Posted by Grace Bonney, of Design*Sponge
I can't believe that at this time next week I'll be in Savannah, only two days away from getting married. The nerves, excitement, and jitters (the good kind, not the bad) are all starting to kick in, so I thought I'd focus on something more concrete this week to keep me from panicking about craft projects that I'm trying to pull together before I leave.
Ever since we decided to have a destination wedding I knew we'd be spending some time figuring out an activity or two to keep our guests occupied. So I thought I'd talk a little about what it was like to brainstorm ideas, figure out logistics, and pull off a group event for 60+ people in a small-ish city.
Aaron and I were both so grateful that everyone was able to travel to GA for the big day. We wanted to find some way to show them around town and thank them for coming (aside from favors, etc.) in a way that we could handle on our own.
My first thought was some sort of outdoor meal (a BBQ? What could be more southern?), so I made a list of places to check out and starting calling around...only to find out that it's awfully expensive to pay for a group of 60+ people to eat together, even at a casual country-style picnic place. We were looking to spend less than $1,000 on the pre-wedding event, so sadly most of the meal options went right out the window.
[Tip: One thing that was in our budget was a bare-bones meal hosted by our hotel. It wasn't the vibe we wanted for the pre-wedding activity, but if you're looking to handle a large group of people in a town (i.e. day-after brunch?) that doesn't have large venues, try getting your hotel to negotiate a rate for you. Buffets can be affordable—just skip any foods that require a chef/attendant to be there. That's when it gets pricey. Then bring your own decorations and maybe a few treats from a local store to cut costs and make it feel more special.]
With meals being out, we thought about some sort of guided tour. But the walking tours weren't necessarily suited for older guests or those with smaller children (we have a handful of both), so I looked into a tour that would meet all of our needs—a trolley! Savannah is practically covered in trolley tours so I figured we could negotiate a decent rate—and we did! To be fair, once I decided on the idea, I handed the project over to Aaron (and our lovely day-of coordinator) to finish. He did a great job and with a few emails, we found a way to offer a free tour of the city to our guests that wouldn't require them to walk or carry things around—just sit and enjoy a relaxed tour of the city. The two of them were able to get a per-person rate that worked for our budget, and we were able to check "wedding activity" off our list. Phew!
If trolleys aren't your thing, I did get some great budget-friendly ideas from friends that I thought I'd share here, that way any brides-to-be currently looking for pre-wedding activities that won't empty your bank account could have something to draw from:
1. Outdoor activity: My friend Sarah hosted an informal badminton game in a public park (fee: $100 for 2 hours) and brought hibachi grills to grill on. Cheap food, lots of fun.
2. Local event: A Design*Sponge reader suggested I take advantage of local events like outdoor movies, sporting events, carnivals. An affordable local fair would be fun if you bought everyone tickets for a game, hayride, etc.
3. Food tasting: One of the things I looked into was a southern food tasting at a local restaurant. Depending on where you are, these can be a fun way to introduce regional food to people coming from out of town.
4. Boat ride: Towns with a river or seaport will often let you rent out a cruising ship for parties of all sizes. The rates for a 1-2 hour tour in our town were around $500, which is pretty good for a large group. (Bring your own snacks and a cooler to make it even more affordable).