The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Events

October 12th, 2018

Everyone knows that upon engagement, you’re not just planning the wedding.

When you decide to plan a wedding, you’re probably planning for a slew of other events that come along with it. The time between engagement and honeymoon can be significant, so if planned correctly you’ll likely have the time to squeeze some, or even all, of these wedding events in.

As more couples foot the wedding bill (instead of their parents), there’s been a shift in traditional wedding events. Many events are pared down, combined, or scrapped entirely from the plans. But for information’s sake, we’ve outlined every wedding event for you to decide if it’s right for you.

Before you get too deep into planning for the big day, learn about all the other wedding events you may want to plan for and factor them into your timeframe and budget. Pick your favorites, combine them, and make them entirely your own.


All the Wedding Events

The Engagement Party

The Bridal Shower

The Bachelor + Bachelorette Party

Bridal + Groomsmen Luncheon

The Rehearsal Dinner

The After Party

The Post-Wedding Brunch


The Engagement Party

What is it?

The engagement party is a celebration of the newly engaged couple. Traditionally, the party is hosted and organized by the parents of either partner, or even together. Close friends and family, however, can also host the party as well. Whoever the host is, however, should expect to pay for the entirety of the party.

Engagement parties can be whatever the host feels is appropriate for the couple—from a casual picnic in a park to cocktails at a swanky bar, and anything in between. Engagement parties, of course, should be organized quickly after the engagement and serve as a first taste of all the wedding events to follow.

Who’s invited?

It’s ultimately up to the couple for who gets an invite, but engagement parties are typically limited to the bridal party and close friends and family. Unless it’s more your jam to have a big blowout, the engagement couple can absolutely be a small, intimate affair.

Always remember to only invite guests who will also be invited to the wedding. The size and formality of the engagement party will help you determine whether to send out invitations. For a small, intimate event, a text, e-invitation, or Facebook event will suffice.

Do guests bring gifts? Should I create a registry?

As a general rule, do not expect gifts. Although most guests will likely bring an engagement gift, do not ask for gifts.

If you’re finding that guests are asking about what they should get you, create a registry and have the host only share the link with guests that ask. Some great engagement registry gifts we love are smaller home goods (think cheese plates, picture frames, or wine glasses), subscriptions (wine club, Blue Apron, or Netflix), or items that can assist in wedding planning and on the big day (customized planners, wedding planning books, engraved cake servers).

Are there any specific traditions?

Interestingly, there aren’t many traditions that have held the test of time. The hosts, and even the couple if they’re planning it themselves, can tailor the engagement party to exactly what they want.

What are some unique engagement party ideas?

As the hosts foot the bill, unique casual ideas include a picnic gathering in the park, renting a few lanes at your local bowling alley, or a gathering at your favorite bar. If a swanky event is more your jam, booking tables at your favorite restaurant is always a solid choice. Do you tend to lean more on the quirky side? Theme parties (with costumes) are an event few will say no to.

The Bridal Shower

What is it?

Bridal showers are a wedding event that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The bridal shower is typically hosted by the maid of honor, the bride’s mother, or jointly a few months before the wedding. It’s a way for the bride’s close friends and family to celebrate and see her off into married life.

Think of it as a (very) tame bachelorette party, but for mother figures and aunts, not just bridesmaids. Intimate afternoon teas, luncheons, or brunches are popular bridal shower ideas.

Who’s invited?

Bridal showers are generally small and intimate, and only the absolutely closest people to the bride should get an invite. Remember, as usual, to only invite guests that are also invited to the wedding.

It’s common practice to send out formal invitations, even if the host is organizing a casual backyard potluck lunch. The bridal shower should happen 2-3 months before the wedding, so make sure you get those invites out a month or two before the event date.

Will guests bring gifts? Should I create a registry?

It’s understood that gifts are part of bridal showers, but again, it’s never in good taste to make your expectation known. Guests will likely ask the hosts where to buy gifts and what to buy, so it is common to create a bridal shower registry. As guests will bring the gift to the event, you want to register for tangible items that can be purchased by one guest and gift wrapped. We don’t recommend registering for cash gifts or large group gifts.

sample bridal shower registry

Are there any specific traditions?

Bridal showers have a slew of traditions, including:

  • Brunch-time event: Think mini quiche, cupcakes, mimosas
  • Newlywed games: Wedding ring toss, He Said/She Said, etc.
  • No partners allowed: Bride’s closest loved ones only, and the partner shows up at the end with a bouquet of flowers
  • Bridal shower crafts: Ribbon bouquet, scrapbooking, memory box
  • Opening gifts in front of guests

What are some unique bridal party ideas?

You can stick to tradition, of course, but brides have been modernizing and tailoring their bridal showers to suit their specific likes. You can skip the daytime event altogether and hit your favorite restaurant bar. Open the invitations to the entire wedding party, and make it a “Couple’s Shower” instead. The host can organize a spa day, or around a theme you love.

Bachelor + Bachelorette Party

What is it?

Probably the biggest event of all the pre-wedding events, the bachelor and bachelorette parties are events that few couples pass up. The bride and her bridesmaids and the groom and his groomsmen go their separate ways for one last hurrah.

Who’s invited?

The bride invites her bridesmaids, and the groom brings his groomsmen. Traditionally the bachelor and bachelorette parties are separate, but many couples are now joining forces for one, big, wedding party extravaganza.

Will guests bring gifts? Should I create a registry?

Once upon a time, gifts were another part of bachelor and bachelorette parties. Nowadays, if there are any gifts at all, they’re probably a gag gift of some variety (we’ll leave it to your imagination).

It’s important to remember that being part of a wedding party isn’t cheap. Your wedding party is already shoveling out a lot of cash to attend—and sometimes host—many of your wedding events and getting you a wedding gift to boot. Don’t expect gifts at your bachelor or bachelorette party.

Of course, there’s always a chance that folks will be looking to gift you something. In that case, it could be a good idea to create a bachelor/bachelorette registry. A Blueprint registry is also a great way to manage the planning of the event. Add any matching outfits, accessories, and party knick knacks so everyone can shop in one place.

Are there any specific traditions?

Bachelor and bachelorette traditions vary greatly, and much of it depends on where you’re from. Every corner of the world has their own bachelor and bachelorette traditions. In the U.S., however, the wedding party typically organizes and pays for the whole event, big or small. They often choose to have their celebrations separately, but many couples are also throwing joint parties, too.

Weekend getaways with nights on the town is probably the most popular way to celebrate for both the bride and the groom. There’s usually some dinner, dancing, and cocktails involved. You’ll often see matching outfits, with the bride dressed up with accessories to indicate she’s taken (think sashes and tiaras). Of course, the option to stray from tradition is always available.

What are some unique ideas?

We love the idea of combining bachelor and bachelorette parties into one. Organize a camping trip for the entire bridal party and schedule some outdoor cooking and activities. There’s nothing like a camping trip for the parties to become fast friends.

Bridesmaid + Groomsmen Brunch/Luncheon

What is it?

The bridal (or groomsmen) brunch or luncheon is a oft-forgotten event that we hope makes a big comeback. Meant as a way to give thanks to the people who have been most involved in the wedding planning, the event should be hosted by the bride and groom.

It usually occurs the day before, or even the day of the wedding. It’s a short event, where you take a pause for some light food (nerves are high!) and a drink (we’ll take any excuse for a mimosa) and give thanks.

Who’s invited?

The brunch or luncheon typically involves only the women—or for the groom, the men—who are involved in the wedding ceremony and planning. Think bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom, flower girls (and their mothers), and anyone who played an important role in making the big day come together.

Will guests bring gifts? Should I create a registry?

Since this event is a gesture of gratitude to the people who helped make your wedding happen, any gifts given should come from the bride or groom. Therefore, a registry probably isn’t needed.

Some gift ideas we love are:

  • Engraved jewelry or cufflinks
  • Embroidered handkerchiefs, ties, or tote bags
  • Flowers
  • A personalized, heartfelt card
  • An experience you all can enjoy together at a later date (theme park, camping trip, weekend staycation)

Are there any specific traditions?

Besides giving thanks to your bridal party in a meaningful way, there aren’t too many traditions to concern yourself with. In fact, there are plenty of ways to make this event fun and memorable.

What are some unique ideas?

Although the day-of-wedding bridal luncheon sounds ideal, the reality is that wedding days are hectic. Shoot to host an event before, but near, the wedding day.

Consider an intimate dinner in a private room at your favorite restaurant, or, weather permitting, a lunchtime picnic at a local park. You want to choose somewhere you can sit with your crew and tell them how much you appreciate. And then give them presents!

Rehearsal Dinner

What is it?

The rehearsal dinner is one of the most common pre-wedding events. It’s generally hosted by the parents of the couple, but as times change it isn’t uncommon for the couple to host it themselves.

The rehearsal dinner is an occasion for both sides of the family to gather and get to know each other before the main event. Many guests have traveled to attend the wedding, so it’s a great opportunity to have a relaxed gathering so everyone can settle in, have fun, and learn what to expect the next day.

Who’s invited?

In general, the wedding party and the bride and groom’s closest family members (and their plus ones) are invited to the rehearsal dinner. Anyone involved in the ceremony (i.e. flower girls and their parents, officiant and their partner) should also be extended an invite.

Depending on the formality, physical or electronic invites can be sent out. Guests should RSVP so you can give a headcount to whoever is providing the food.

Will guests bring gifts? Should I create a registry?

The rehearsal dinner is one of the few events where guests will likely not bring a gift. If there are gifts, however, they should come from the couple to their wedding party (in lieu of the bridesmaid/groomsmen luncheon) or to their parents.

Keep in mind that when giving gifts to a select few at the rehearsal dinner, you may want to do it in private. We suspect parent gifts can get pretty emotional, so it’s totally acceptable to gift them at a separate, more intimate time.

Are there any specific traditions?

Rehearsal dinners are usually held the night before the wedding day in the late evening. At the dinner, there will be plenty of mingling between the families and a sit-down dinner. After dinner, the host and the couple should make quick toasts thanking everyone for attending and being a part of their big day.

Many couples, or their hosts, like the route of renting a private room in a restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. If there is a home big enough to accommodate everyone, hiring a caterer is also a great way to go.

What are some unique ideas?

Not all of us can afford a fancy rehearsal dinner, especially if you’re footing the entire wedding bill yourself. However, a rehearsal dinner is helpful not just for the families to meet and practice their roles. It’s also a great opportunity for the couple to do a test run of the big day and get some of their nerves out.

A backyard barbecue or even a last minute DIY craft session (name tags, table decor, etc.) with plenty of pizza are fun ideas for rehearsal dinners (just make sure your attendees are aware they’ll be helping out). Even a delicious take-out spread will be greatly appreciated by your guests. Just make sure you have drinks for the toasts!

After Party

What is it?

In the wise words of Jay-Z, “after the party there’s the after party”. That’s right, a lot of couples are extending the wedding festivities into the wee hours of the morning with a party after the party.

via GIPHY

Weddings are festive affairs, and sometimes everyone wants to keep the party going. The after party can be planned ahead of time at a local bar, but often people decide to keep partying on the fly.

Who’s invited?

Everyone who wants to keep the party going should be invited! Just make sure that if you’re going to a bar or club, that everyone is of legal age.

Not everyone will come, of course, but it’s a great opportunity for out-of-towners and you’re closest friends to mingle and have fun. The couple spends a lot of the wedding reception greeting everyone, and the after party is a great way to relax with the people you’re most comfortable with.

Will guests bring gifts? Should I create a registry?

Guests will likely have brought gifts to the wedding, but chances are someone will buy you a drink or two.

Are there any specific traditions?

If the venue is at a hotel, then it’s easy enough to take the party to the hotel bar. If you want to dance, however, a nearby local bar is another popular option.

What are some unique ideas?

You don’t have to take the party to a local bar, or even make it a rowdy affair. If you’re exhausted, or you just have a more mellow crowd, you can take the party to a nearby home, Airbnb, or hotel suite to mellow out with drinks and snacks.

Post-Wedding Brunch

What is it?

The post-wedding brunch is the final opportunity for close guests to gather and share a meal together. Instead of bidding everyone goodbye the night of the wedding, couples like to use the post-wedding brunch to calmly enjoy each other before going their separate ways.

Depending on the previous night’s rowdiness, it can be tricky having people get up in the morning. A brunch-time affair isn’t terribly early, but luncheons are also a common option.

Who’s invited?

Who is invited to the post-wedding brunch is up to the discretion of the couple. Parents, the wedding party, and any other immediate family members are a given. If you decide to extend invitations to extended family or friends, be sure to do it for both families. The last thing you want is for one side of the family, or a group of friends, to feel excluded.

You should send out invites well enough in advance so out-of-towners can plan their travels accordingly. It also gives you a ballpark idea of how many people will be attending the brunch.

Will guests bring gifts? Should I create a registry?

Similar to the afterparty, the wedding gifts and your guest’s presence at the wedding is enough. Don’t expect to see many more gifts at the post-wedding brunch. Do prepare for plenty of hugs and well-wishes, though.

Are there any specific traditions?

The post-wedding brunch should be factored into the wedding budget and should be hosted by the couple. While some couples opt to have a specific start time and sit-down brunch, others leave a window of time open for guests to stroll in when they please. A buffet of comforting breakfast foods, coffee, and of course, mimosas are standard fare.

What are some unique ideas?

As mentioned above, couples can opt to have a post-wedding lunch instead. This will give the couple some extra newlywed snuggle time in the morning, and give your guests time to wake up late and pack if they’re traveling.


Final Thoughts

Wedding events, of course, are all optional. Although traditionally many of these events are hosted by people besides the couple, many modern couples pay for their own weddings. If budgeting is a factor, there are plenty of ways to combine events and inexpensive alternatives. Or if none of them suit your tastes, just skip them entirely. It’s your moment, so you get to make the rules.