Once you say "yes!" a whirlwind year of events is set into motion. Many couples often embark on their first celebratory event—the engagement ring tour—without even realizing. Once the dust settles, it's time to fill up your calendar with pre-nuptial parties and celebrations that require a bit more planning. For expert advice on when each party should take place, we caught up with Sarah Narcus, founder of the Boston-based event planning company Without a Hitch. Check out the timeline below and then keep it handy to remember the who, what, and when of each pre-wedding occasion.
The Engagement Party: Right Away
A proper engagement party is a formal (and effective) way to get some face time with all the loved ones who want to celebrate your big news. While it's by no means mandatory, if you're interested in hosting an engagement party, Narcus says to do it quickly—but not too quickly. "You will start to get a lot of questions about the wedding itself," she warns. "Either schedule the engagement party after you have a few answers (date, location), or make sure your guests know that nothing is decided yet, and you just want to celebrate." With a strategy in place, Narcus also recommends making the engagement party a casual, no-gift affair since there will be plenty of opportunities down the road for loved ones to shower you with presents.
The Registry Party: 6-8 Months Before the Wedding
Speaking of presents, lots of people will want to buy you some. So, it's not a bad idea to start building a registry well before your bridal shower is planned as a way to let well-meaning loved ones know what you actually need and want. While this isn't an actual party, you and your future husband or wife should make the most of this experience, so Narcus advises grabbing some scan guns and making a day of it. "It's probably just you and your partner-to-be, but take the time to make it special and do it together," she says.
The Bridal Shower: 3-6 Months Before the Wedding
Traditionally, this is something the bridal party or mother of the bride will take the lead on planning. But if Narcus has learned one thing, it's that a wedding (and all of its events) shouldn't be about following a standard set of rules. "Our philosophy is that couples should always make choices around their wedding that feel personal and authentic to the two of them," she explains "For some, that means eschewing tradition and for others it means picking and choosing the ones that have meaning." Whether you like the idea of a traditional bridal shower or would prefer to celebrate with a joint co-ed shower, know that this event generally takes place sometime three to six months before the big day.
The Bachelorette Party: 1-3 Months Before the Wedding
As the big day gets closer, odds are you'll truly reap the benefits of blowing off some steam. The only caution in terms of timing here is to not go too close to your wedding day if you're planning a few rowdy nights on the town. As any dermatologist will tell you, the way to healthy, glowing skin on the big day is not found at the bottom of a bottle of tequila. Grant yourself enough space to let loose and have fun without stressing about any lingering effects.
The Rehearsal, Welcome Dinner, and Morning-After Brunch: Wedding Weekend
"These days we are seeing many couples choose to make a whole weekend out of their wedding, especially when friends and family are traveling from out of town," says Narcus. With an entire weekend at your disposal, the possibilities for events are totally up to you. Traditionally, the rehearsal will take place anywhere from a week to a day before the wedding, with welcome drinks or dinner finding their way into the mix as well. "Another popular event is the day-after brunch," Narcus adds. "Mostly attended by out-of-towners, it's a nice way to say goodbye and thank you and relive the night before."