bride arrives at Christmas Eve brunch reception in Brooklyn

After the knot is tied, when the toasts are over and the dust has settled back on the dance floor, many newlyweds feel like they blinked and missed the party. Their wedding celebration flew by in a whirlwind of champagne and chiffon, and they hardly got to visit with anybody or enjoy the festivities.

For many engaged couples, the hopeful solution to this common problem is to extend their wedding weekend into a mini-vacation, in order to maximize the time that they have all of their friends and loved ones together.

Mathematically, it’s a pretty simple equation: more time = more parties, more opportunities for people to visit with one another and with the bride and groom, and more chances for your sketchy uncle to get a little tipsy and hit on your bridesmaids. Is it a good idea to prolong the nuptial festivities? Well, if you don’t have a creepy uncle, or if you do but one of your bridesmaids is into dirty old men, I say go for it. Three or four days is probably the maximum amount of time that you want to plan for, otherwise it starts to feel a little like summer camp with cocktail hour. (Sign me up, Mom and Dad!) Here are a few ideas to help you plan a long and lively wedding weekend.

Welcome Wagon It’s nice to start off with a casual welcome party. This can take place a night or two before your rehearsal dinner, depending on when most guests will be arriving. There are really no rules for this gathering; it’s simply a low-key way to get everyone together and get the revelry rolling. It can include food (keep it simple) or be limited to cocktail hour at a local bar. You can even hit the ground running, literally, with a softball or kickball game and barbecue at a local park. Anyone can host this event, including the happy couple, and you should invite all of your guests that will be in town – especially if you’re having a destination wedding.

Plan Daytime Activities  Make information available to your guests about daytime activities in your wedding area. Think along vacation activity lines: golf, hiking, tours, shopping, etc. You may want to schedule a couple of optional excursions and include this information in welcome packets. For example, if you’re being married near a body of water, make a reservation for a boat tour one day, or if you will be in a large city plan a group museum outing. It’s all about local flavor: choose activities that will showcase your wedding locale, and don’t feel like you need to foot the bill here.

Holiday Weekend? Plan Ahead  There are pros and cons to planning your extended wedding celebration over a holiday weekend. On the positive side, guests are less likely to have to take time off of work in order to stay for multiple days, and therefore are more likely to turn it into a mini-vacation. However, holiday weekends can mean more expensive travel and conflicting plans. If you’re planning to get married over a holiday weekend, let your invitees know as soon as possible. For especially busy weekends such as Memorial Day, you may want to send out save-the-dates up to eight months in advance.

Farewell Brunch  Give your guests an opportunity to reflect on the weekend while they cure what ails them with a little “hair of the dog” in the form of Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas. Oh yeah, and you should also provide food. This is a pleasant way to wrap up the festivities, and send your loved ones on their way with full bellies and pleasant memories. You and your new spouse do not necessarily need to attend the brunch; if you decide instead to be on an airplane halfway to Bermuda during this time, sipping champagne cocktails and talking about anything other than seating arrangements and centerpieces, more power to you! Bon Voyage!