One of my favorite parts of our wedding weekend was the Welcome Party. It was the perfect time to see all of our friends and family in a more laidback environment. Because we had so many people coming into town for the wedding, instead of hosting a traditional rehearsal dinner we decided to go this route. We wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible with all of the great people the flew in for our big day.
We know if broke from tradition, but we were so happy with the results in the end. We wanted something casual that people would have a genuinely fun time at. We didn’t want to over-engineer the situation, but still think about our guests comfort. I had so much fun planning this and thinking about all of the little details!
Our Venue. My ideal venue for this event was something that felt like a family house’s backyard. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a backyard big enough so we were on a mission to find something that had the same feel. We also something that would allow us to have a private space for our guests and be easy for them to get to. Eventually we found Heritage Hall & Gardens in downtown Kirkland. It was everything we wanted and ticked all of our boxes. It was a private, but homey feeling. Room for eating inside and hanging out, outside. It was private and had both a parking lot and street parking. It was the perfect fit!
Food & Drinks. One of the great things about this venue was that you were able to bring in all of your own food and drinks. We wanted to have fun with the food since there would be a formal meal the next day. We ultimately decided to order Chipotle catering so people could make what they want while still having a delicious meal. We also brought in our own drinks. We tried to keep it simple with basic soft drinks, water, beer and wine. This ended up being a hit and didn’t leave anyone wanting! All in all, I was so happy we went with the approach that we went with. It was simple, but everyone enjoyed it and no one complained about the options.
Decor. Probably my favorite thing about this venue was how beautiful it is. It is a beautiful colonial style building with a huge garden and patio in the back. The natural beauty made it so that not a lot of decoration was necessary. To enhance the beauty of the gardens we added simple potted flower plants to all of the tables. We added navy blue and white table cloths to the tables, to tie into our wedding colors. We also added some small, fun details like navy blue striped straws and custom monogrammed cups and koozies. That was really all of our decor. We wanted to enhance, rather than try to change the already beautiful venue.
Welcome Bags. We struggled for a long time on what we should do for favors for the wedding. Ultimately we could not come up with anything and decided little welcome bags would be a great alternative! I absolutely loved putting these together and finding little local treasures to include. We ultimately ended up including mini water bottles (Kirkland brand, lol), instant coffee (from Starbucks, our favorite local coffee shop, also lol), truffles from Seattle Chocolate Company, Tim’s potato chips, a postcard with all of our favorite Seattle spots and a little kit with Advil, Alka Seltzer and bandaids. I loved how these turned out and that our guests liked them so much!
What Would I Do Different. All in all, I loved how our Welcome Dinner turned out. However, there are still a couple of things I would have changed if I were to do it all over again. First, I would order WAY less food. We ended up with so much extra that we had to convince people to take with them. I would guess about 100 people came to the party, we ordered for 75 and still had more than enough. The inside got a bit cramped when everyone was trying to eat, so I thin would have also brought in more tables and chairs so people could eat out side. Lastly, I would have hired a coordinator or someone to help make sure everything is set up and running smoothly. My two wonderful aunts did this for us and did an AMAZING job, but I felt so bad that they were stressed the entire time making sure things were running smoothly.
If you are having a destination wedding or are in a situation where half of the people have to travel in, I highly recommend a Welcome Party as an alternative to a rehearsal dinner. Don’t get me wrong, you could totally do both if you wanted to! I just loved having the extra time with all of our guests. I made a fun Welcome Party Planning worksheet to help think about all of the details!
If you are engaged, now is the perfect time to do some serious planning with little other distractions. Are you into the welcome party idea? Or do you prefer the more traditional rehearsal dinner? Until next time, friends… CML