Your wedding reception may be the biggest, busiest, most costly part of the event recognizing your union. However, other parties oriented to the wedding also can include friends and relatives joining your celebration along the road to matrimonial bliss. Take a deep breath. The bridal couple need not sponsor every party. Sometimes they gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes and graciously gather good wishes of friends and relatives. Picking and choosing from assorted ideas, you will be ready for eight times the fun, whatever your resources or comfort zone.
1. Engagement Party
You’re getting married! Let it be known. Parents of the bride usually offer to host this first celebration, but any close friend may have the honor. An independent pair may host it. Rather than a party, written announcements or save-the-dates are equally acceptable.
[ DO ] Brainstorm. This likely will be a small affair, but if there are generous resources and gumption, gather the masses and celebrate! This gathering can be anything you want, from sleek black-tie cocktails to an informal picnic in a park.
Let the reception stand on its own later. The basic intent is to introduce all the parents, and perhaps wedding attendants as well, to each other early in the engagement period. This can be over cake and punch or filet mignon. It can be as simple as inviting all parents to a meet-and-greet at a convenient location.
[ DON’T ] Don’t invite anyone who will not be invited to the wedding. The occasion may seem informally planned. Don’t register for gifts for an engagement party. Loving and friendly congratulations is your “present.” Don’t overspend. Early budget concerns may prompt hope for a post-honeymoon bash using (hopefully) leftover funds.
2. Bridal Shower
[ DO ] Wait for the surprise. Most bridal showers are kept secret until they happen. The bride is usually honoree with or without the groom.
If you suspect several are planned, ask hosts/hostesses to combine them so nobody feels left out or overburdened. Be practical. Opening presents “raining” from 80 guests takes hours. If asked to suggest guests, be thoughtful. Only a few sentimentally close, out-of-town friends who cannot come will be honored by the thought.
[ DON’T ] Don’t plan your own shower. And don’t let your mother plan it either. Let a friend, bridesmaid or distant relative offer to be hostess.
Don’t invite anyone to more than one shower. Exceptions may be your mother and future mother-in-law. Guests should not feel obligated to buy a present for each party. Do not invite every woman on the wedding guest list. There should be adequate seats and snacks.
3. Bridesmaids’ Luncheon
This event planned by the bride-to-be occurs close to – perhaps within the week or a few weekends before – the wedding date. Its purpose is to spend quality time appreciating the women helping you with and through the event.
[ DO ] Get creative. Invite the girls for champagne or Cokes. Hang together at a favorite restaurant or meaningful location. Take everybody to the spa. Incorporate lunch. Grab appetizers at a new place. Distribute bridesmaids’ gifts. Monitor time and energy. If busy schedules cannot squeeze in one more event, send each attendant a heartfelt note promising a one-on-one occasion later, suggesting a general time which you put on your calendar.
[ DON’T ] Don’t work on anything related to wedding plans. Create a “no-work” zone. Skip last-minute touch-ups, tweaking and – it’s crucial – extra stress.
Don’t forget moms and other close females. Invite them to be one of the “girls.” Invite only the ladies closest to the wedding.
4. Bachelor/Bachelorette Party
This pre-wedding stress reliever has become known as a night of revelry hosted by bride, groom or attendants.
[ DO ] Have fun with a purpose. It is your “last night” as a single, but more importantly, the night is for bonding with pals. Distribute gifts to the wedding party. Make a toast to your spouse-to-be, though not present. Use good judgment to assess guests’ meaning of “fun.”
[ DON’T ] Don’t schedule this party for the night before or very close to the wedding, especially if drinking is involved. Don’t do anything you’ll regret. This event should be a positive memory. Don’t crash your fiance’s bash. You will be the only one embarrassed.
5. Rehearsal Dinner
This event gathers people after a ceremony run-through an evening or two before the wedding to let both families mix before the wedding. The groom or groom’s family generally plans and picks up the tab.
[ DO ] Invite inner ring. Include everybody with a part in the ceremony: wedding party, officiant, out-of-town guests, close family. Invite spouses, not dates.
Set the tone as dress-up or casual. A rehearsal dinner can be a multi-course meal at a fancy restaurant, light but nourishing hors doeuvres or even a barbecue in the groom’s backyard. It may serve as a “landing” meal for guests ending their travel day.
Dress for “special.” Whether headed to diner or museum, guests of honor should dress appropriately.
Consider guests’ preferences. Try to make each person feel comfortable. A party at the roller rink or bowling alley where you met may sound meaningful to you, but others may not feel a warm connection. After all, your guests are closest in your lives.
[ DON’T ] Don’t skip this dinner. It is important that families interact in the big day’s spirit. Even if the groom’s parents have feuded longer than the Capulets and Montagues, hope for a reunion.
6. Wedding Breakfast
Breakfast is a way to appreciate out-of-town guests on the morning of the wedding.
[ DO ] Only consider this option if offered by someone with time and resources.
Keep it simple. Make guests feel special rather than full with bagels, pastries and fruit along with coffee, tea and juice. A meal is not expected. At this time, a person in-the-loop can field last-minute questions and plans.
[ DON’T ] Bride, groom and immediate families need not attend. They should focus on the ceremony and settle last-minute jitters. Guests nosh, greet and check schedules with a designated “expert.”
7. Post-Reception Party
Many couples do not want to miss a minute of their own party and want to extend time with guests gathered in their honor.
[ DO ] Keep it safe. A location determined in advance often near a designated hotel for guests becomes a destination after the reception time ends. Design for ease. Alert staff that a group will come. Decide in advance if the bride and groom will pay any part. Keep in mind official closing times. Circulate the plan. Designate someone reliable to spread the news or share it in writing on the wedding website before or during the occasion. Supply a means to travel there. This is an expanding service for contracted transportation.
[ DON’T ] The newlyweds need not revel until dawn. Consider the honeymoon itinerary. Etiquette has not evolved yet on this new fun. Be mindful of finances.
8. Next-Day Brunch
For the last time, the newly-formed family comes together before heading home. Only someone close should sponsor this extra event.
[ DO ] Keep it manageable. Everyone should be happy, smiling and packing to leave. Set up a picnic close to home or arrange a simple, informal buffet in a small room at the hotel where most guests stay. End early.
Accept graciously an offer from a grandmother or someone who can plan and pay for a last-minute view of close family and friends. A bride and groom who attend may concentrate on engaging with guests they saw only briefly the day before.
[ DON’T ] Don’t get caught up trying to attend this last-minute “hug.” If honeymoon timing runs tight, it would be proper for the couple to forgo socializing with guests again.