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Celebrating Your Love Beyond the Wedding Day

A guide to 8 wedding-related events

These days, many couples are taking every opportunity to celebrate their love, extending the joy beyond the wedding day. As a helpful guide, we’ve compiled the most common wedding-related events outside the ceremony and reception.

Please keep in mind that these events are not a requirement. Your wedding experience is all about your means, energy and vision.

Engagement Party

An engagement party can occur anywhere from the day of to a few months after the proposal, all in the spirit of celebrating your engagement. If held on the day of the proposal, the party is typically a surprise gathering often planned by the one proposing or someone involved in the proposal. This gathering is smaller in nature and is usually attended by family, close friends and those who live in the area of the proposal.

An engagement party that occurs weeks or months later can be planned by the couple or anyone close to the couple who wants to help coordinate. Again, this should include family, the bridal party and anyone living near the event who would be invited to the wedding. While gifts should not be expected, many attendees bring a bottle of wine, a cookbook, a nice frame or any sentimental touch to commemorate this special time.

It’s up to you whether to provide a meal or light bites. Some form of food and refreshments should be present. Couples often include games or activities that revolve around the couple’s love. Think of this as a low-key event and the first of many celebrations during this joyous season.

Photo courtesy of Chandler and Olivia Photography

Wedding Shower

A wedding shower is often called a bridal or couple’s shower. This event typically occurs about three to four months before the wedding. This event started as a tradition of showering the couple with gifts for their home. It’s advised to have a wedding registry to share as part of the invitation so guests can purchase from there. Gifts from the registry or other sentimental gifts are to be expected unless the couple specifies otherwise. Some couples opt not to have a wedding shower if they don’t have a large registry or don’t want to ask for more gifts outside of their wedding day. Others opt to have a shower sans gifts simply to gather loved ones in celebration.

The invite list should include family, the bridal party and friends who live near the shower location or within reasonable travel distance. The event can be hosted by close family, extended family or bridal party members.

Depending on your preference, this can be for the couple and all genders to attend or, more traditionally, for the bride and other females. Incorporating a theme with a menu, decor and matching activities can be fun, too.

Bachelorette and Bachelor Parties

In recent years, bachelorette and bachelor parties have been taken to new levels, often becoming multi-day events in cities such as Destin, Nashville, Las Vegas, Austin and Scottsdale. These events can be low-key, jam-packed or something in between. Activities often range from yoga, golf or beach time during the day to bar-hopping or cozy dinners at night. Don’t feel it needs to be a weekend-long occasion if one night is more your style. Whatever you do, your party should feel like you and be an opportunity to spend time with your closest friends.

Planning is often group-oriented, with the maid of honor or best man being the main point person. The bride or groom can be as hands-on or off as they prefer in planning. The guest list typically includes the bridal party if you choose to have one, close friends and any family member you might want to invite. While your wedding budget is on your mind, be sure to consider the amount of money your friends will be spending when planning.

Photo courtesy of Desiree Gardner Photography

Bridal Luncheon

This is an occasion for the bride to gather and thank her bridal party and anyone involved in the wedding day. This began as a Southern tradition that has migrated throughout the country. It could be a brunch or lunch that occurs the day before the wedding as a way to welcome and thank the ladies closest to you. Bridal luncheons are more laidback in nature than the bridal shower and are a time to enjoy one another’s company. Brides are typically the host, but mothers-of-the-bride or other close family members can be involved in the planning.

Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner

If your wedding includes more than you, your partner and your officiant at the altar, it’s wise to host a rehearsal of the ceremony, even if it is brief. Should you have a ceremony with rituals, readings or performances, a run-through is always a good call. It also doesn’t hurt to have your bridal party take a practice walk down the aisle and know their proper placement at the altar. It is preferred that the rehearsal take place at the venue itself. Should that not be available, opt for your hotel or a comparable space for a practice.

Once the rehearsal has commenced, the bridal parties and family attend a rehearsal dinner. With heterosexual couples following the traditional route, the groom’s family hosts. Now, though, both families or the couple themselves will host and pay. Anyone involved in your ceremony and the bridal party’s significant others should be in attendance. It is common for dinners to take place in private rooms of restaurants or other venues large enough to host your group. This evening is to express gratitude and love to those closest to you. Many open the floor to speeches outside of those designated for the reception.

Welcome Party

Welcome parties are most common when the majority or all guests are coming from out of town, particularly for destination weddings. They typically occur the night before the wedding. A welcome party could take place before the rehearsal dinner, after it, or in place of it. If you are not providing a full meal, the event should be scheduled for later in the evening so guests can eat beforehand.

The party should be open to anyone attending the wedding, with invites expressing the time and location. Many couples choose to have the welcome party at the hotel where guests stay, renting out a ballroom for dinner or keeping it casual by renting out a bar or pool space. Clarify with guests if this is a seated occasion or a drop-by. This is a wonderful opportunity to mingle with and spend time with guests before the big day.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Matthews


In recent years, afterparties have become all the rage. For many, this is a way to keep the night going after your vendors’ curfew or simply a way to transition the party. Everyone who attends the wedding should be invited to the afterparty, even if some guests elect to end the evening hours before the wedding. Some couples even put an RSVP to the afterparty as an inclusion to the ceremony invite to get a headcount. It’s common for the afterparty to occur at a different location than the reception venue or in a separate location on the property. If a location change occurs, couples should offer ride-share codes or provide transportation options so everyone arrives safely. This could be a casual meet-up at a favorite bar or an elaborate-themed event with late-night bites catered and a bar.

Farewell Brunch

Viewed as the last hooray of the weekend, a farewell brunch provides one more opportunity to give your guests some love. Much like the afterparty, it should be conveyed that attendance is not required, especially for those who may have partied too hard the night before. A drop-in option will be appreciated by all your guests, from the early birds catching a flight to the night owls in desperate need of a hangover cure.

This is best achieved if your hotel can host the brunch. If that’s not an option, select a nearby restaurant or a loved one’s home. The ideal offering would be a menu option for those who want to linger and enjoy a seated meal or a grab-and-go option for those who travel to attend.

Feature image courtesy of Gabby Morgan

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