Wedding: The Out-of-Towners

If you’ve ever been to a wedding in a strange town and arrived hungry and tired after hours of traveling, you know what a relief it is to find a basket of goodies waiting in your room along with a preset itinerary that ensures you’ll be wined, dined and entertained. You also know how surprised you’d be if you arrived and found none of the above.


If you’ve ever been to a wedding in a strange town and arrived hungry and tired after hours of traveling, you know what a relief it is to find a basket of goodies waiting in your room along with a preset itinerary that ensures you’ll be wined, dined and entertained. You also know how surprised you’d be if you arrived and found none of the above.

At some point in the last few years, hospitality packages, welcome gifts, extracurricular parties and days filled with preplanned events have become the status quo. The reason probably has something to do with the fact that we’re job-hopping and school-hopping more than ever, and accumulating far-flung friends along the way. And more couples are meeting — and marrying — far from home.

So what’s a bride to do? How much is she required to entertain the family members and friends who’ve picked up and left their own busy lives behind for three to four days to celebrate her happy moment? “Nothing’s required,” says Melissa Paul, an event planner with Evantine Design in Philadelphia. “But some things are expected.”

Create a Buzz

A wedding doesn’t have to take place in the tropics to be a destination wedding. If guests are traveling from afar and staying for the weekend or longer, the wedding qualifies as “destination,” even if it’s in your hometown. That’s how Jaci Price, a Center City architect, treated her own wedding last Memorial Day weekend. She wanted it to celebrate two things — her marriage to Wayne Pollock and the couple’s love affair with Philadelphia.

Jaci, who draws cartoons as a side job, created a logo of herself and Wayne standing against a background of Philadelphia icons including the LOVE statue and the Liberty Bell. The seal decorated the luggage tags they sent out with save-the-dates that read, “Pack your bags for Philadelphia!” “We wanted people to start getting really excited about coming to Philadelphia,” says Jaci.

During the months leading up to the event, their wedding website fanned the flames. First, they set up a contact page. Then they added pages with their history as a couple, the city’s history, sightseeing information, the weekend’s itinerary and everything out-of-towners (and Philly locals, too) would need to know before coming to the wedding. Jaci and Wayne had the web address printed on the save-the-dates and rehearsal dinner invitations so that the guests would remember to check for updates. Not every guest was web-savvy, but the site cut down on general confusion and on the number of calls the couple received from guests seeking information.

Roll Out the Red Carpet

Planting welcome gifts in people’s hotel rooms may be expected, but what’s in it can still be a surprise. A “Taste of Philadelphia” collection of snacks — Utz pretzels, Peanut Chews, and Tastykakes — to nosh on all weekend saves guests from having to spend a fortune on the minibar. Jaci included these treats in a bag for her guests, in addition to a Philadelphia postcard postmarked at the B. Free Franklin Post Office, and a gift certificate for a Rita’s water ice.

Kendall Brown, president of the event-planning service, Eclatante Event Design, based in Media, housed similar goodies in hatboxes colored periwinkle to match a bride’s wedding colors last year. Evantine’s Paul coordinated one kit that was all-natural — a handwoven hemp bag filled with organic apples, wine and cheese. Paul also has arranged for guests to be welcomed with fresh flowers or with a hangover kit complete with vodka, tomato juice, aspirin, an eye mask and an energy drink. James Portner, head concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, likes the kits that have something to do with the bride and groom’s story — “If they met down the Shore, have saltwater taffy,” he says. But the most important feature in any welcome kit, says Brown, is the personal note handwritten by the bride and groom that thanks each guest for coming.

Keep Them Busy

Adventurous guests might prefer to explore the city on their own. Others might feel intimidated by its size and need some gentle nudging. Plan some activities for the latter. Paul suggests shopping trips to the King of Prussia Mall and golf tournaments. “Art has been very popular of late,” she says. Assign a family member to ringlead a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art or The Barnes Foundation.

For those who are more independent, Brown has assembled sample itineraries that focus on shopping, food, history and art. “It’s what you’d do for family if they were coming to visit,” says Paul. “It also keeps them out of your hair while you’re doing what you need to do. They won’t be leaning on you for entertainment.”

If a lot of guests are coming early, a welcome dinner is a gracious gesture. Jaci and Wayne hosted 45 people at Estia in Center City two nights before their wedding and just under a hundred at the rehearsal dinner the next night at Di Bruno Bros. Lucky for them, the city was empty on Memorial Day weekend, and the whole group headed over to The Continental Mid-town after dinner and took over the rooftop bar.

“They loved Philadelphia,” Jaci says of her guests. One Californian couple visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art twice during their four-day weekend and even bought a membership before heading home. Another Californian became addicted to Rita’s water ice, returning three more times after cashing in his freebie. Jaci and Wayne succeeded in spreading the Philadelphia love. They may have done such a good job that they’ve guaranteed themselves a busy future populated by enthused houseguests. They’ll be ready.

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