A Guide to Planning the Events BEFORE the Wedding!

Party Food

The wedding itself is already made up of a collection of events: ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, after party… But what about the parties that come before the wedding? Your love provides limitless reasons to celebrate, but this list will help you figure out which gatherings are traditional, who will set them up, and which ones you might not need. As always, your wedding is whatever you want it to be! You decide what celebrations you will have and what they will be like. Keep in mind that many of these traditions may vary culturally or have fallen out of common practice. Traditions are not rules!

Engagement Party

  • Engagement Party
    • This is definitely a fun one, especially because you will be so excited to get engaged, and this will be the first opportunity to celebrate. An engagement party will happen within a few months of getting engaged, or possibly on the day of! If the proposer is very confident that they will get a yes, they may organize family and friends to be waiting for a surprise celebration immediately after the party. In this case, it is thrown by the proposer. Otherwise, it could be put on by the couple or by someone close to them.
    • You may want to consider:
      • How long will your engagement be? If you will be getting married within the year, it may be less convenient to have an engagement bash.
      • If you are hosting, will you receive gifts? Gifts are not required at engagement parties, but you will likely receive a few unless you specifically let your guests know not to bring any.
      • What format will it take? The engagement party is very open ended. It could be any kind of party or small gathering! Games or activities are common at engagement parties, as well. 

Bridal Shower

  • Wedding/Bridal Shower
    • The tradition of the bridal shower doesn’t fit perfectly into our modern world, but it is still a kind gesture to throw one for a family member! This is usually organized by an aunt or cousin of the bride, or a member of the bridal party. The traditional idea behind the party was to provide women with the household tools they will need for their new home when they move in with their husbands. Well, most couples are already living together before their wedding, and many couples don’t fit into such heteronormative boxes, anyway! Although the party is traditionally a women’s event, much like a baby shower, it is now common to include both members of the couple. 
    • You may want to consider:
      • Do you already own many of the household items you will need for your marriage? If so, you may want to skip this one or encourage your guests not to bring gifts. That being said, the couple are usually not the hosts of this party, so it may not be up to you!
      • When will this event be? It usually takes place about 12 weeks before the wedding, but can occur any time during the engagement.
      • Who should be invited? Local family members and wedding party members should be invited, on both sides, even if the host only knows one side of the couple’s family.

Bachelor Party and Bachelorette Party

  • Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties
      • These events are often held separately for each member of the couple, traditionally just before the wedding as a “last night of being single”. This is not always appropriate within the terms of the couple’s relationship, but it is still common to have a party with friends which may include some sort of wild activity. It is also completely possible to do a joint party. Bachelor and bachelorette weekends have also become common, taking the form of a trip a few weeks before the wedding. The planning for this event should be a group effort within the wedding party, led by either the bride/groom or the Best Man/Maid of Honor.
      • You may want to consider:
        • How will expenses be handled, especially if it is a trip? We encourage everyone to be very communicative about wedding party expenses. It can be extremely costly to be a part of someone’s wedding party, and this only multiplies if there is a trip involved. Make sure everyone is on the same page budget-wise. Do not expect your wedding party to cover the expense of your trip. 
        • Who should be invited? This can be just the wedding party or it can also include family members. 
        • If I am planning someone’s bachelor or bachelorette, can I assume everyone will be okay with doing something sexual in nature? No! Consent is key. If you are planning a trip to the strip club, ordering a stripper, or playing sexual games at the party, you will need to know if this is the type of event the bride or groom wants. Also, you must inform everyone invited of what will be involved, and be understanding if anyone is not comfortable with this. 

Wedding Party Luncheon

  • Bridal/Wedding Party Luncheon
    • This less common tradition is an opportunity for the couple to thank the wedding party by providing them with a lunch a few days before the wedding, especially if they may have arrived early or are visiting to help with wedding preparations. It can also be hosted by a family member of the couple.
      • How formal should this event be? It can take whatever form you would like, from a small picnic to a reservation at a nice restaurant.
      • This could also be an event you host early in your engagement when you are first inviting your wedding party to be a part of your special day!
      • In case it wasn’t clear, you will also need to make sure there is breakfast and lunch (or brunch!) for your wedding party on the day of your wedding if they will be arriving early for beauty services!

Rehearsal Dinner

  • Rehearsal Dinner
    • This one is pretty self explanatory. You’ll want to have a celebratory dinner after your ceremony rehearsal. This will include anyone who is in the wedding ceremony. It is traditionally paid for by the parents of the groom, but take this with a grain of salt! The tradition goes that the bride’s family pays for the wedding and the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner. This may not apply to your situation for a whole bunch of reasons! If your parents are helping to pay for the wedding, they may also help to pay for this event, but it is something that needs to be discussed, and is not expected. 
    • You may want to consider:
      • What if a bunch of our guests have arrived at our wedding location, but were not involved in the rehearsal? In this case, you may want to hold a welcome party, to which everyone is invited. Another common option is to hold dinner for only those involved with the rehearsal, and then welcome everyone else to meet you for drinks or some other type of celebration afterwards. 
      • How formal should this be? It depends! It can be whatever you want it to be, but it is important to consider the formality of the wedding itself and how much people have spent on travel and other wedding day costs. If your party has shelled out a lot, you may want to treat them to a nicer dinner.

There are also a myriad of other events that can be held from individual cultures, and you are also welcome to create your own fun events to substitute or add to this list! Make sure to keep people’s budgets in mind and ensure that no one feels obligated to give you any time or money they do not have. As long as you are thoughtful, the world is your oyster, and you are ready to celebrate your love for all it’s worth!

Now that you have your pre-wedding events lined up, lets chat about how to navigate family dynamics during wedding planning!

For more ideas and unique finds for your special day be sure to set up a consultation with Angela today!

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