The rise of the three-day wedding

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

It’s an understatement to say that weddings have changed a lot over the past few decades. The days of a simple registry office ceremony and a quaint celebration at the local church hall aren’t quite gone, but the scale of weddings has increased exponentially.

Weddings are a celebration of your love, and more often than not, an occasion for an epic party with all of your family and friends. So is it really surprising that many couples are ‘upping their game’, taking the celebration from a one day affair (probably the wrong choice of words, but let’s go with it) to a three-day wedding extravaganza? And is the emergence of weekend-long weddings a trend confined only to those with deep pockets and guests with time to spare, or a sign of what’s to come?

As with all change, the rise of the three-day wedding has seen mixed reviews, with some media outlets brandishing such plans unnecessary and even ‘shameless’. Arguments against are of course valid in the right context, such as additional pressure on guests to take holiday from work and to pay for extra days accommodation. Yes, that can be the case and it’s something to properly consider and chat to family and friends about before committing, but with the right guest list, venue and plan, you really can keep the magic alive for the full three days.

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

Here are my top tips for planning a successful three-day wedding:

Send save the dates early

Whether you’re hosting your three-day wedding abroad or in the UK, it’s best to give your guests lots of notice to make sure they’re free. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but it’s best to have this as one of the first actions on your planning to-do list once you’ve booked the venue & date.

Accept that the cost will be higher

This isn’t going to be a popular tip, and I guess it’s more of a confirmation really, but it’s important to be realistic about the fact that hosting additional events the weekend of your wedding is going to cost you a bit more money. Make sure you’re factoring the additional events into your total budget and include a contingency pot where possible, for things that might crop up as you plan.

Planning is key

Now you probably think this is an obvious statement for a wedding planner to make, but a three-day wedding will take some serious planning. Inviting a group of guests to celebrate with you for more than one day means there will be an expectation for you to provide an itinerary of activities for the weekend. Think about what is realistic and don’t overdo it. As a very simple guide: Day 1 could be arrivals, check-ins and a welcome party (with drinks and dinner), Day 2 is the day for chilled activities in the morning ahead of the ceremony and reception, and Day 3 you could host a leisurely brunch. It’s totally up to you what you add to your itinerary, but make sure you’re clear if participating in any of your activities will incur extra cost for your guests.

Don’t overplan or enforce fun

You don’t want your guests to feel exhausted going from one activity to the next, or that they’re being pushed into activities they have no interest in. Your itinerary should act as a guide, but any activities beyond the ‘formal’ events (i.e. the dinner the evening before, and the ceremony & reception on the wedding day) should be optional. Guests will love it if you provide suggestions for things to do on site or in the local area but remember to allow plenty of free time for guests to relax/get ready/nurse their hangovers.

Remember the first night is often the ‘big night’

We all know how it goes, you go away for the weekend with friends and get a bit carried away on the first night, leaving you feeling a little worse for wear the next day. Keep that in mind if your guests like a party and try to keep the day before the wedding as a more low-key affair. Think laid back BBQ or pizza night, something that won’t overshadow the big day.

Consider exclusive hire of a full venue/estate for the weekend

This is the best option if you want the weekend to flow seamlessly and avoid additional logistical planning. While exclusive hire can be pricey, having the full wedding party and most (if not all) guests staying in one place is the ideal scenario for long weekend weddings. This kind of set up means you’ll be the only guests on site, so you can make the whole estate feel like your own private celebration; a mini-break/weekend long party with all your closest family & friends. Whether the chosen venue can accommodate your full guest list or not, it’s best to provide multiple options for accommodation and remember to bear in mind all budgets!


Keep travel between locations to a minimum

If your events won’t all take place in one location, consider organising group transport for necessary travel (i.e. from the ceremony to the reception) to save your guests the hassle of organising taxis in an area they don’t know well. It’s also an excellent way to ensure all your guests are where they’re supposed to be at the time they’re supposed to be there!

Be really clear about expectations of cost for attending the full weekend

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and ignore the mounting costs, but don’t let that excitement result in increased cost for your guests. Be very clear about the anticipated costs from the start and let guests know if/when you’ll be hosting (paying) for food, drinks or activities beyond the usual drinks reception and dinner on the wedding day.

Give guests an idea of what they should bring

You’ll know the itinerary like the back of your hand by the time the wedding comes around, but your guests might not have had time to review all the activities. Avoid people missing out by providing a short list of items to bring – swimwear if there’s a pool or jacuzzi, trainers if you’ve planned a countryside walk for instance. I’d advise to keep things as casual as possible for pre and post wedding day, but let guests know if there is an expected dress code for any of your planned events.  

If you’re considering a three-day wedding right now and don’t know where to start, I’d be happy to have a chat through what you envisage and help you to bring that to life. Get in touch via my contact page for a free consultation.

Nat x

— — —

Imagery © Rebecca Carpenter Photography