pre wedding parties and events leading up to wedding

Parties, Parties, and More Parties: A Guide to Your Pre-Wedding Events

September 19, 2019

Holy cow, you’re engaged! Someone has selected you as their forever partner in life, and that is worth celebrating. A lot. Read on about the multitude of fetes you can expect leading up to your wedding, why you might want them, and how to pull them off. Let’s party!

Pre wedding engagement party, bride showing off engagement ring

Engagement Party

Usually held within a month or two of the popping of the question, this can be a less formal affair, enjoyed with only your nearest and dearest. Your potential attendants should be invited, as well as important family, and anyone else you see on the regular. Why is this necessary? Because your people are excited for you, you are excited for you, and you might want an early pow-wow to casually brainstorm wedding ideas. Keep it simple with appetizers, wine and beer at your home or that of someone close to you, or reserve a space in the bar or restaurant you most regularly frequent. Overwhelming yourself with too much Engagement Party when there is still so much planning ahead is a rookie move. Have fun, and keep things loose.

Dress: Brunch apparel, or what you might wear on a night out with friends
Planner Protocol: Thrown by a friend or family member, an evite is more than fine

bride shopping with bridesmaids for wedding gown

Dress Shopping

Inevitably you will find yourself in a bridal shop, feeling all the tingles in a sea of beads, lace, and rhinestones. Your first visit is vital in determining which styles flatter your figure and which are a definite “no,” no matter how much Grandma loves ruffled turtleneck collars. Bring your innermost circle and treat dress shopping as the celebration it should be, perhaps with champagne or sparkling cider, and a crudité platter (we strongly discourage red wine and Sloppy Joes), or brunch to follow. Is this a rager? No, save that sentiment for later. This is a somewhat civilized day to talk attendant attire, marvel over the infinite shades of white that exist, and bond with the women in your life. Take photos. Cry. Shop. Pretty much an ideal day.

Dress: Whatever “ladylike” means to you, preferably without a spray tan.
Planner Protocol: You are the organizer here, reservations with the bridal salon will be needed in advance.

Bridal shower, bride opening gifts at wedding shower

Bridal Shower, or Couple’s Shower

Broaden the party circle to include the women you are planning to invite to the wedding, which is to say immediate and extended family, friends, and wives of friends. Since this is a gathering wherein guests gift the bride with the essentials, the list of invitees should not include minor acquaintances or people new to your life. A meal is typically served in appreciation, and the whole shebang is traditionally hosted by the mother of the bride and/or groom, or members of the bridal party. For a modern twist, consider holding a Couple’s Shower instead, where the important gentlemen in your life are invited too. Reserve a restaurant’s event space, barbeque in a beautiful backyard, or host a garden party in a public park. Don’t forget to mail cards quickly thereafter in thanks for the dream coffee maker you registered for, and also the rogue coffee maker Aunt Linda got you that you didn’t register for.

Dress: Your Sunday Best, a dress or separates that make you feel polished and beautiful.
Planner Protocol: Organized by the Moms and/or bridal party members with a knack for planning. Mailed invites with registry information is ideal.

guys high five at bachelor party

Bachelorette and Bachelor Parties

Now we are talkin’, people! Following three pretty grown-up events, the bachelorette party is your opportunity to loosen up and boogie down. Invitees should include your friends and those family members who would qualify as friends even if you weren’t related. Should your Mom or Mother-in-Law-to-be make the list? That’s up to you, depending on your comfort level with either, however many brides consider this to be a mom-free occasion to truly let your hair down. Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties have come a long way and need not be the Animal House remake some are notorious for, if that’s not your fancy. Alternative bonding opportunities can be had during a spa getaway, winery tour and tasting, a fishing excursion, a weekend on the lake, theme parks, popular shopping destinations, an escape room, concert or live production you’ve been dying to see. However there’s always dancing on a bar-top, if you’re so inclined.

Dress: Crown and sash, if you like that sort of thing. Jeans and t-shirt, if that’s your style. Cocktail dress, if it suits your night. Swimsuit, if the occasion calls for it. Anything goes.
Planner Protocol: Maid of Honor/Best Man typically are responsible for the planning, with your input of course.

fruit cocktails, martinis, dessert shooters luncheon

Bridesmaid Luncheon

We are really getting close now. A nice way to unwind and thank your bridal party is with a pre-wedding meal a day or two prior, just the few of you, or bunch of you, depending on how many besties you are blessed with. Nail down any last minute details, be clear on expectations for the big day, and take a minute to exhale amidst the planning jitters. What with all the pomp and circumstance just around the corner, keep this one loose and relaxed, and raise a glass to your girls (two max unless you want Puffy Bride Face). Host them in your home, near the wedding venue, or in a place familiar or meaningful to you as a group. No gifts (unless it’s from you to them), no pressure, just a few last moments of singlehood with your wisest and most fun females.

Dress: Relaxed, no dress code.
Planner Protocol: Thrown together by you with as little stress or structure as possible.

rehearsal dinner, red wine, cheers, toast

Rehearsal Dinner

Just one more night’s sleep to go, with a run-through onsite and a celebratory meal following. This is your opportunity to thank all of the people who helped make this day happen, from parents to wedding party members and their spouses, immediate family and grandparents. Choose a location near your wedding venue for convenience for your guests, and prepare a few words of gratitude to share with the room when you can grab their attention. Be warned: this can be an emotional night, when all your carefully selected details have finally coalesced into your big day, and your future family sits together in one room. Take it in and appreciate all you have done in finding your spouse, creating a day to honor that, and the people you get to share once it’s all said and done.

Dress: Elegant but unfussy
Planner Protocol: It is typically up to the Bride and Groom to book reservations and mail invites. Tradition dictates that the Groom’s Family picks up the tab, however traditions evolve, so get on the same page in advance.

wedding gifts wrapped with bows

Bonus: Post-Wedding Gift Opening

Many couples and their families opt to meet the day following “I Do” to open wedding gifts and cards, break bread, and re-cap the previous night’s many stories. This is entirely optional, as many couples have just escaped to their honeymoon, or may need a day to rest, recoup and simply enjoy each other. However it can also be joyous to open all the beautiful packages with your parents and let them recount the day you came home from the hospital, all the way up to the day you woke up a Wife. Keep an open door policy, allow your closest loved ones to come and go as is easiest for them, and bask in your marital glow.

Dress: Comfortable and cozy. Your feet are still recovering.
Planner Protocol: Order in food for ease, and make attendance optional, with a window of a few hours for guests to pop in to your hotel room, home, or that of a parent.