A destination wedding means you're practically guaranteed a whole weekend away with all your friends and loved ones—what could be better than that? Of course, this also means you're on the hook for planning at least a couple of days' worth of activities. A typical schedule includes plenty of time for meeting and greeting, getting to know the local area, and relaxing between blowout bashes. It might look something like this: Guests arrive on Friday and are welcomed with drinks and/or dinner; Saturday is the ceremony and reception; and on Sunday, after a low-key brunch, everyone departs. In between, there might be other activities they can choose—such as sightseeing or a sports outing.
Invites for these extra events can be as formal or informal as you like, from a card to your website to word of mouth. As for who to invite to each event and if it's ok not to invite everyone to everything? "It's fine to have smaller events that include more intimate groups, such as the bridal party or a friends-and-partners group," says planner Tara Manchanda of Tara M. Events. You might consider thanking your bridesmaids with a trip to the spa for some big-day pampering, while the groom and groomsmen could hit a local golf course. Here, more ideas to consider.
Some old rules, like the ones saying a rehearsal dinner is hosted by the groom's family and is just for the wedding party and close family, no longer apply for many couples. It's common to include the whole guest list for a welcome party—an especially nice touch for those who have just completed a long day of travel! What that party consists of will depend a lot on your budget: It might be a full dinner for everyone, or just drinks for the crowd after a more intimate rehearsal dinner. Whatever way you go, this day's celebration is a prime opportunity to have some fun and showcase your interests as a couple. It could be a family-style feast at your favorite barbecue restaurant, or perhaps a luau in honor of your upcoming Hawaii honeymoon. This is all about breaking the ice; keep things casual (consider skipping assigned seating, for instance) so everyone is comfortable mingling. And remember, you've all got a big day tomorrow, so try to wrap things up on the early side.
Unless you're having a morning wedding, it can be fun to plan some day-of activities for your guests, such as a picnic or hike in a scenic area, or a guided trolley tour of the neighborhood. Some rules of thumb: Try not to start anything before 9:30 A.M. (give guests their beauty-sleep time), and avoid anything that will take more than a couple of hours or require a lot of travel. Not up for organizing an outing? Simply put together a list of some of your favorite spots and let guests wander on their own. Remember that not everyone will want a full schedule of activities; in fact, some guests may choose to hang at the pool instead of joining in. This is a vacation for your loved ones, too, so don't forget to build in some downtime so they can chill out and be at their best for the main event.
Everyone says it, and it's true: Once your wedding day arrives, it's over in a flash. But the party doesn't have to end when the reception does. Many couples extend the fun with an after-party. It could be a few games at a bowling alley, a karaoke battle, or even just drinks at the hotel bar until the wee hours. It's nice to treat, but if your budget is stretched to the limit, it's also fine for this to be a nonhosted event. Just have your friends, close family, and wedding party spread the word about where the crew is heading next.
After a late-night rager, your guests will appreciate a laid-back breakfast the next day—not too loud, please, and not too early. Since departure times will vary, your best bet is to plan for a block of a couple of hours at the hotel café, or a brunch at a nearby restaurant or even a local relative's home, and let people drop in when convenient. As for food, DIY stations (say, bagels with lox and all the trimmings; parfaits of yogurt, granolas, and fruit; and to-go options for anyone in a hurry) are a simple way to satisfy everyone's appetites. There's no need to fuss over décor or activities—this is just a chance to swap stories from the night before and say goodbye. Don't leave without saying thanks to everyone one more time!