, restaurant, or a nearby favorite haunt where guests can casually come and go as they please during a specific time frame. That way everyone can say hello, visit with you and other guests, and depart when they're sleepy to rest of for the wedding."—Aleah and Nick Valley, Founders, Valley & Company Events
Photography: Shannen Natasha Weddings7 of 13
Make Sure It's Meaningful
"From an oyster roast or to an après ski cocktail party, welcome your guests in style by connecting over an activity that is meaningful to you as a couple."—Britt Cole and Francie Dorman, Founders, 42 North
Photography: The Grovers8 of 13
Throw a Drinks and Dessert Party
"Turn your welcome party into 'drinks and dessert' for your guests. Create a custom dessert display of the bride and groom's favorite treats, which allows your guests to indulge while learning more about the two of you."—Heather Sherrill, Production Manager, Aster & Park Events
Photography: Lacie Hansen Photography9 of 13
Build a Welcome Party in a Box
"Take your welcome bag to the next level and create a welcome party in a box to help guests kick off the weekend. Curate a selection of local beverages, snacks, and sweets, and include a playlist to set the vibe for the festivities to follow."—Calista Osborn, Founder, Calista & Co.
Photography: Courtesy of Abby Ross10 of 13
"Everybody loves a little competition! Break the ice before heading into your rehearsal dinner with a cocktail competition that will determine the signature drink for the reception. The bride, groom, and a few guests serve as the judging panel while guests in pairs duke it out for a chance to have their unique recipe featured on the big day, all while the clock is ticking!—Michelle Rago, Founder, Michelle Rago Destinations
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Photography: Katherine Miles Jones11 of 13
Design a Welcome Dessert Cart
"Arrange a dessert bar featuring an ice cream cart in the summer or s'mores in the winter that guests can enjoy while they're checking in. They'll feel welcomed even if you skip the more of a traditional welcome party. Be sure to suggest local restaurants in the welcome bags, so guest know to handle dinner on their own upon arriving in town."—Chelsey Morrison, Owner + Principal Designer & Planner, Gather Together Events
Photography: Courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba12 of 13
Arrange a Group Activity
"Many venues offer interactive, unexpected experiences such as cooking classes or wine or spirits tastings that could be a fun alternative to a traditional welcome cocktail party."—Aurora Avila, Celebrations Manager, Rosewood Mayakoba
Photography: Courtesy of Andrea Hubbell13 of 13
Do It Late Night
"We love an abbreviated welcome party after your rehearsal dinner that's got a laid-back and casual vibe. Serve crowd-pleasing late night snacks like sliders, milkshakes and French fries. Not only is it budget friendly, but the ambiance will be totally different from your more formal rehearsal!"—Demi Meeker, Senor Sales Manager, Cannon Green