The process of getting married is often more than just planning the wedding itself. There are a number of pre-wedding occasions that are customary in the lead-up to the big day. While these events are not required, there are many pros to having them. Depending on your timeline, budget, and how large your guest list will be, you might find some of these events helpful, if not simply fun. Because this is your wedding, you can also pick and choose which events are appropriate for you and which ones you might skip.
What: The engagement party is a small, semi-casual gathering following the announcement of your new relationship status. Because it doesn’t have to be a formal occasion, the engagement party doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Many people choose to host it at home with just cocktails or even a BBQ. Gifts shouldn’t be expected, although some people might bring a little something like a polite gesture.
Who: It is generally hosted by the bride or groom or the parents, as a means of celebrating the occasion. As with most pre-wedding events, the guest list should consist of who you plan to invite to the wedding itself, but more condensed.
When: Engagement parties are typically held soon after the actual engagement, or no longer than a month or few afterward. It’s recommended to have a wedding date set or have some idea where or what the wedding will be like, as that will be the most-asked question.
Pros and Cons: Because the guest list is more family-oriented, it’s a great opportunity for both sides to get acquainted with one another. However, most couples skip the engagement party altogether, finding it repetitive. One reason to forgo it would be if your families don’t get along and you want to avoid extra drama.
What: The bridal shower is essentially a gift-giving party hosted in honor of the bride. It’s a casual and fun gathering that can be compared to a birthday party. Expect drinks, socializing, games, and a relaxed atmosphere. Aside from gifts, guests sometimes use this time to help the bride with the wedding-planning process. Although traditionally showers are a bride-only thing, today groom’s showers and couples showers are becoming quite popular as well.
Who: The event is usually planned by a close relative or friend, although the mother or sister are known to host them as well. Anyone can throw a shower, even one’s coworkers, and it’s not unusual to have multiple showers.
When: Showers are hosted closer to the wedding, anywhere from one to six months beforehand.
Pros and Cons: Since showers are planned by someone other than the bride (in most cases), you might walk into one by surprise. Gifts, of course, are a major plus of having a shower, and registries are recommended to avoid duplications. In addition, it’s wise to provide guests with a little thank-you present at the end.
Of course, some people may not feel comfortable with the idea of a shower due to the gift-giving factor. However, if you do have a say in the party, you can always make a note that no gifts are required and use the moment to de-stress and mingle.
What: This is an event hosted for the bride or groom shortly before the wedding. It’s meant to be a day to completely unwind, let go of all wedding-related stress, and celebrate one’s last moments of being single. Think of it as a girl’s or guy’s night out, although that doesn’t mean the gatherings can’t be co-ed.
Who: Nearly always, the bachelorette party is planned and hosted by the maid of honor (or the best man in the case of bachelor parties). The guest list should consist of the bride’s or groom’s closest pals.
When: This is one of the last events prior to the wedding, and is best hosted anywhere from a month or a week before the day itself. It’s always recommended to avoid having any late-night gatherings too close to the ceremony. No one wants to be hungover or sleep-deprived on the most important day of their lives.
Pros and Cons: Some people are hesitant to have a bachelor or bachelorette party because they have bad associations with the concept. Contrary to Hollywood stereotypes, bachelor and bachelorette parties don’t have to be wild and crazy. They can be as casual as a spa day in PJs or as fancy as an out-of-town luxury getaway. Because the party can be anything you want it to be, there’s no reason not to have one. However, keep in mind that alcohol is almost always involved and that can eat a huge chunk of the budget.
What: This event is less popular but still a nice gesture to thank your fellow bridesmaids or groomsmen for everything they’ve done. Being part of the wedding party can be just as stressful even if they’re not the bride or groom. Often, the host may choose to present his or her party with a small gift as a thank you as well.
Who: The bride or groom is responsible for hosting and arranging this event. Invitations are meant for only the wedding party and not other guests.
When: Like the bachelor or bachelorette party, this is one of the final little get-togethers before the wedding. Plan it about a week or two before the ceremony.
Pros and Cons: If the budget is tight, a luncheon or dinner can rack up extra costs. In this case, you can simplify it by just taking your guests out for drinks, or combining it with another pre-wedding event, such as a salon hair trial or dress shopping.
What: The rehearsal itself is almost always necessary, especially if you’re having a big wedding. It is basically a walkthrough of what will happen on the wedding day and is followed by lunch or dinner. Unlike the post-ceremony reception, this is not meant to be a raucous party. If it’s hosted the day before the ceremony, no one will want to stay up too late. Rather, it is akin to a large family dinner where guests toast the to-be-newlyweds and take a trip down memory lane of all that’s brought them here.
Who: Anyone who is in the bridal party or participating in the marriage ceremony should be invited to the rehearsal. If following tradition, the groom’s family is responsible for this event since the bride’s family often takes care of the rest of the wedding celebrations.
When: The rehearsal and subsequent dinner are hosted a day or two before the wedding itself.
Pros and Cons: Like the engagement party, this is a great moment for both families to get to know each other. It’s also an opportunity to thank everyone in the family for their help and support.
Although rehearsals can be done in private, if you do invite anyone to your rehearsal, it is customary to follow it with food and drinks. One reason to skip the rehearsal altogether would be if it takes away from the wedding day itself or due to a limited budget.