From your welcome party and rehearsal dinner, to the ceremony and reception, to the after-party and morning-after farewell brunch, learn more about the wedding-weekend events and get ideas for where to host yours!
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When planning your wedding day, there’s much more to think about than just your ceremony and reception. While those elements are absolutely the main events and the reason why everyone is joining together, most engaged couples decide to go all out and plan an entire wedding weekend to celebrate their nuptials with family and friends.
Whether a hometown celebration or a destination wedding, most modern weddings include a welcome party to kickstart the festivities, a rehearsal dinner for close family and friends, a lively cocktail hour between the ceremony and reception, an after-party to keep the wedding night going, and often a morning-after brunch to bid farewell to loved ones. You may decide to add some or all of these events to your wedding weekend itinerary – the choice is yours!
Learn more about each of the various events for your wedding weekend itinerary, and be inspired to host your wedding events at some of the best wedding venues across North America!
While traditionally weddings included only a rehearsal dinner and a wedding celebration, couples are now finding more ways to celebrate with their guests. Whether or not you’re having a destination wedding, the first event on the wedding weekend itinerary that all guests are invited to attend is often a welcome party – usually a dinner or cocktail party that starts off the wedding weekend.
While not everyone will attend, it’s important that you invite each of your attendees to this pre-wedding party, which as of late, have become quite extravagant! Brides and grooms can lean into a design scheme that previews their wedding décor or create an entirely fresh look with a fun theme that may not have worked for the nuptials themselves.
The timing of your welcome party is up to you. Some couples will have a Thursday rehearsal dinner, followed by a Friday welcome party for all of their guests, while others will do the opposite. As with anything related to your wedding day, do what feels right for you!
If you’re hosting a wedding in Orlando, Florida, consider JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes for your welcome party! While the resort – which features nearly 150,000 square feet of event spaces – can certainly host an entire wedding weekend, those planning their ceremony and reception at different Orlando venue can invite out-of-town guests to stay at the lush, 500-acre property and host a wedding welcome party at one of the property’s beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces.
JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
Following a multi-million-dollar renovation, guests staying at the resort will enjoy the new Grande Lakes Waterpark featuring a lazy river, three waterslides, and luxury cabanas, as well as an 18-hole golf course designed by PGA legend Greg Norman, and farm-to-table fare at Whisper Creek Farm – a 7,000-square-foot fruit and vegetable garden with an adjoining 11,000-square-foot outdoor event space, which can also host wedding party events!
The rehearsal dinner typically takes place immediately following the ceremony rehearsal the night before the wedding; however, if that schedule doesn’t work, you can alter it to fit your wedding schedule. This dinner should show gratitude to your loved ones and often times, it’s an opportunity for close friends, cousins, grandparents, and so on to give speeches.
At a minimum, those involved in the ceremony (the wedding party and officiant(s) in some cases) and their significant others should be invited, along with your immediate families. Beyond that, you can extend the invitation to out-of-town guests and more. If you include extended family, it should be equal on both sides – if the bride’s aunts and uncles are invited, the groom’s should be invited as well. We suggest creating a clear guest-list cutoff and sticking to it to avoid hurt feelings.
While less formal than the wedding itself, many wedding planners encourage creating a seating chart for this dinner so that every guest – many of whom are likely meeting for the first time – can get properly acquainted before the wedding day. Like the welcome event, feel free to design the celebration to complement the wedding day or choose an entirely new look and feel.
Couples hosting their wedding in or near Beverly Hills, California, are encouraged to include SLS, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills in their wedding weekend events. The beautiful venue offers 15 event spaces perfect for a rehearsal dinner or the big day itself, with customizable experiences throughout your wedding weekend – and even pre-wedding events, such as engagement parties, bachelorette weekends, bridal showers, and more.
SLS, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
Guests staying at the SLS in Beverly Hills will relish in the five-star accommodations and amenities, such as California cuisine served at the Vista Rooftop, taking part in sunrise yoga and lounging in cabanas at the sunny rooftop pool deck with panoramic views of Los Angeles, or indulging in facials and massage treatments at the luxurious Ciel Spa, which would also be a lovely setting for a bridal-party spa day leading up to the wedding weekend.
Locals and visitors alike are heading to Big Sky, Montana, for snowy winter weddings or stunning spring and summer fêtes. Couples searching for cozy accommodations for their loved ones, as well as the perfect rehearsal dinner location or wedding venue, will love Residence Inn Big Sky - The Wilson Hotel. With capacity for up to 150 guests, the Wilson Ballroom offers breathtaking views of the mountains to create a romantic backdrop.
Residence Inn Big Sky - The Wilson Hotel; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
As one of the newest hotels in Big Sky, The Wilson will treat your guests to pet-friendly studios and suites for a home away from home as they explore the natural beauty of the area, as well as enjoy Montana-inspired fare at the onsite Copper Whisky Bar & Grill. The property is also just steps away from local shops, restaurants, and bars in Big Sky’s Town Center, so there will be no shortage of things to do while attending your wedding weekend!
Although the wedding ceremony is typically the shortest part of the entire wedding weekend, it is also the essential reason why you, your fiancé, and your friends and family are gathered to celebrate: to honor your love and your marriage as you exchange vows.
No matter how many loved ones are attending your nuptials, create an intimate ceremony that feels like just the two of you by personalizing the service. Many brides and grooms select special music, write their own vows, choose specific readings, or incorporate their cultural traditions to ensure the ceremony is unique to them.
When seating your friends and family for the ceremony – whether held in a church, chapel, or temple, outdoors on a terrace or manicured lawn at a stunning resort, or inside a magnificent ballroom, the tradition of the “bride’s side” and the “groom’s side” is no longer necessary; however, it is important to reserve seats in the first one or two rows for the parents and grandparents of the bride and groom. Couples are also now hosting in-the-round ceremonies so all of their guests have a great view of the proceedings.
Brides and grooms welcoming guests to Muskoka Lakes in Canada’s Ontario province will fall in love with JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa. The gorgeous lakefront location offers the perfect place to host your wedding ceremony. The Lakeview Lawn overlooking Lake Rosseau offers breathtaking views for a memorable vow exchange, and an additional 16 venues throughout the resort are perfect for additional wedding weekend events.
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
Though the property offers easy access to Muskoka’s famed outdoor activities, loved ones may not even want to leave the resort. With award-winning restaurants and bars, a rejuvenating spa, a year-round indoor-outdoor pool, and two private beaches offering water activities in the summertime, there’s something for everyone to enjoy just 2 1/2 hours from Toronto.
Located just four blocks from the beach, Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica is a boutique hotel offering the perfect home base for guests who want to explore all that Los Angeles has to offer. From the top-floor Delfina Penthouse Ballroom with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica mountains to gorgeous outdoor venues, there’s no wrong place to say “I do.”
Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica; Photos courtesy of Marriott International
From the moment your wedding guests are offered glasses of Champagne on arrival, they’ll be given a red-carpet experience while staying onsite for your by-the-beach wedding. Guests will enjoy coastal-inspired hotel rooms with contemporary décor, craft cocktails and California-inspired cuisine at Longitude Bar + Restaurant, an outdoor pool and bikes available for rides along the pier or beach, and more.
Couples looking for a ceremony venue in East Los Angeles will find Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center to be a charming place to say “I do.” With stunning outdoor event spaces, wedding guests can enjoy the California sunshine as you exchange vows.
Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
The picturesque property in Pomona provides suite accommodations with enhanced amenities for your loved ones, as well as access to the hotel’s signature restaurant, McKinley’s Grill, showcasing local ingredients from the onsite Farm at Fairplex.
While some couples have decided to switch things up and start the wedding with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before the vow exchange, cocktail hour is most often held between the ceremony and reception. Whether to give the couple and their wedding party a chance to take photos, allow guests time to travel between the ceremony and reception venue, or provide enough setup time if the same space is used for both the ceremony and reception, cocktail hour keeps friends and family occupied until dinner is ready to be served.
When people think of cocktail hour, alcohol and hors d’oeuvres immediately come to mind; however, there is much more that occurs within that short hour between wedding events. This is a time for guests to socialize, sustain their hunger, and prepare for the festivities. It’s also the couple’s chance to captivate attendees by creating a sense of excitement.
To make the cocktail hour one to remember, go beyond background music, some appetizers, and libations, and bring in elements that guests wouldn’t expect until later in the evening. Some suggestions include live music, dancers and performers, lawn games and activities, caricature artists, magicians, interactive lounge areas, photo stations, or unique food displays. You want this portion of the evening to fly by, but always leave your guests wanting more!
For couples getting married in the nation’s capital, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC is an ideal property to start the festivities at your cocktail hour and beyond. With over 100,000-square-feet of event spaces across 80 venues, we love the scenic outdoor terrace venue offering aerial views of Washington, DC, making for a great cocktail hour location when the weather permits (or a tented option for a stress-free planning experience).
Marriott Marquis Washington, DC; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
After your elegant city wedding, guests can retreat to their stylish guest room or suite, savor the sophisticated flavors at onsite restaurants, or step outside to enjoy historic local attractions, lively nightlife, and world-class shopping – all within walking distance from the property.
Your wedding reception will likely be the part of the wedding weekend that guests are most looking forward to. After all, it’s the event that includes a delicious dinner, custom cocktails and fine wines, heartfelt speeches and toasts, and of course, plenty of dancing and revelry!
Whether you decide to host your wedding reception under the stars or select indoor spaces such as an elegant ballroom, the best wedding venues for memorable receptions include enough space to seat your guests, as well as have plenty of room for multiple bars, a dance floor, or even lounge areas for guests to mingle with those not seated at their tables.
While stunning backdrops and exceptional décor help to create an incredible ambience for this celebration, what your guests will remember most is how much fun they had – and that starts with the bride and groom having fun as well!
Santa Fe is a magical destination year-round, which is why we’re expecting the location to become even more popular for weddings. La Posada de Santa Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa offers the perfect place to celebrate. From outdoor venues under the stars to Spanish Colonial-style ballrooms, guests will be overjoyed with the award-winning chef and catering options you select, as well as the architecture and nature surrounding the property.
La Posada de Santa Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
Located on six acres, this Southwestern-style desert wedding venue is just steps away from Santa Fe’s historic plaza showcasing museums and art galleries. When they’re not exploring the destination or taking part in wedding festivities, loved ones will find respite in casita-style guest rooms, relax at Spa Sage, or dine at one of four lively onsite bars and restaurants.
For nearly a century, The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection has been an iconic spot in Washington, DC, making it the perfect place to host a quintessential DC wedding weekend. With impressive, newly restored ballroom venues, your reception will be rich in timeless luxury. You may even be celebrating with loved ones in the very same ballroom that hosted over 70 years of Presidential Inaugural Balls, galas, and other noteworthy events!
The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
As Harry S. Truman said, the property is “Washington’s second-best address,” so you’ll have no worries that your guests will enjoy their stay throughout the wedding weekend. From elegant rooms and suites to excellent dining, the hotel is a no-brainer for couples desiring a DC wedding with plenty of accommodations for their loved ones.
Brides and grooms exchanging vows in Houston will be thrilled to celebrate their wedding reception at Marriott Marquis Houston – especially if they’re hosting a large guest list. With ballrooms capable of seating up to 2,600 people, the hotel is a saving grace for couples having a difficult time finding a venue that will comfortably accommodate their friends and family. Spacious event lawns and rooftop venues are also available for wedding weekend events.
Marriott Marquis Houston; Photos courtesy of Marriott International
Set in the vibrant downtown district, guests staying on property will adore the deluxe accommodations, infinity pool, and the world’s largest Texas-shaped rooftop lazy river at Altitude Rooftop & Pool. Loved ones can also watch the big game at the onsite sports bar, enjoy wine tastings at the wine bar, or savor Texas flavors at locally sourced restaurants.
Your wedding is one of the happiest days of your life, so it makes sense why couples want to extend it for as long as possible. Whether due to having an earlier end time than you’d like or just wanting an excuse to switch up the vibe during your reception, an after-party is a must.
To excite your friends and family attending the after-party, the event should include upbeat music and entertainment (if you had a band for your reception, consider a DJ to create a club-like atmosphere), additional drinks and late-night bites, and plenty of room for dancing.
Since you’ll want the after-party venue to be close to the reception, it’s smart to have it in a different location within the same venue or even at the hotel where most of your loved ones are staying. If you’re hosting a wedding weekend at a hotel or resort, this will be a seamless transition! For smaller after-parties, you can even book a suite – just be sure to check with the property regarding any noise restrictions, so the fun mood isn’t ruined by a visit from security.
Even if you’re not hosting your wedding at W Philadelphia, the playful luxury hotel is the perfect place to host your after-party – especially if most of your wedding guests are staying at the Center City property. Host a private, VIP after-party in the 2,300-square-foot, two-bedroom Extreme WOW Suite, complete with a DJ booth and floor-to-ceiling windows, for hours of post-wedding fun, or choose the WET® Deck bar terrace overlooking downtown Philadelphia for an unforgettable cap to the best wedding night.
W Philadelphia; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
When guests are not attending your wedding events, they’ll have plenty to keep them busy at this hotel in the “City of Brotherly Love.” With dynamic dining options, a year-round heated pool, and beautiful Away Spa, the property is also nearby to the historic Old City, critically acclaimed restaurants, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and more.
Though certainly not mandatory, the morning-after brunch is an increasingly popular trend for the ultimate wedding weekend. After all, it’s a great way to spend a little more time with your loved ones before they head home and you jet off on your honeymoon.
While some pairs simply invite their guests to a post-wedding brunch by using the breakfast option at the hotel where the majority of guests are staying, many couples choose to plan a much more special, private occasion. Check with the hotel to see if an area of the onsite restaurant can be reserved, or work directly with the catering manager to customize a brunch to your liking – from the décor to the menu – in one of the property’s event spaces.
Given various travel schedules and even hangover levels for your guests, it’s likely that most of the people you want to include in your farewell brunch won’t want to arrive at a set time – especially if it’s early. Thus, it’s recommended that the post-wedding event is a more casual brunch with a buffet versus a plated service, so friends and family can drop by when they’re ready. This is a time to relax with your loved ones in the glow of your new married status.
Whether you hosted your nuptials at The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square or most of your loved ones are staying at the hotel while attending your San Francisco wedding, the downtown property is a wonderful setting to bid adieu to your guests with a morning-after brunch. Choose from 35 spectacular event venues rich with history for this special send-off – and the final event of your wedding weekend!
The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
Since opening in 1904, guests have cherished the property’s stately elegance and turn-of-the-century European style. As the only hotel directly located in Union Square, your friends and family will have the privilege of viewing San Francisco’s iconic cable cars just outside the doors, as well as access to the city’s best shopping, theatre, nightlife, and dining attractions.
More and more couples are choosing to host destination weddings in lieu of hometown celebrations. Since most brides and grooms these days grow up, meet, and live in various cities across the United States (and even the world) from their friends and family, even a wedding close to where they currently live can end up being a destination wedding for most guests.
Due to the need to travel, the majority of destination weddings have a smaller guest list, which may allow for more quality time with the couple during the celebration and more events throughout the wedding weekend, such as excursions, a fun welcome party, and so on.
The beauty of a destination wedding is it allows you and your fiancé’s families and friends to come together for up to an entire week. Don’t feel obligated to plan every minute for your loved ones. Give guests enough to do to get a feel for your destination, but also allow them enough time to relax and plan activities on their own. Send a wedding weekend itinerary with your invitations, share it on your wedding website, and put another copy in welcome bags!
Whether you and your beloved want part of your wedding weekend to be celebrated at Walt Disney World® or you’re just looking for a great destination wedding location in Florida, Orlando World Center Marriott has everything you and your guests will need. Featuring 102 venue options – including the Harvest Terrace, a wide range of expansive ballrooms, and outdoor venues with lake and golf course views – the 200-acre property is equipped to host each of your wedding weekend events and ensure they all have a unique look.
Orlando World Center Marriott; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
Especially ideal for kid-friendly events, the resort includes a free shuttle to Walt Disney World, a waterpark complete with a lagoon-style pool, a kids’ splash zone, three waterslides, and a lazy river that guests of all ages will love. A number of bars and restaurants, a relaxing spa, 18 holes of golf at Hawk’s Landing Golf Club, and more amenities will affirm there’s no shortage of activities for guests to enjoy throughout the destination wedding weekend.
If you’re one of the many couples who has always dreamt of a destination wedding in Hawaii, The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua is a dream wedding venue. With 466 guest rooms, there’s certainly enough space to have all of your loved ones stay onsite throughout your destination wedding weekend. For all of the wedding events, you’ll work with a wedding planner to bring your Hawaiian wedding vision to life throughout the 54-acre property.
The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua; Photo courtesy of Marriott International
While staying onsite, guests will enjoy beachfront dining at restaurants serving up fresh local flavors, sip cocktails from luxury poolside cabanas, and indulge in Hawaiian spa treatments for the ultimate island escape. Guests can also visit the beach or book a tee time at one of two 18-hole golf courses surrounded by a historic pineapple plantation. Aloha!
No matter which of these wedding events you choose to have during your wedding weekend, the most important thing is to make each part of your wedding day reflect you as a couple. Have fun with the planning process, and sit back, relax, and enjoy the wedding of a lifetime!