If you have lots of guests coming in from out of town, make their travel time and expenses worth it by planning fabulous, fun events during the wedding weekend. The day before or the day after the wedding is perfect for a part-day activity.
I wrote my newest book The Smart Guide to Wedding Weekend Events to help you plan exciting activities on a low, low budget â€“ sometimes for free! And speaking of free, here’s your sneak peek at the book â€“ a snippet from my chapter on Playing Tourist with your crowd, taking them to the most fascinating touristy spots in your hometown, or in a close-by big city.
We’re talking a tour of the Statue of Liberty, a trip to a famous museum, a celebrity-owned restaurant, a historical site . . .out-of-towners might never have been to the landmarks in your backyard, and you know what? Many people who live near big cities haven’t been to them, either! This might be a first visit for you, too!
Here you go, a free excerpt from my book:
Take some smart steps when arranging your Playing Tourist outing:
* Contact the location’s tourism office (www.TOWD.com) to ask about special discount packets given to family special events groups. Some tourism offices have amazing goodie bags filled with coupons to tourism sites, restaurants and other attractions, plus freebies like hats and T-shirts that they give to wedding and family reunion groups, free for the asking. (You didn’t know they did that, did you? Even small towns have tourism offices with these swag bags!)
* Talk to the hotel concierge to see which kinds of coupons, twofers (two tickets for the price of one to attractions), maps, and travel guides he or she can give you. As the bride and groom with a room block booked, the concierge is often all too happy to hand over coupons and freebies that they save for VIP guests.
* Talk to the hotel manager to see if your group can use the hotel’s free shuttle bus for your tourist stops. Some hotels have multiple shuttle busses that they let wedding groups use, and this could be your free party bus (minus the alcohol).
* Check each destination for entry fees, accessibility, and other requirements for your group. It would be a shame to buy tickets to a particular attraction, or venture out there, only to find that it’s not accessible for some guests.
*Check each destination’s website for their calendar to see what their current exhibits and special tours will be during the weekend of your wedding. I recently found an amazing Harry Potter display filled with the real costumes and props from the movies, at $21 entry fee, perfect for wedding groups!
*Call each destination to see if advance ticket sales are required. Some sites are so popular that they’re sold out months in advance, which would again be a shame to discover after your group drives into the city to see it.
*Call each destination to be sure they’re not booked for private events. Some museums will close entire wings to host a charity event, which would leave your group out in the cold.
* Bring plenty of cameras along, including camcorders, so that you can capture iconic tourist moments like guests running up the Rocky stairs in Philadelphia. They’ll want to post that on their Facebook pages. Bring along some Kodak one-time-use cameras for great shots on the go.
* Let guests give their input, but to a limit. E-mail your guests ahead of time to have them vote on your list of five or six tourist spots. Always limit the selections to a small number or else you’ll be running all over the city to get to the places each person wants to see. They vote on the six, and you pick the top 2 to 4 vote-getters to visit before everyone gets exhausted. Keep in mind: not everyone has the stamina to city-hop like you might. It’s not fun for some guests, particularly those with small children, to keep a hectic pace. So plan just a few stops, and you can all decide to swing out to an additional place if everyone agrees.
* Don’t be surprised or offended if some guests choose not to join your tour on that day, especially if the weather is uncomfortably hot or if it’s raining.
* Bring someone who knows the city well so you don’t end up hopelessly lost and frustrated in yet another subway station, with grumbling guests asking if they can just go back to the hotel.
* Bring a good amount of small bills, not all $20s and $100s — some subways and trains have ticket machines rather than live-person ticket-sellers, and many don’t take big bills. Some busses require exact change. Best to have small denominations on-hand to make travel easier for all.
* My favorite tip: create an itinerary that splits up the day. Those who prefer a shorter tourism day join you for the first 2 stops, then head back to the hotel, and the rest of the group stays on for the next 2 or 3 stops. Having this option makes guests happy — they get to go back and hang by the pool, the best of both worlds!
Now, some fun budget-savers:
At www.Coupons.com and www.DestinationCoupons.com, among other coupon sites, you’ll find coupons for local eateries and attractions. You just enter your zip code, or the zip code of the wedding weekend’s location, and click on the coupons that look applicable. Print them out, as many as you need up to the print limit for each, and don’t be shy about handing out coupons to guests for their $5 off lunch.
Tell guests to bring their student or military IDs to get a discount off some attraction tickets.
As host, it’s most proper to pay for everyone’s tickets, so if guests have IDs that get them discounts, have them pay, then reimburse them their ticket price.
Sharon Naylor is the best-selling author of over 35 wedding books, including her newest titles “Bridesmaid on a Budget” and “The Smart Guide to Bachelorette Parties,” www.sharonnaylor.net