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The Bride's Guide To Wedding Parties & Events

Pre Wedding Party Picnic
We always love a good reason to party, and two people getting married is one of the best! Weddings are such a joyous occasion that brings two people together and their family and friends. This starts before with all of the pre-wedding parties, showers, and events that are held for the couple.

Engagement Party  |  Bridal & Wedding Showers  |  Bachelorette Party  |  Rehearsal Dinner

Ultimate Guide to Pre-Wedding Parties & Events

As a bride-to-be it is completely up to you to decide what traditional wedding celebrations you would like and also any that you don't, or would want to modernize. It helps to know the typical showers and parties beforehand so that you can have a say if there's something special or perhaps different that you would like. This is certainly an exciting time, but also can be overwhelming. Let our detailed bridal guide help you navigate through! 

Pre-Wedding Event #1: Engagement Party

After the proposal, you'll likely want to share the exciting news! An engagement party is the perfect occasion for those close to you to come together to celebrate. Whether it's formal or a casual event is completely up to you. If you choose to have an engagement party, it usually occurs soon after the proposal to kick off your engagement! Since this event is an extra wedding party that not all newly-engaged couples have, it's helpful to know what to plan and what the etiquette is. Are you considering having an engagement party or does someone want to host one for you?

Wedding Engagement

1) Who Plans & Hosts the Engagement Party?

There really isn't a set-in-stone way to have an engagement party. Unlike other wedding events, an engagement party can be hosted by anyone close to the couple - including the couple themselves! Sometimes, the partner who proposes will have arranged a party to celebrate immediately following the proposal! Other times, the couples' parents may host separate or joint parties, like a formal event. Or, a group of friends may want to plan their own fun night out.

2) Where Do You Host an Engagement Party?

An engagement party can be hosted wherever - there's no set rules for locations. It will vary depending on who is hosting the party and how many people are attending. For a larger gathering, renting out a space like a restaurant's event room can make planning easier. If it's a smaller invite list, a family member's home may be a welcoming spot for everyone to gather! Depending on who is hosting will help determine where the party is. Make sure to have a conversation with your family and friends before deciding.

Engagement Party Backyard Dinner

3) Who Do You Invite to an Engagement Party?

An engagement party is essentially a pre-wedding celebration that includes close family and friends that will be invited to the wedding. These parties usually have a smaller, more intimate attendance. Don't worry, you'll have your wedding day to spend with everyone that you want! For an engagement party, it's nice for the couple to select a list of close people that they want to celebrate the news with. Also important to note with hosts involved such as parents, they may want to invite some of their friends. Be sure to have an open discussion with the host such as about the invite list so that everyone knows what to expect!

4) When Do You Have an Engagement Party?

The engagement party occurs soon after the proposal. That's because you'll want to share your news and proposal story with your loved ones! Many times these parties are informal or semi-last minute invites since proposals are typically surprises! There's no need to stress over planning- your family and friends just want to spend time with you to celebrate. Think of it more like a get-together with all of your favorite people!

Champagne for Engagement

5) Engagement Party Invitations: Are They Needed? 

For a formal engagement party, you should send out invitations. However, if it's a casual get together, invitations are not necessary. Whether or not you send out invites may also depend on timing, since it may be a last-minute celebration! For something more formal, perhaps with a dress code, rented location, or a large crowd size - invitations are a good idea to help with planning. Make sure to include an RSVP so that you will know how many people to plan for. As for something that's casual, such as a backyard party, keep it easy. A simple Facebook party invite or email/text/call works well to reach out about a spontaneous gathering!

Engagement Party Dinner

6) Engagement Party Gifts: What to Expect

Gifts are not expected at engagement parties. It's simply a chance to hang out with those close to you & share this happy moment. Although some may want to bring a small gift - such as wine or a cute "Mr/Mrs" item - gifts should not be a requirement or listed on an invite. There are other wedding showers and parties where a bridal registry or honeymoon fund is appropriate to be listed.

Pre-Wedding Event #2: Bridal Showers & Wedding Showers

The most customary pre-wedding event is a bridal shower. It's a tradition for the bride's closest female friends and family to come together and shower the soon-to-be newlyweds with gifts! Find some common questions & answers below, or check out the bridal shower planning guide for a more detailed breakdown.

Bridal Shower Drinks

1) What is a Bridal Shower?

A bridal shower is a common party held for the bride where her family and friends shower her with gifts for married life. It's traditional that attendees bring household gifts to help the couple get situated in their home and new life together. Bridal showers are typically a daytime affair often hosted over brunch or lunch. Typical bridal showers include prepared food and drinks, and activities such as bridal-themed games and gift opening.  

2) Who Hosts the Bridal Shower?

The bridal shower is hosted by either family (not including the Mother of Bride and Mother of Groom) or someone in the bridal party. Sometimes a bride may have more than one bridal shower depending on group-size and if multiple people want to host different parties. Usually a family bridal shower will be hosted by the bride's aunts whereas a friend bridal shower will be hosted by the maid of honor.

Women at a Bridal Shower Party

3) Who Pays for the Bridal Shower?

When a bridal shower is hosted by family or friends, usually people in the group will help with the costs. For a family bridal shower, the bride's aunts and maybe the Mother of the Bride will help contribute to the bridal shower. Whereas for a friend bridal shower, the maid of honor and bridesmaids will take care of paying for it.  

4) When to Have a Bridal Shower

A bridal shower is usually held anytime from 2-3 months before the wedding. It's important to talk with hosts about any schedule conflicts - especially if there's multiple showers being planned. If you have out-of-town family, make sure they are included in the discussion of what dates work for them to travel. If it's a friends-only and there are several from out-of town, a shower the week of the wedding might be a fun time to get-together (if it works- it will be a busy week!)

Bridal Shower Friends

5) Who To Invite & Where To Have a Bridal Shower

Traditionally, a bridal shower is a female-only event with the bride's family and friends. The invitation should be extended to the bridal party, immediate family, close friends of the bride. In addition, members from the groom's side like the Mother of Groom and sisters, or close cousins should also be included. Depending on the group size, the party may be held at a family or friend's home/backyard, restaurant, or rented space. If there is a large guest list, then it may be helpful to have more than one shower (different family and/or friend parties) so that the parties are less overwhelming to organize and attend. At the end of the bridal shower, the groom is usually invited to stop over to eat and to socialize with the group.

6) Bridal Shower vs. Wedding Shower: What's the Difference?

The difference between a bridal shower and a wedding shower comes down to who's attending the event. The main distinction is that a wedding shower is held for both partners and the guest list is open to any gender - not strictly female like a bridal shower is. It is a modernized setup and a great way for everyone in the wedding party and all close family and friends to attend. Some brides may not be interested in having a bridal shower or following wedding traditions. For couples looking for something non-traditional and flexible, a wedding shower is a wonderful option to consider.

Bridal party gathered on a golf course cheering and throwing their hands in the air.

Kennedy Blue Bridesmaid Dresses in 'Dew Drop'Lindsey White Photography

7) Do You Need Wedding/Bridal Shower Invitations?

Yes, a bridal shower is a planned event that requires an invitation. It's important to have the wedding or bridal shower invites mailed out at 4 to 6 weeks in advance. Make sure the invites include the bride's name, the date, the party start time (and end time), the location, registry information, a way to RSVP, and the names of the party hosts. Also important to note especially if sending an invite to a family, include each person's name that is invited to attend on the envelope. 

8) What Bridal Shower Gifts Should Go On the Wedding Registry?

The bridal shower is an established event with wedding gifts. It's customary for the couple to prepare a wedding gift registry for these events. Some common places that are easily accessible and have a range of household items are: Target, Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Macy's or a registry service such as Zola. With a gift registry, you can list all of the items you need for your home, and it helps ensure that you won't receive something you might not want. When creating a registry, include practical home goods and fun house items. Make sure there is a variety of small and large budget items so that everyone can find something at a price point comfortable with them.

Bride and Groom opening a bottle of champagne with the bridal party cheering.

Kennedy Blue in 'Cinnamon'Santiago Murillo Photography

Pre-Wedding Party #3: Bachelorette Party

One of the most anticipated parties for the bride-to-be - a bachelorette party is her "last hoorah" before getting married. This event allows the bride to bond with her bridesmaids and close female friends before the wedding. The bachelorette party is a great time for everyone involved to let loose, have fun, and celebrate the bride and their friendship. Some brides have a celebratory night out close to home, while others opt for a bachelorette bash weekend getaway.

1) Who Plans the Bachelorette Party?

Usually the bachelorette party planning will be overseen by the maid of honor with help from the bridesmaids. Just as any other pre-wedding celebration, this party is meant to be hosted for the bride - but she will also have some input. Make sure to ask the bride if there is anything specific she would like, and if there is anything she wouldn't. This will help with planning a successful bachelorette party and ensuring that the bride's wishes are met.

Bachelorette Party

2) Who Pays for the Bachelorette Party?

As with any wedding party expenses, it is customary for the bridal party to pay for their portion of the bachelorette party. Additionally, everyone will usually chip in to cover or to help pay for the bride's costs as well. However, this may change depending on circumstances such as an expensive planned activity or traveling for a weekend getaway. It is important for the host and bride to have a candid conversation with the group about costs and to take any budgets or concerns into consideration while planning. 

 Bride and Bridesmaids dressed up and holding customized wedding koozies.

Kennedy Blue Bridesmaid Dresses in 'Fawn' | Mori Lee Bridal | Love Big Live Small Photo

3) Where & When to Have the Bachelorette Party

Planning out details such as where and when to have the bachelorette party should be discussed with the group beforehand. Usually, a bachelorette party is planned to occur somewhere between 1-3 months before the wedding. Every party is unique to the bride and what kind of bachelorette bash she prefers. Some brides just want a fun night at home, while others want a weekend getaway. Make big decisions such as time and place with the group based on what works for everyone. Be mindful to take scheduling conflicts into consideration, but also know that you might not be able to find a time that works for everyone - and that's okay!

Bride and Bridesmaids gathered together, holding flower bouquets, in front of a tropical background with lots of greenery and palm trees.

Kennedy Blue Bridesmaid Dresses in 'Rosewood' | Erika Smith Photography

4) Who Attends The Bachelorette Party?

Some may think that the bachelorette party is just for the bride and her bridesmaids, but that's not true! A bachelorette party is for any gals that the bride wants to invite, which could be friends or close family members. However, it's important to only invite those that are invited to the wedding. The theme and activities of the party will help dictate who to include. If the bride has younger sisters or close family, she can have a fun early dinner and activity that they can join, and then the rest of the night will be catered to just the bridal party. Keep in mind who is attending when planning and you should be fine! However the bachelorette party is planned out, simple party etiquette is to always disclose any info that may be important for guests to know beforehand. 

Pre-Wedding Event #4: Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

A traditional event that occurs the night before the wedding is a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner party. It's common to go to the ceremony venue to do a practice run and finish any last minute details. This helps all involved - such as parents of the couple and the wedding party - to know what they are doing the next day. Following the wedding rehearsal, it is customary for the couple (or parents of the couple) to host a rehearsal dinner. It's a sweet and simple celebratory dinner in honor of the soon-to-be newlyweds. This dinner is a chance for everyone to socialize and relax, and to show appreciation for all of the people who have worked so hard to make your wedding day possible!

Bride and Groom sitting on wooden folding chairs with "Mr" and "Mrs" signs at their outside reception.

1) What Is a Rehearsal Dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is an intimate pre-wedding party, usually the night before the wedding. If a couple has a wedding rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner will follow immediately. Even if the couple doesn't have a rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner is still a customary event to have. Many times this dinner will take place at a restaurant or rented party space with catered food and drinks. After dinner, the floor may be open for speeches, toasts, and stories that anyone would like to share. 

2) Who Do You Invite To the Rehearsal Dinner?

A rehearsal dinner is a special moment for the couple to share with a small number of close friends and family. Typically, the rehearsal dinner will only include the wedding party and the couple's immediate family including grandparents. Depending on the situation, some couples may extend the invitation out to a few others. The rehearsal dinner is a great way to thank everyone who has helped and supported them during this time.

Bride and Groom sitting as one of their parents says a toast.

Rosewood Bridesmaid Dresses: Rose & Caitlin | Mike Zawadzki

3) Who Pays For The Rehearsal Dinner?

Unlike other time-honored wedding parties, a rehearsal dinner is an event that the couple or their parents usually host. Another event that is interchangeable is a "Groom's Dinner", which is the same except it is traditionally hosted and strictly paid for by the groom's parents. As for a rehearsal dinner, the couple will pay for it or their parents may volunteer to help cover the costs. 

4) Rehearsal Dinner Invitation Etiquette

The wedding week will be a busy time especially for your family and bridal party. Make sure to plan the rehearsal dinner well in advance and notify everyone who is invited with a month's notice. This is a formal event which can require an invitation. Include if there is a wedding rehearsal, and the dinner details such as location, time, and dress code if there is one.  

It's Time to Start Your Pre-Wedding Celebrations!

From the engagement party to the rehearsal party and everything in-between, there are many different wedding festivities to plan for! It can be overwhelming with all of these parties to add to the calendar as you're busy planning the wedding, but remember that the parties are made for you! Don't be afraid to be upfront and honest about what you're interested in and what you're not. At the end of it all, these parties are an opportunity to spend time with friends and family and celebrate being a bride-to-be!

Cute Ideas for the Bachelorette Party

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Leave a comment

Olivia Ciccone
April 18, 2022 15:20

Interesting! Thank you!

April 18, 2022 15:20

Still don’t understand why you would need both a bridal and wedding shower. Extra work because your friends aren’t good enough to go to the same event as your family?

Ali Taylor
April 18, 2022 15:20

As new bride who has attended many weddings this was a very helpful breakdown of each event. Will definitely be reading more of these blogs

April 18, 2022 15:20

Awesome information for a new bride!!

Jennifer Hayes Yates
April 15, 2022 05:06

Great information!

Kahlie M.
April 12, 2022 17:28

This had such great information. Getting engaged is so excited, but planning a wedding can be stressful. This was helpful!!

Mady R
April 10, 2022 11:43

This was a great post. Very helpful in breaking down all the pre “big day” plans. I can’t remember last time i’ve been to a wedding so this helps so much!

April 10, 2022 11:43

This article was so helpful and informative

April 08, 2022 14:24

Love a lot of these ideas!!

April 08, 2022 07:16

This article is so helpful!

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