Deciding to marry your partner means you're signing up for more than just a wedding ceremony and reception. In fact, it's kind of like signing up for nine different parties, all designed to celebrate this important occasion. While each is undeniably exciting, hosting a handful of events is no easy task. Here's the skinny on what parties you'll be organizing, planning, and just plain showing up for.
Typically hosted by either the parents of the bride or the parents of the groom, this party should take place within one to three months of the engagement. Invitations are often extended to immediate family and a small group of friends, as all guests of the engagement party will also be invited to the wedding.
Bridal Shower or Couples' Shower
Hosted closer to the wedding date—usually around two months to two weeks prior—the bridal shower celebrates the bride and showers her with gifts. These days, there are no specific guidelines regarding who should host this event, but close friends and/or family of the bride typically host this ladies-only soirée. Many couples are now opting to celebrate with a couples' shower, though they should not host this themselves.
Bachelor Party and Bachelorette Party
Usually hosted by the groomsmen and the bridesmaids respectively, the bachelor party and bachelorette party take place at least one week prior to the wedding. The guest list typically includes same-sex members of the wedding party and any additional close friends and siblings.
Bridesmaid Luncheon and Groomsmen Luncheon
Either the day before or the day of the first major wedding weekend event, the bride and her bridesmaids, as well as the groom and his groomsmen, attend a brunch or luncheon. The mid-day events usually take place on the same day, but in different locations. Traditionally, the wedding party hosted these celebrations, but most modern couples are opting to cover these costs in light of the myriad expenses the wedding party has already covered.
For couples hosting a weekend-long wedding, especially a destination wedding, kicking off the weekend's festivities starts with a welcome party. This is typically set up as a cocktail party that all wedding guests are invited to attend. The welcome party is hosted by the couple or by their parents, either the night before the wedding or two nights before the wedding.
Traditionally hosted by the groom's parents (though just as often hosted by the couple), the rehearsal dinner takes place one or two nights prior to the wedding. For local weddings, rehearsal dinner invitations may only include the wedding party and immediate family. For destination weddings, the intimate environment usually means the invitation can be extended to all wedding guests. This event provides a great opportunity for toasts and speeches to be given.
Wedding Ceremony and Reception
The wedding ceremony and reception can be hosted by anyone—the bride and groom, one set of parents or both sets of parents. Most often, invitations are extended to all guests for both events, but church wedding ceremonies may provide an exception depending on capacity limitations.
With so many venues closing early due to noise restrictions, the wedding after-party has become a popular event following most weddings. Hosted by the bride and groom or the wedding party, this post-reception continuation of the evening is usually open to all wedding guests to attend but is more popular among the younger crowd of friends.
Especially popular for destination weddings, the day after the wedding offers a chance for guests to say goodbye after a weekend of revelry. Usually set up as a buffet-style meal in which guests can come and go as they please, this event takes place over a couple of hours and is fairly informal. The brunch may be hosted by whoever hosted the wedding, with invitations extended to all wedding guests.