Couples have two weddings in their heads: the one they’ve been dreaming about since they were little and the one that goes more with their current style and trends. Having a welcome party allows the bride and groom to express their secondary wedding personalities, separately from the event that they are building their nuptials around.
Whether that means going with a brighter color palette or a more relaxed vibe, your welcome party can and should reflect your not-so-serious side. Welcome parties have typically been associated with destination weddings, but are increasingly transitioning to either replace the more traditional rehearsal dinner or add an additional opportunity to spend time with guests.
- What is a Welcome Party?
A warm greeting makes your friends and family feel welcome. Whether it’s a destination or a hometown wedding, there are bound to be people traveling to you. If 20 or more people are coming from out of town, you should consider hosting a welcome party. Make it comfortable, relaxed, and on-trend with the intent to provide a place where everyone can de-stress from their travel and meet each other or re-connect.
It’s also the perfect way for the couple to take some pressure off themselves on the wedding day. They get the chance to chat with everyone so they aren’t running around the reception and can actually enjoy their day. As far as cocktails and catering, choose what you’re craving — whether that’s a taco truck or a dessert bar. Make it easy and keep the music to a great Spotify playlist or a solo guitar and the drinks to beer and wine (it’s early, the big event is on the horizon, no one is trying to get too crazy!). For a destination wedding, you can expect about 60% of your wedding guests to attend this low-key event.
- Welcome Party or Rehearsal Dinner or Both?
The welcome party and the rehearsal dinner are very similar. The difference primarily being in the number of people and the formality of the events. It’s your choice whether you wanna do the more traditional, intimate rehearsal dinner, or the casual, trendy welcome party or both — we’ve seen it all done before. Some people do a rehearsal dinner two nights before with just the traditional family and wedding party and then a welcome party the night before for everyone in for the wedding.
In the “Welcome Fiesta” highlighted here, our clients chose to only do a welcome party. This event was a higher-end event done in the hotel’s outside space. They had guests flying from all over — internationally and nationally — so they combined their rehearsal dinner and welcome party budgets and created one beautifully-crafted event. Consider who you are as a couple: do you want to have a casual welcome party with more people or a small, formal dinner? Base your decision on the intended vibe and size you imagine.
- Choosing a Venue
Where should you host your welcome party? We recommend doing it at the hotel where the bulk of your guests are staying so they can come and go as they please. If the guest count and weather allow, try to use the outside space, like the hotel patio, rooftop or pool. Definitely don’t use any space that’s going to be used for the wedding — keep those spots special for your big day! Also remember to be mindful of your budget — if it’s a local wedding with out-of-town guests, don’t write off your parents’ or your house for this party. It’s all about being relaxed and being with everyone, so go with what works for you.
- Personalize Your Decor
The decor should reflect your personality. In the “Welcome Fiesta,” we did two lounge settings which enhanced the comfortable atmosphere and created spaces for easy conversation among guests who maybe haven’t seen each other in 15 years. We also used colorful marbled linens to add punch to the mostly white and green landscape.
We suggest displaying your welcome bags in some unique way — it adds to the decor and also saves you on hotel delivery fees (if it’s a destination wedding). And talk about personalization, the rest of the decor used in this event like the gorgeous vases, lanterns, and shelves, were inspired by the bride’s home decor! You could use your own decor to stay true to your budget and your style and to create a perfectly warm and welcoming space.
- Building the Perfect Welcome Gift
Welcome bags or boxes are popular and have become an essential way to ensure your guests have all that they might need plus a little something extra. And who doesn’t love a little gift? Here’s what’s usually in a welcome gift: something sweet + something salty + something to drink + a keepsake. Start with these items then add any fun things you’d like. Have a good time with what you put in; it’s an opportunity to show your personality, get a little kitschy. For example, you could put your favorite childhood candy, favorite Bloody Mary mix and a little bottle of vodka, a favorite hot sauce, a copy of the weekend itinerary, a cute book with “their story” or even some cute facts about you two.
In this event’s welcome bag they had: the groom’s favorite truffles, California chocolate to match the locale, a can of wine, and boxed water. They even wrote a message on the inside to customize it a little bit. Lastly, they had a hangover kit in custom gold-printed “Last night was mad real” bags. Basically the idea here is to make this your own. Choose items your guests will like and that reflect you two as a couple. If you have fun with it, you really can’t go wrong.
- What about Speeches?
Speeches are a rehearsal dinner tradition. So what about people who want to speak at a welcome party? If you are going to have speeches, don’t plan them. Keep them light and set up a flow to keep the speeches from dragging. This is not a formal, traditional event, so the speeches should be more lighthearted and fun. If the space is big and there are a lot of people, consider getting a microphone, but if it’s 25 people in a wine room, you really don’t need one, it all depends on the space. Let people tell you how much they love you — you deserve it!
- Customizing your Party
This is your wedding, your weekend, your day, make sure this party mimics that. This event had custom cocktail stirrers saying “Tipsy”, “Good vibes” and “Mr. and Mrs. Moore” on them. They also had napkins with custom quotes from the couple saying “Let there be tacos and margaritas.” Choose something little and fun to customize. Because it’s you that we are all here to celebrate.
Lastly, don’t forget that a welcome party is just another way to enjoy and interact with the people you love most in the world. Enjoy it!
PartySlate is the place where leading event professionals share their work with the world. Find new ideas by viewing and saving hundreds of thousands of beautiful event photos from weddings to birthday parties, corporate events to galas. Easily connect with the best local event professionals and find stunning venues. Sign up now »