Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration that involves more than just the day you say “I do.” Celebrating your marriage includes not only the big day-of ceremony and reception, but also the pre-wedding events as well. Don’t overlook these additional opportunities to gather with your family and friends to mark this momentous milestone. Don’t let these events overwhelm you either. Let’s cover some of the most popular pre-wedding events so you can bring all the special people in your life together in celebration with a lot less stress.
Popular Events Leading Up to the Wedding
Beyond the ceremony and reception on the day of your wedding, pre-wedding events give those closest to you a chance to honor you in special ways as you move into this new phase of your life as a couple. Your list of pre-wedding events could include an engagement party, a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, a party before the wedding for the groom, and a rehearsal dinner. Depending on your heritage, your pre-wedding parties could also include special religious or cultural celebrations.
The Engagement Party
This before-the-wedding party is often celebrated close to when a couple first becomes engaged. It is usually one of the first pre-wedding events you will celebrate, as it often kicks off your time as an engaged couple. This party can be thrown in either a formal and more traditional manner or in a more informal way, depending on the couple and their preferences.
The more formal engagement party usually happens within months of the engagement and is generally hosted by the couple’s parents or closest friends. It is a way to officially honor the couple and start to prepare for the planning of the big day. The guests usually include a close circle of family and friends. The event can include games and activities along with food and drinks. Guests at a formal engagement party are usually expected to bring small gifts, such as a cookbook or something to aid in the wedding planning.
The more informal engagement party could also be seen as a post-proposal party, as it usually happens shortly after the proposal, often on the very night the question is popped. These more small-scale events are usually coordinated by the half of the couple that asked the question. Some of the guests may even have helped coordinate the proposal. The intimate party can take place at a local eatery or home and includes immediate family and close friends, along with dinner or drinks to toast the couple and set off their engagement season.
Some couples may decide to have both an informal post-proposal party and a more formal engagement party later on.
The Bridal Shower
This pre-wedding celebration has a very long history that dates back to medieval times and traditions surrounding dowries. It has evolved in modern times to be either more traditionally for the bride or for the couple together. It usually happens about three months before the wedding date and includes a daytime event that is hosted by a non-immediate family member, such as an aunt, cousin, or member of the bridal party. It is also not unusual to have more than one bridal shower hosted by different family members or close friend groups. Invited guests include family, local friends, members of the wedding party, and friends that are personally close to the host. Bridal showers typically have a theme that reflects the style of the upcoming wedding, along with games and activities and light refreshments. The guests are expected to bring gifts from the wedding registry, as the central idea is to “shower” the bride with gifts for her new home.
The Bachelor Party/Bachelorette Party
The groom’s party before the wedding is commonly referred to as the bachelor party. There is plenty of myth that surrounds this idea of the last evening the groom will be a single bachelor, but mostly it is a party put on for the groom by his wedding party and closest friends.
Even though the bride often receives a bridal shower, the bachelorette party is more of a counterpart to the bachelor party. This bride’s party before the wedding is a celebration specifically for her bridal party and closest friends.
A combo bachelor-bachelorette party is also common, but no matter whether the bride and groom are celebrating together or separately, their gatherings can be either a one-night celebration or a multi-day destination party. The purpose is to celebrate the last moments of singledom, so the celebration usually takes place six to eight weeks prior to the wedding, especially if it is a destination party.
The planning is most likely a group effort led by the maid of honor for the bride and the best man for the groom, but the whole wedding party usually helps out. The bride and groom generally have input on the party, especially on the guest list, which can include best friends, members of the wedding party, siblings, cousins, close relatives, and siblings of future spouses. In terms of payment, everyone is expected to cover their own expenses, including the bride and groom, although the wedding party may cover drinks and dinner for the honorees.
The party itself can include a very wide range of activities, from a low-key event to a wild night on the town and everything in between. Cool ideas abound for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
This specifically Jewish ceremony typically takes place at synagogue either the Saturday before the wedding or a few weeks before and is coordinated with the rabbi. Traditionally, the groom recites a blessing, but in more liberal synagogues the couple will do it together. The rabbi also offers a blessing, and the congregation showers the couple with candy to symbolize sweetness and fruitfulness. The whole congregation usually takes part, as it happens during a regular service, but invitations can also be extended to the wedding party and other friends and family. Sometimes, a reception is hosted at a separate location.
The Rehearsal Dinner
When you think of events before wedding ceremonies, the obvious thing to pop into your head is the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal part of this tradition is rehearsing the ceremony itself and usually happens the night before the wedding.
It is traditional for the groom’s family to pay for the rehearsal dinner if the bride’s family is paying for the wedding. This has evolved over time, however, and it is now just as common for both families and the couple to contribute financially for the major wedding events, including the rehearsal dinner.
For the typical rehearsal dinner, the invitation list includes anyone who is participating in the ceremony, along with their significant others, and close family members. It is not uncommon to invite the officiant. As a dinner, this pre-wedding event is often held in a private room at a restaurant and includes food and toasts to the couple, but also from the couple to those in their wedding party. It is a special time for those in the couple’s innermost circle to bond and kick off the wedding celebration.
With destination weddings, the rehearsal dinner can take on a different purpose and is often broken up into two different events. It is common to have a small-scale rehearsal two evenings prior to the wedding and a larger event the evening before the ceremony for those who are coming from out of town to attend the wedding. This larger event is a way to welcome all those who have traveled to be there on the big day. It can be a fun way to mingle and can act as a special meet-and-greet to kick off a weekend of celebration. It could include a baseball game, a wine tasting, a boat tour, or another fun activity that showcases the particular destination.
Your Pre-Wedding Events Timeline and Tips
Once we start thinking about pre-wedding events, ideas can start to accumulate. To parse through the pre-wedding celebrations that you want to include during your special season, it is a good idea to set out a timeline. It is also important to remember that those invited to pre-wedding events need to also be invited to the actual wedding. Checking out local venues can also help you find the perfect place to hold one of your special pre-wedding events.
A Season of Celebration
Even if you find yourself overwhelmed by the wedding planning, do not forget to soak in all of this special season of celebration as you move into your life as a married couple. The wedding ceremony and reception is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, but the big day-of event is enhanced by the pre-wedding events leading up to it. Enjoy the parties!