Celebrating Your Special Day: Tips on Planning the Parties Leading Up to the Wedding

Congratulations! You just got engaged, so let the wedding planning begin! In addition to planning your special day, there will be lots of parties leading up to the big event. These parties can include engagement parties, bridal showers, couple’s shower, bridal/bridesmaids’ luncheons, bachelor and bachelorette parties and the rehearsal dinner. Read below for more information, such as who usually hosts each party as well as tips and hints.

Engagement Parties – Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the engagement party as the first official celebration for the couple. After the bride’s parents host a party, the groom’s parents could host their own celebration. Another, less traditional way, would be for both parents to cohost an engagement party. It is also common for the friends to throw a gathering or for the couple to host. Usually, the engagement party is held within a few months of the proposal. Invitations should go out about a month before the event. When deciding whom to invite, think of the people you’ll be inviting to your wedding. The guest lists for both celebrations should be the same; however, it can also depend on how far and close family and friends live. If a relative lives across the country, you might decide to not invite them to the engagement party and only the wedding. Also, decide on how formal the event will be. This can also help narrow down the guest list. One rule of thumb — engagement parties are part of the wedding celebrations. If an invitee receives an invitation for this party, they will assume they will also be invited to the wedding.

Bridal Showers – Part of a maid of honor’s responsibilities include hosting a bridal shower. It is also an event for bridesmaids, relatives and friends of the bride to help with the planning. Bridal showers are held a month or two before the wedding and can be held a variety of ways at different venues. Some venues could include a restaurant, spa, tearoom or a private home. When you begin to plan, talk with the bride about who to invite as well as what she wants as the theme and time of day. The guest list can include female family and friends of the bride. Send invitations out one month before the party. Be sure to include the couple’s registry information, if needed. As for the party, plan out the menu, decorations, games and favors. Don’t forget to designate someone to record the bride’s gifts for “thank you” notes. Typically, brides have the responsibility of providing hostess gifts for the shower’s hosts. These gifts can be flowers, a box of treats, a lunch out, a candle or another little way to say “thank you.”

Couple’s Shower – Another version of a shower is a couple’s shower. Since a bridal shower is in honor of the bride, a couple’s shower is a celebration for the bride and groom. This event is usually more casual and is similar to a cocktail or dinner party. Themes can include a barbecue, around the world, pool or beach party, or centered on a movie or book. As for the guest list, include friends and relatives of the bride and the groom. On the invitations, be sure to include the fact the shower is a couple’s shower. Notifying guests will help them adjust their gifts to being more couple-oriented, such as home goods.

Bridal/Bridesmaids’ Luncheons – This event is not included as one of the main wedding celebrations because not all weddings include a bridal/bridesmaids’ luncheon. These luncheons are similar to bridal showers, in the sense that only female family and friends are invited. This includes bridesmaids, female family and friends who are participating in the wedding, mothers of the bride and groom, aunts and sisters. It can be hosted by the bridesmaids in honor of the bride or vice versa. However, it has become more common for the bride to host the event as a way to thank her bridesmaids and present her gifts to them. Even if the bride doesn’t host, make it a priority to thank your attendants and give them their presents. Traditionally, the luncheon is held the day before or the day of the wedding. Besides the luncheon, other ideas are a picnic in the park, dinner at a restaurant, brunch at the bride’s home or a location close to the wedding venue, or a wine tasting at a local winery. A bridal/bridesmaids’ luncheon can be traditional and formal or casual and laid back; whatever best fits your style.

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties – These parties are held separately in honor of the bride and groom and are hosted by their close friends. For each event, incorporate the bride’s or groom’s interests. It could be at night, during the day or a destination party. Get the guest list from the couple, so they are comfortable with who attends because the goal of the party is to have fun. Usually, friends and some family members will attend. Some ideas for bachelor parties are a weekend camping or fishing, and for bachelorette parties, the theme could be a day at the spa, a night out on the town or a trip to the beach.

Rehearsal Dinner – The rehearsal dinner is one of the most common wedding celebrations. It is held the night before the wedding and is hosted by the groom’s parents. The party gives the two families a chance to celebrate and relax before the next day. The bride and groom can give input on the decisions, but it is usually up to the groom’s parents to plan the dinner. The guest list should include immediate family, members of the wedding party and their spouses or significant others, parents of child attendants and the officiant and his or her spouse or significant other. The rehearsal dinner can be formal or casual and can be held a variety of ways, such as a cocktail party, sit-down dinner, buffet or barbecue. Formal invitations are recommended for the event.

Getting married and planning your wedding is a very happy time in your life. It is also a time full of celebrations. With each event, the most important thing is to take the time to relax, enjoy and make memories with your family and friends.