How many activities am I expected to plan for out-of-town guests?

Updated Oct 12 2015
meggyfin
Are my guests expecting me to pick them up at the airport? (By: Bryan Minear)
My fiance and I are getting married in Los Angeles, where we live. But almost all of our wedding guests will be traveling from out of town. Lots of them have never been to LA before, so I'm going to provide them with guidebooks and other location info.

It's a family-only wedding, so it's a pretty small guest list. But with such a small, family-only turnout, how much do our guests expect to see us outside of the wedding day while they're in town?

I know you traditionally invite out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner, but I'm hoping to keep that immediate family-only since that's when our parents will be meeting for the first time.

Would a brunch the day after the wedding be enough? Or should I try to plan activities?bethyd

Okay y'all, whatchu got? What are you planning for your out of town guests? Or are there any out of town-ers who want to share some excellent activities that were planned for them?

  1. We are having a "destination" wedding it's on Vancouver Island so it's a mini destination. We had planned in putting a welcome basket in the hotels for those out of towners with a list of things to do and see. We are also planning a family gathering/gift opening the day after and then a fishing trip/spa day that guests are welcome to join after that for anyone choosing to make it more of a holiday. I didn't really think about other then that and those out of tone guests wanting to see us etc. thanks for reminding me!

  2. The last time I went to a "destination" wedding the bride and groom had a list of local activities on their website (a group of us decided to go river tube-ing the Sunday after the wedding). They also had a pre-wedding ceremony groomsmen hosted cocktail hour scheduled at the ceremony site, which I thought was a brilliant idea because 1- I got a drink 2- it ensured all of the random out-off-town friends-who-might-otherwise-be-late like me got there on time 3- it gave me a chance to hang out with the other out-of towners who were there.

    • Yeah we did a pre-ceremony cocktail hour too! Best decision ever! Everyone's a little boozed up and extra emotional 😉 This needs to be a thing.

  3. We are getting married in Maine, and all of our guests are from out-of-town. We are doing it on Labor Day weekend to give them the option of making it into a nice long weekend for themselves. Like you, we are keeping it small (50 people), so I consider everyone pretty much "immediate" family/friends. We will invite everyone to a "rehearsal dinner" with lawn games, etc. the night before and then, the day after, we are doing a casual drop-in breakfast at a family member's home. We have a section on our wedsite with "Things to Do" suggestions but other than that I don't really feel obligated to do more.

    I think it's totally optional whether to invite everyone to dinner the night before, but you are right that, if they are coming from out of town and it's a small wedding anyway, it might make sense to invite them to the rehearsal dinner – plus it would give you a chance to spend a little time with everyone. Our parents have never met either so I totally get where you're coming from, but I don't mind having everyone at the dinner (and it might even make the meeting less awkward since it won't just be them!). Maybe have your parents meet at a private "cocktail hour" before the rehearsal dinner so that they get their time to meet but then invite everyone to the dinner itself? That said, I think it's totally fine to not invite everyone if that's what you want or if there are budget restrictions.

    Bottom line: Your wedding is your thing, and it is not required to be choc-full of entertainment for out-of-town guests (…and really most people are perfectly capable of figuring out things to do on their own.) You should do whatever you feel is best for you!!

  4. If you want to be able to include out of town guests in some sort of rehearsal-dinner type thing, you can get creative in how you orchestrate your parents' meeting. You could always do an early quiet dinner where your parents meet and then have a cocktail and pizza party afterward. Or maybe even do lunch with them before the rehearsal, because the rehearsal dinner will likely still include your bridal party, grandparents and other assorted people that will distract your parents from getting to know each other.

  5. I went to a wedding in St. Louis a couple weekends ago- my friend didn't have any activities for out-of-town guests, but on her wedding site, she did put a list/links to 'top things to do' (and noted which were free!). It made selecting what to do while I was there very easy! So even if you don't organize activities, per say, doing some of the background research and suggestions for your guests will go a long ways!

  6. We had a destination wedding of sorts, where 2/3+ of the guest list traveled for many moons to get to the (beautiful) middle of nowhere Wyoming. We felt obligated to have more than one 6-hour event, plus we wanted to hang out with all these awesome people more!

    So, we did a group hike Thursday afternoon plus dinner out that night, an extended-family brunch on Friday, a welcome BBQ party for the whole guest list Friday night, the main event Saturday, and a bagel breakfast Sunday morning. It was a BUSY week but so so great to spend all that time with our favorite people. And we kept things pretty DIY and casual, so it was relatively affordable.

      • I coordinated a professional conference (in Colorado) that included a group hike as an option. Such a western-mountainous states thing to do. 🙂

    • I live in Tucson where there is GREAT hiking and I really want to organize a group hike as well. How did you arrange transportation to the hiking spot? I don't want to make all our guests feel like in addition to hotel and airfare they also have to rent a car.

  7. We had a "destination" wedding in our old college town and dealt with this a few different ways:

    There was a section on the website with a map and a list of restaurants and other nearby activities. There was also a group email list that people could use to arrange transportation and outings among themselves.

    We rented a vacation home with our wedding party and suggested that others do the same. This gave us and our guests time with each other without everything having to be scheduled. Those who didn't go that route ended up mostly in the same hotel and were able to plan activities with each other.

    We made our rehearsal dinner an open invite family picnic at a state park that lasted several hours. Guests were able to mingle and many of them made plans to go on excursions together after meeting at the picnic.

    My bridesmaids put together a tubing trip down the local river as my bachelorette; but the groom thought it sounded like so much fun we ended up inviting everybody.

    The important thing to remember is that these people are adults. Its up to them to decide how they want to make the most of their trip. Some people are genuinely happiest hanging out in their hotel rooms for the majority of the stay and shouldn't feel pressured to attend too many activities. The more adventurous guests are used to making their own fun and will go out and explore whether you schedule something or not. If you want to do something as a group, then do it. Just don't over-stimulate yourself with activities and become exhausted because you are worried about "hosting" every second that your guests are there.

  8. We have a majority of out of town guests, as well. My current plan is to get brochures for different things around the city and put them into the welcome bags at the hotel. This way, I don't have to actually plan out every event and people can go off and do whatever they feel like. I'll also be putting together a list of places we like to eat at and putting that in the bags as well. This way, when we're doing family things, our other guest have things to do.

  9. As a bride I planned two extra events for our guests. As a guest who has attended two out-of-town weddings and will be attending another in a few months I absolutely do no expect anything other than to attend the wedding. If a couple decides to organize other activities, great! Otherwise, I'm perfectly content entertaining myself.

    • This. I absolutely expect that a bride and groom will be so busy with wedding related stuff that I expect nothing more than to attend the wedding.

      As our wedding is on an accommodation site where everyone will be staying the night, we're doing a next morning brunch and then we'll be heading away that afternoon. I'll leave programmes with fun things to do in the area, but I'm sure people can entertain themselves 🙂

  10. I don't think most of it falls on you two to schedule, as long as the door for opportunity is open. I'm linking to the local attractions (a couple of pretty cool parks, some wineries and breweries, a ski place with an areal obstacle course, a shooting range, spa, etc.) on the Wed Site and will probably see what people are interested in via Facebook Group closer to go time. But the idea that every minute of that weekend should be scheduled, I think, is a dangerous one to get sucked into.

  11. Does 1.5-2 hours count as "out of town?" I want to host people properly, but the thought of spending any money or planning any more anything just about throws me into a nervous breakdown.

  12. I just wanted to share that on another site, when people were discussing this sort of thing, I mentioned I might want to have a day-after brunch. I promptly got told off by a woman who said she didn't want to "waste" more of her weekend on a brunch, since marrying couples are already so selfish to "waste" so much of the weekend on the wedding to start with.

    We had a perfectly nice brunch anyway (basically, we said, "this is where/when we're having breakfast–feel free to join us"), and really, I think the moral of this story is not to invite people that hate you to your wedding. But it is an alternate perspective!

  13. I'm supposed to have activities for my guests? Well crap. A large majority of our guests will be coming in from out of state (and even those that live in state will be traveling 2-3 hours). My *plans* are to give them info on some things to do in the area, and make it known that we'd love to hang out the day after the wedding, but that's it. I figure they're all adults and can entertain themselves.

  14. About 2/3 of our guests were from out of town, including us, and I took the "you are an adult capable of entertaining yourself" approach as well.

    We used our wedding website to provide everyone with a list of things to check out, links to their transit options in the area, and links to a few local tourism sites if nothing we listed interested them.

    The hotel and wedding was in center city Philadelphia, which has a mind numbing amount of places to eat, so my awesome dad provided a list restaurants near our hotel. The list wasn't huge but he made sure it covered breakfast, lunch, and dinner, cheap to fancy, and he included helpful comments if he had been there before. It was a huge hit with all of our out of town guests because it took some of the guess work out of finding a decent meal in an unfamiliar place with a lot of options.

    I think even if you don't have events planned just make sure that you give your guests some idea of what there is nearby to do. You don't have to list every thing but at least it will give them somewhere to start and take a little bit of the intimidation factor out of being in an unfamiliar place. If you want to spend time with them outside of the wedding itself you can always pick a bar, park, museum, or whatever for an informal hangout session. Just set a time that you will be there and people will show up.

  15. I was an out-of-town guest at a wedding in a college town recently. As a guest, the two days around the wedding felt like a vacation as well as a great event – I ended up going hiking with other out of town guests the day before the wedding which, we all agreed, we'd never have taken time for at home. I was really grateful that the couple had listed a range of local things to do on their site. The list wasn't super fancy – coffee shops, pubs, state parks, a great bookstore – but it was perfect.
    The younger set of guests ended up running a twitter hashtag to coordinate.
    I think that doing normal-ish things in a new town is enough excitement outside of the wedding itself for most guests – especially if those recommendations help guests feel like they're getting to know aspects of town that the couple love.

  16. If most of your out-of-town guests are only arriving a day before or two at the most, I'll tell you what worked out best for us.

    Because almost all of our guests to our small wedding would be coming in from out of town and my parents hadn't met his parents before, so what I was able to arrange was for our parents and ourselves to have dinner at our house the Friday before, just the six of us. That way they'd meet each other without the rest of the family around and they'd actually be able to converse and get to know each others' personalities. On the night before, we had a small buffet-style/serve-yourself dinner for the people who were trickling in from out of town, capping things off with a very impromptu and rushed ceremony walkthrough where the Man of Honor was still missing. Finally, the day of (Sunday) we had an afternoon ceremony/lunch and after a nap, I hung out with everyone at the bar of the hotel where most everyone decided to stay.

    No one felt left out, I got to hang with almost everyone, and my introverted husband got to sleep off some of his social anxiety the day of the wedding. Everyone wins!

  17. It's definitely nice to have a list of activities in a welcome bag or a wedsite, but it's really not about entertaining your guests.
    For me, it's not about the activity, it's about the time with the couple. I live thousands of miles away from the weddings I attend, and usually spend $1500-$2000 minimum getting me and my partner flights, lodging, food, and gifts.

    If there isn't any other time with the couple besides the wedding, I'm still coming for sure. But it would be really nice to see the people I love for more than 6 hours. I know people get really busy with last minute details, but setting aside 3-4 hours for a group hang? Not impossible. And can easily be free.

  18. 1) I think it's fine to just list nearby accommodations and places of interest. Many weddings I've been invited to have included a slip of paper with this info in the invitation, or listed it on their website, or both.

    2) I think rehearsal dinner for just immediate family and bridal party (plus anybody who would be at the rehearsal — readers, celebrant, etc.) is pretty standard.

    Most weddings I've been to — time with the couple has been zero. In fact, two of my best friends' weddings — they never even made it to my table at the reception to say hello and thank you. I don't feel this is optimal, but often how it works out, especially with a big weddings, lots of last-minute stuff to do, and lots of guests. If you can include a couple things, like a casual dinner or brunch, that's nice. But in reality, there are 100+ people vying for the couple's attention, and it isn't very satisfying to guests. Any fun I've had at weddings is with mutual friends who I enjoy the opportunity to see, not with the couple.

  19. This might provide some potential extra stress and expense, buuut … my cousin got married earlier this year in a pretty but -very- difficult to access seaside town where her parents live (the Scottish west coast is notorious for these); lakes and fjords blocking the way from every guest's destination, which was all over the UK, Ireland and a few from Scandinavia. This pretty much meant that by the time guests were there, people were unlikely to want to venture out again. She and her now husband organised a casual pre-reception the evening before, where they invited close family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) and the wedding party to her parents' house and asked the caterer for the big day to do a simple buffet (some salad, lasagne and veggie quiches). All in all there was maybe about 30 people. It was a really nice touch as it meant that family members could meet and get to know the people that were going to be pretty instrumental in the ceremony, and actually got to have some one-on-one time with the bride, the groom and their families, without having to put a restriction on times, noise, or personal budgets. (This was particularly appreciated by my close family, as another of my cousins and his wife had only just got back from a year abroad with their two young boys … no need to cut things short if they got tired or over-excited!)

    I don't think anyone felt the -need- for any sort of activities to be planned, though. Don't get me wrong, it was lovely to have, but people were quite content to take in scenery in a new place, and were saying that it was too much extra stress on the bride and her parents to be planning extras. As it turned out, she took the whole thing in her stride and seemed to really enjoy the planning, but just a heads up … just because you're worried about people having nothing to do doesn't mean that they're going to expect you to be the one to organise it! 🙂

  20. My wedding was a destination wedding for me and most of our guests, and was centered around where my father currently lives, but not where I grew up. At 130 people, my wedding was too large to invite everyone to the rehearsal dinner. I limited it to the family groups who were actively involved in the wedding, ie, flower girls, ring bearers and ushers and their parents and grandparents, aunt who did dress alterations, best man and maid of honor families, plus my father and stepmother's immediate family, and my husband's immediate family. We rented a vacation house with a pool and hosted a homey BBQ. It was still about fifty people, including a lot of kids. It was still quite a big party to host the day before a big wedding, and I wouldn't want to organize parties the size of the whole wedding two days in a row. I did speak with most families that came with very young children and photocopied pages from brochures with great kid-friendly activities in the area. It would be great to link to area attractions from your wedding website. We also helped family groups find vacation homes, which saved some cash and the kids wanted to spend all weekend swimming in their own pools. Plus, parents liked the flexibility of having their own home base.

  21. Yikes! I hadn't even thought about hanging out with people before or after! All of our family is coming from out of town too, plus some friends. We're only expecting about 75 people (25 are kids!) and I wouldn't mind hosting a dinner the night before… Of course, now I'm trying to figure out how to make them all leave at a reasonable hour so we have a minute to unwind and not be exhausted the next day. 😀 I think we'll skip the day after activities, or make it later in the day. We are planning to abandon our kiddos with family and stay at a fancy hotel and I'd be bummed to miss out on any of our fancy hotel experience!

  22. My rehearsal was scheduled by our venue, two days prior to our wedding, as they have it on a set day each week. (It's a very popular venue and it's the only way they can reconcile having so many weddings there with also having their regular, weekly services and activities.) Most of my out-of-town guests, if any, won't be in-town yet for the rehearsal, so it's really not an option for us.

    What we did decide, however, since we have a day to spend between our wedding and when we leave for our honeymoon, is going down to Chinatown for their annual Chinese New Year parade. The parade is very special to my FH and I, we go every year and it's one of the seasonal 'markers' that we have to celebrate the passing of the seasons. We thought that being able to include our family in this would be ideal. Our traditions include getting dim sum, hot Hong Kong style milk tea, a trip to the Dr. Sun Yat Sen gardens (which is free on parade day) and freezing our butts off! LOL! I'm hoping we'll have more family around us this year to keep us a little warmer. Tee hee!

  23. My Best friend's brother got married in his fiancée's hometown, so half the guests were travelling and spending up to a week there. wedding About 2 weeks before, the family all received a cheap travel guidebook to the area and found the couple had gone through it adding personalised notes and which places they liked best or thought the recipient would really like.

    Apart from the wedding, there wasn't any other formal/organised get-togethers or activities (in the UK rehearsals aren't a big thing) but my BF said getting the guidebook in advance was really nice because it mean she and her cousins could plan some stuff to do and the notes encouraged them to visit an attraction that sounded boring in the book but the bride really recommended and they felt was a highlight of their trip.

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