You’ve got the date. Now you’re planning all these welcome home ideas in your head.
If it’s your first time welcoming your service member home, you’re probably feeling a whirlwind of emotions. It’s a moment you’ve been waiting for what feels like forever and you want it to be perfect, right?
Planning a wonderful welcome home party doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be as laid back as you want or as extravagant as your budget allows.
With all the other items on your homecoming to-do list, you might not have the time to think of what to do, we’ve got you covered in this post. You don’t need to break the bank or spend hours upon hours planning. Even if you don’t plan anything, the best welcome you could give your service member is open arms.
Here’s a look at nine welcome home ideas your service member will love:
1. Head Out for a Beach Day
Is there anything better than sun, sand, and surf? If you live near the seashore, pack the cooler with your service member’s favorite goodies and head to the beach. Don’t forget plenty of ice, tents, sunscreen, and create a hydration station. Ask other military couples from your base to tag along for a big welcome home bash beach-style.
- Tug of war
- Musical towels
- Beach volleyball
Planning tip: Invite other military couples and make it one big combined welcome home celebration.This will reduce the stress on you to plan everything. Coordinate who brings what — like extra coolers, beach chairs, tents — to ensure you’re covered with supplies.
2. Plan the Ultimate Americana Backyard BBQ
If you have the outdoor space for it, throw a casual red, white, and blue BBQ in your own backyard. Tie up patriotic balloons around the yard and blast all the country music you want to your heart’s content. Don’t forget to make sure you have enough propane or charcoal before you get fired up.
- Bocce ball
- Bean bag toss
- Water bottle bowling
Planning tip: Marinate meats the night before and put together make-ahead salads for less prep work the day of the party. Ask everyone to bring their favorite dish and share the recipe cards, too!
3. Host a Block Party
Do you love your neighbors? Prior to your service member’s arrival, coordinate with your favorite neighbors to throw a block party. This can be as soon as the day they arrive back from deployment or even on an unsuspecting weekend. Remember that good welcome home ideas don’t always have to be done the day your loved one gets home.
- Flag football
- Street hockey
- DIY photo booth + props
Planning tip: Ask that your neighbors all make mini signs to create a collage on your front door. Or have one big door welcome home sign that all of your neighbors can add a note to for your service member.
4. Head Out on a Camping Trip
If your service member has been roughing it enough during deployment, this may not be their idea of a good time. But if camping is a pastime you enjoyed doing before deployment, chances are good they may enjoy the escape again. Connect with other military spouses who are campers and surprise your service members with a trip out to the wilderness.
- Marshmallow roast
Planning tip: Plan well in advance if you’ll be camping out at a national park. Check for last- minute changes, too. Usually campsite operational periods are dictated by weather — especially where weather can change quickly, like at Mount Rainier National Park.
5. Make it a Family Affair
Kids are just as excited — if not more — than you are about their deployed parent coming home. If you have kiddos, involve them in the welcome home party planning process as much as possible.
Ask them to help:
- Compile a guest list
- Create the menu
- Go shopping (if old enough)
They’ll love being a part of the process of welcoming home their very missed deployed parent. If family is willing to fly in, have them surprise your service member by keeping it on the down low and arriving the day of the party at your home. Have a professional photographer capture the moment.
- Bounce house
- Photo shoots
- Silly string fights
- Water balloon races
Planning tip: If you’re a bit of a control freak and love things just perfect, assign little ones to do tasks that are okay to have kid-flare — like creating homemade welcome home signs or putting little flags along the walkway.
6. Plan a Surprise Dinner
Plan a dinner at your service member’s favorite restaurant. If they love surprises, consider reaching out to their family and friends to show up for the dinner. Upon arrival, ask the wait staff to sit you at a table for two, when you’ll actually have a banquet room in the back already set up. See if you can escape to the back room and then have a waiter ask your service member to follow them to “relocate.”
Planning tip: If family and friends drive their own cars, make sure they park out of sight of the restaurant entrance. Make sure everyone has their cameras and videos at the ready!
7. Ask Family to Make a Video
The reality of military life is that most family members can’t travel to greet your service member for every homecoming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring them to you. Ask them to record a short video welcoming your loved one home. Create a mash-up of all the recordings and show it to your service member the evening they arrive home.
Planning tip: Collect the videos a month or two ahead of your service member’s expected arrival date so you can learn the editing software and piece the montage together.
8. Give Presents for Holidays Missed
Most deployments are long enough that it’s likely you’ve missed several key holidays and occasions together. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays come and go every year — deployment or not. Consider purchasing gifts for every occasion they missed and letting them open the gifts up the evening they arrive home.
Planning tip: If you know they won’t be around for a specific holiday, wait until the holiday passes as the chance of it going on sale increases. You’ll save money and get them a gift they will love — win-win!
9. Keep it Low-Key
Sometimes, all your loved one wants to do is come home and relax. They may just want a home-cooked meal and sit in their favorite chair. Don’t be surprised if they come home and actually fall asleep mid-conversation — it happens. Finally being in an atmosphere they feel comfortable in after months of being away is sometimes the best welcome home they can have.
Planning tip: Stock the pantry with your loved one’s favorite snacks. Buy their favorite toiletries and place them on the counter. Whatever little details feel like “home” to them, they’ll appreciate you thinking of them and being thoughtful.
Welcome Home Ideas Should Fit Your Service Member’s Taste
However you welcome your service member home, they’ll surely appreciate it.
While it may be tempting to go over-the-top, do consider that your welcome home idea matches your service member’s personality. If they prefer low-key, maybe a dinner at home is all you need to do. If they’re an extrovert who loves socializing at any time, then a surprise party may thrill them to pieces.
No matter what you plan, doing it in steps and in advance is the most helpful. Check out HGTV’s printable party planning checklist if you’re planning a party at home.
Above all, keep in mind your service member is happy to be home as long as the welcome they receive is warm, loving, and supportive.
There’s no shortage of ideas out there of ways to welcome home your service member. Do whatever feels comfortable to you and doesn’t stress you. After all, they want to come home and see you smiling, not stressed out!
Here’s to happy welcome home planning!
What are the most creative welcome home ideas you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature image courtesy of Marine Expeditionary Force, photo by Sgt. Valerie Eppler