Ask Martha: Wedding Celebrations Etiquette
Who gets invited to the rehearsal dinner?
According to the rules of etiquette, only those who participate in the actual rehearsal for the wedding get an invite to its namesake dinner. But now it’s increasingly common to include out-of-town guests and close family members in the night-before festivities. If you’re concerned that adding extra heads might undercut the significance of the main event (and seriously blow out your budget), then host an intimate meal for those who attend the run-through and meet others later for drinks.
What can we do at the shower so that my fiance's family and mine can get to know each other?
First, work with your hostess to ensure that there’s a good mix of people from both families at every table. Then, ask a few stealth assistant hostesses to make a special effort to draw everyone into the conversation. Or, for a less centralized approach, try shower games designed to get people to talk about themselves.
Can my friend and aunt each throw me a bridal shower?
A bride can have more than one shower, as long as the guest lists are different. If both women are planning to invite the same people to their showers, suggest that they collaborate on a joint celebration instead. The exception to that rule: Your mom, future mother-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, and some times attendants are usually invited to every shower thrown in your honor. Just remind them that they needn’t attend all of them, and that if they attend more than one, they don't need to give you more than one present.
How can we invite guests to a post-reception gathering without implying that we’re paying?
The after-party is separate from the wedding, so treat it as such. Don’t include information about it on your invitation. Instead, as the reception draws to a close, verbally recruit livelier guests to continue the fun, saying, “We’re going to a club after the wedding.” The informality of this invite gets the message to those who want to join and allows guests to decline politely. Most of the guests who join you will expect to buy their own drinks, but if the question comes up, be direct.
How soon should we have the engagement party and how formal should it be?
Plan to party no later than three months after the engagement. Traditionally, the bride’s parents host, but any family member or friend may (except the couple themselves). It’s usually up to the host to choose the formality, and the party itself isn’t usually very structured; the couple should greet guests as they arrive and at some point, the host should “announce” the engagement and toast the couple.
Can we invite people to our engagement party who won't be invited to our wedding?
A few sources suggest you can include people who won’t be on the final guest list for the wedding itself. However, doing so can present some problems for you down the road, especially if those guests assume they are shoo-ins for your reception and would be hurt otherwise. This is an argument for keeping this guest list tight, since you most likely haven't finalized your wedding guest list.