How to Plan a Three-Day Wedding

The multi-day wedding trend is on the rise

Women in dresses walking into a wedding

Photo by Ross Harvey

Remember when your "big day" actually referred to just one day? Now, a massive 80 percent of US couples choose a two- or three-day wedding, according to recent stats. After all, what better way to celebrate your union than by extending the party? If you’re about to embark on the mammoth task of planning such an event, you'd probably appreciate some tips to get you started, huh? Drumroll, please...

First of All, Set a Budget

Before you put any fancy "I'm engaged!" pens to paper and begin planning, you need to deal with the boring side of things: finances. Deciding on your budget may not be the most exciting task but it has to be done ASAP, especially for extended events. Knowing how much you can spend and breaking down your expenses into categories across your three days of activities will reveal where you can splurge and where to scale back.

And good news! The budgeting process doesn't have to be excruciating. Dr. Sean Stein Smith, an accounting expert and assistant professor at Lehman College, part of the City University of New York, says there are tools available "to make that as painless as possible. This includes but is not limited to using mobile apps to track and monitor your spending on a real-time basis and having check-in conversations," he says.

Save Along the Way

If you're hoping to increase your budget by saving along the way, Dr. Stein Smith recommends setting weekly and monthly budgets for how much you're planning to put away. Then, consider the wedding expenses you can cut back on and avoid paying over-the-odds for the essentials like cutlery and napkins.

“Everyone has different priorities and might want to spend more or less on certain things,” says Dr. Stein Smith. “One piece of advice? When contacting vendors, it might make sense to not mention the booking is for a wedding until some terms have been finalized. The services, with limited exceptions, will not vary but you might end up paying more without even realizing it.”

Decide on a Theme

Hosting a wedding over multiple days can run the risk of feeling disjointed. Use a theme to create some synergy and tie things together. For instance, festival weddings have soared in popularity of late and make the ideal three-day event theme. You could include performances or workshops to maintain the momentum all weekend long.

Plan a Detailed Itinerary

When planning a three-day wedding, organization is everything. It’s your job to keep things moving and ensure that there are no awkward gaps. While you’ll need to plan the event hour-by-hour, here’s one example of a basic itinerary outline:

Day One: Welcome Party

Whether you’re having a full-blown destination wedding or simply having guests coming in from out of town, hosting a welcome party is a chill, low-key way to get people into the festive mood. In addition to being able to personally greet your guests as they arrive, you'll also have a chance to introduce people who perhaps haven’t met before now.

Day Two: Ceremony and Reception

The second day of your affair is likely to be the main event. Needless to say, you will need to plan all the minor details—from when hair and makeup start to who will be officiating—well ahead of time. (Psst! Here are more timeline tips for that!)

Since your reception is usually considered "the fun part" after a very emotional ceremony, many brides look forward to planning this section the most. You’ll want to create another timeline here; highlights include everything from the newlyweds’ grand entrance to speeches, the bouquet toss, cutting the cake, the first dance—and, of course, time for you and your new spouse to join your guests in feasting on a delectable meal.

Day Three: Farewell Brunch

In the sheer exhilaration and jam-packed schedule of a wedding day, finding a moment to thank your guests and say your goodbyes is difficult. Having a farewell brunch the following morning before you jet off to your honeymoon solves this problem. You can express your gratitude in a relaxed, pressure-free atmosphere over french toast and mimosas.

Don’t Forget the Accommodations

Once you’ve ironed out the finer details, it’s time to deal with logistics. Where are your guests going to stay? Of course, you’re under no obligation to plan this side of the event, however, it’s polite to provide some assistance. Research nearby accommodation options and put together a handy guide for your guests that can be emailed out or included on your wedding website. Take into consideration all budgets and be as inclusive as possible with recommendations at every price point. It’s a quick Google search that will mean a lot to these people traveling to see you.

Finally, Be Flexible With Your Guests

While we’re on the topic of inclusivity, there’s one final thing you must consider. Sure, a three-day event is a massive commitment for you and your fiancé, but it’s also a commitment for your guests. Exercise some flexibility when it comes to your invitations. Make it completely clear that they aren't expected to attend every part of your wedding. It may be that people can’t afford to pay for three nights' accommodation or can't get the time off work. Whatever the reason, should some of your guests have an issue, be sympathetic to that and make sure they know it’s not a big deal—that they’re able to celebrate your special day (or, indeed, days!) in any way is what matters.

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