Destination weddings are not just weddings, they are opportunity for the couple, their family and loved ones to get together for a couple days and have the time of their lives. The wedding welcome party is usually the initial opportunity to greet guests for the wedding celebrations to come. It's also a time when couples can get creative with their overall vision, opting to throw unique events that can take many forms.
For instance, many couples choose to host this affair as a way to replace a traditional rehearsal dinner, while others prefer to tack it on to the end of their rehearsal as an extended party. You can also hold a rehearsal dinner on a Thursday night, a welcome party on Friday, and the actual wedding on Saturday. This event can be a chic, simple gathering with cocktails and/or dessert, a simple pizza party with a playlist, or a more interactive affair with games and a DJ spinning all night long. It is totally up to you, and the guests are so excited for the days to come, that anything what you prepare will probably be a blast!
With so many options to mix and match, it's no wonder why welcome parties have become a wedding itinerary mainstay. And for those interested in hosting this event for their own nuptials, here, you'll find expert advice on how to incorporate a welcome party into your wedding weekend.
Who to invite
For a destination wedding, we recommend to invite all of your guests to the welcome evening as well. They have all travelled to come to your event, have probably already given quite a lot of money to attend on top of buying you a present, so it is recommended to honor everyone and invite them to all events of your wedding weekend.
Location of the wedding welcome party
We recommend to all our couples who are having a destination wedding to search for a small hotel with beautiful views or maybe a pool for their wedding welcome party. They can rent out the whole hotel, sleep their closest ones and themselves in it, and organize the wedding welcome party at the hotel. It will be easier to plan and manage, the hotel will be able to organize any food and drinks that you order as you will be renting the whole hotel, and most probably there will be less issues in regards to loud music and staying long (although we do not recommend to plan for a party until the morning, as you want your guests to be fresh for the wedding on the next day!).
Create the Vision
The welcome party will probably be the first experience of your wedding for the guests, and should give a taste for the days to come and set the tone of the celebration. The vision and theme that you create for the wedding welcome evening may be dictated by cultural elements, what you love, hate, and dream, etc. Most importantly, though, make sure the welcome party represents who you are as a couple. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re going with the options that are easy and low stress for you to arrange while also being a good fit for your particular guest list. If you have a specific theme or a dress code, make sure to include this in the invitation for the guests.
Mind the Details
Of course the first thing to organize will be food and drinks. But be sure to not forget the small details to keep yourself on task and on budget. The most commonly overlooked items for a welcome party are audio and visual, such as entertainment and/or microphones for toasts. At the very least, consider what lighting you’ll use to make your wedding welcome party ideas really pop. Add fairy lights and lanterns for an outdoor gathering. Or bring in floor and table lamps to ensure your interior lighting is warm and cozy. We also love a well-placed spotlight underneath an especially beautiful tree or potted plant.
If you're having a destination wedding, you'll need to factor in arrival details when planning out a timeline. The welcome party is intended to welcome everyone to your celebration. If you are planning a destination wedding, then you should schedule the welcome party for the day guests are set to arrive. Take into account all the travel details, including hotel check-in and time zone changes, so you can pad in some time for everyone to get settled and rest before the party.
Finalize the date of the welcome party as soon as you set the wedding date and send it out together with the official wedding invitation. Guests should know and plan immediately for both days.
Food and drinks
What you offer to the guests—and how you choose to present it—will help set the vibe of the event. We recommend that the welcome party have a different feel than the wedding, it should be a bit more relaxed. If the wedding is a formal plated dinner, think about stations, family-style, or a buffet dinner.
While making menu picks, keep in mind that the goal is for guests to easily mix and mingle. This is also a great opportunity to have some fun and incorporate local cuisine or favorite items that may have clashed with the aesthetic of the wedding itself. We recommend the food to represent the area where you are celebrating, so in Italy we of course suggest to make a pizza party, or serve prosciutto and cheese with some excellent regional wine.
Sure, a cocktail party can certainly suffice as the welcome event, or you can kick things up a notch and incorporate an activity to get friends and family interacting. From setting up boat rides on yachts to group excursions to cultural elements like a sangeet for Indian weddings or a Shabbat dinner for Jewish nuptials, the possibilities are endless.
Once you've planned the celebration, see to designing the invitations and inserts. Also, make sure the invites convey everything guests need to know, in order to prepare for the cool events you've planned. Be as descriptive as you can, including clothing and footwear suggestions, area maps, transport from hotel and parking availability, as well as any phone numbers or websites that might be useful to guests when planning their time. Make sure to update your wedding website as well.
Destination weddings are so much fun and offer a different vibe then your hometown. Incorporate that into your entertainment for the evening. For a destination wedding in Italy, hire a jazz band to serenade "O bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao ciao" (you are getting in the mood already, right? :)) or even a DJ can heat up the crowd. If the budget is the limiting factor, ask one of the bridesmaids to set up a playlist of Italian songs, which will move into more international songs after some time. You don't want to overdo it with the local so that your guests don't know any song. Balance is always key, and professional bands and DJs will know this.
Welcome Party Planning Etiquette Rules
Though there are no set rules to follow when planning a welcome party, there are a few things to keep in mind when hosting this event. To start, when deciding whom to invite (especially for couples hosting a destination wedding where everyone will have to travel), couples should choose to include the entire group as a warm gesture of gratitude. If you are a more low-key couple, then invite your families and bridal party to an intimate dinner then move on to a bar or more lively location with friends and extended guests. You should choose a different location for the two, so you don’t have an awkward overlap should the dinner run long.
Food and beverages should also be provided if the rehearsal dinner and welcome party overlap. However, it is acceptable to provide either food or drinks for a welcome event that is separate from a more intimate dinner.
As for décor, the aesthetic is entirely up to you, whether you lean toward a megawatt moment or err on the more casual side. We at Aja Weddings suggest to plan welcome parties in locations with a lot of character and play into the surroundings, especially if you and your guests have traveled to celebrate. The wedding is the place to really represent who you are as a couple. If you’ve chosen a destination, use the ambiance for greater impact.
Lastly, this is the perfect time to schedule any toasts that might be spilling over from other events like the rehearsal dinner or wedding reception. If you come from a more modern family with parents who all want to speak, keep the parent toasts on the wedding day, as they are likely hosting the celebration. And let friends control the welcome party. In regards to the order of the speeches, the rules of etiquette deem that the host speaks first.
Lastly, who is paying for the welcome dinner?
The key to a successful rehearsal dinner and wedding welcome party is to communicate well with your families. This includes making it clear who is paying for what, who is in charge of organizing it all, and how the entire group will keep track of everything. Traditionally, the groom’s family is responsible for the welcome party and/or rehearsal dinner before the wedding. But with weekend-long wedding celebrations becoming more popular, it’s certainly not a faux pas to have both families split the cost and host all events together. With that said, always communicate with both sides of the family beforehand to set clear expectations for the budget of each event.
Working with a professional wedding planner will help you organize and document all costs, and most importantly get sign-off on expenses for your wedding welcome party.
Contact us to help you plan your destination wedding in Italy!