Guide to All Wedding Parties & Events

We created a guide to all the different pre-wedding, post-wedding, and wedding-related events so you can decide what you’ll include as part of your wedding.

By Jennifer Prince, Erin Celletti, and McCall Minnor

Circular image of friends toasting with champagne glasses and sparkling lights
Photo by Unsplash

Years ago, once couples got engaged, they had two celebrations to look forward to—the bridal shower and the rehearsal dinner. Although those traditions remain, as time has moved on, couples have become more creative with the addition of other events. No matter your reasoning for including extra celebrations in your wedding festivities schedule, seize the opportunity to gather with family and friends. Here’s our ultimate guide to all the different kinds of parties and events you can include in your wedding timeline.

Engagement party

The question gets popped, a ring is placed on your finger, and it’s time to celebrate with loved ones. Ideally, an engagement party takes place within the first month of the proposal, but if your schedule prevents that timeline, do it whenever is most convenient.

Since this is generally a more intimate celebration, hosting anything from a casual backyard barbecue with lawn games and a small guest list to a more upscale dinner gathering is appropriate.

If your interest is piqued, there are more engagement party ideas here.

Who hosts the engagement party depends on your take on the event. If you and your future spouse want to have family and friends gather to meet each other, feel free to host. However, if you’re going to be hands-off, have someone close, such as a sibling or parent, orchestrate the event.

Expert advice: Unless your wedding will be very small or a destination wedding, only invite people who will also be guests on your wedding day.

See all of our engagement party articles for more expert tips.

Craig Adderley - Pre-wedding events Photo Credit // Craig Adderley

Wedding showers

Once referred to as a bridal shower, today’s wedding shower is more inclusive than its formerly women-only predecessor (read more about the difference here). While you can keep it to just the ladies if you’d like, the main focus of this event is to shower the happy couple with gifts, which can take on several forms. Guests can bring items off the couple’s registry, or the event can be themed. Think of giving articles related to experiences or stocking the couple’s bar.

It’s probably best to let someone else handle the hosting and inviting for your wedding shower. But that doesn’t mean you need to be hands-off. Talk to your sibling, best man, maid of honor, or parent—all appropriate choices for hosting a shower—about a theme and what type of gifts you’d like. Invite close friends and family members, and hold the event two to three months before the wedding. Do it at someone’s home or somewhere else that gives off intimate, celebratory vibes.

So, then, what is a bridal shower?

A traditional bridal shower celebrates the bride and is a gathering of her closest friends and family, typically all female. It’s often thrown by the bride’s side of the family and her bridal party, but it has evolved into an “anything goes” event for cost responsibility. The key difference here is that the focus is on the bride.

What is a Jack and Jill party?

A Jack and Jill party is a modern, inclusive way to celebrate both sides of the couple at once before the big day. It mixes sides and genders and is usually more laid back in a way more and more couples are choosing. It’s a chance to celebrate the couple together with everyone they love. If your coed curious, read more about the pros and cons of having a coed wedding shower.

Expert advice: Find wedding or bridal shower invitations of all styles on Zola. You can even match them to your wedding invites!

For more expert tips, explore all of our wedding shower articles.

Bach parties

Today’s couples have reframed the bachelor or bachelorette party to be more classy while still partying and making memories with people they are close to. Think about inviting your bridal party, siblings, and close friends—as long as they don’t feel stilted by not being asked to be an attendant.

It’s perfectly appropriate for you to host this event yourself. Your wedding party can also take the reins. Often, bachelor and bachelorette parties have everyone pay their own way, especially if you jet-set out of town for a long weekend. That said, this pre-wedding celebration is more about getting together and being festive than major expenses. So, feel free to be flexible so everyone involved can celebrate leading up to your wedding day.

Bachelorette parties

Bachelorette parties celebrate the bride-to-be and can be anything from an elevated brunch, a night on the town, or weekend away somewhere festive. Most importantly, they should reflect the bachelorette’s personality and wishes and be a gathering of her nearest and dearest.

Read our full guide to planning a bachelorette party for more deets.

Bachelor parties

Bachelor parties honor, you’ve guessed it — the bachelor. It’s basically just a gathering of the groom’s best friends and family spending time together. Normally, they do what the groom enjoys most whether it be sports, hiking, the casino — anything goes.

Check out 47 bachelor party ideas to find something for every groom.

Joint Bachelor/Bachelorette parties

Brides, grooms, and same-sex couples looking for ways to celebrate together might opt for a joint bachelor/bachelorette party. ‘Bachelorx’ as some call it, is much more than a coed party – it's a fun and inclusive way to focus pre-wedding festivities on the couple as a whole.

Check out how to throw a joint bach party for the step-by-step.

Expert advice: Get answers to all of your bach party questions, from theme ideas to planning guides to gift inspiration. Find everything bachelorette party or bachelor party in our expert advice sectionon.

Melike Benli - Pre-wedding eventsPhoto Credit // Melike Benli


Jewish culture has many celebrations, such as Hanukkah and Yom Kippur, but a wedding-centric event that many look forward to is the Aufruf. Yiddish for “calling up,” the Aufruf is traditionally only meant for the groom, although in more modern synagogues, both partners can participate. The entire congregation takes part in this pre-wedding tradition, which happens at the temple the Saturday before the wedding.

During the ceremony, the groom will give a blessing over the Torah. Inviting friends and family to the service is appropriate since this is a public display. However, dash all thoughts of the Aufruf being solemn. Sometimes, the rabbi will give the couple candy, signifying a sweet union and fruitfulness throughout the marriage. Some folks will also schedule a post-Aufruf meal to continue the festivities, depending on the circumstances. Additionally, the Aufruf is not to be confused with Shabbat Chatan, which is also for the groom but takes place after the big day.

Mehndi party

Borrowing beautiful influences from Hindu and Muslim traditions, the mehndi party is a unique way to celebrate while focusing on self and practicing ancient rituals. Also known as a henna party, this event is generally held by the bride’s parents and involves placing beautiful, intricate designs on the bride’s hands and feet using henna dye.

Today’s celebrations often include other close family members and friends of the bride. Because these events can take hours—depending on how many henna artists are available and the intricacy of the designs—hosting at a spa, home, or Airbnb can be a nice touch. Henna also darkens over time, so if you’d like to have these designs on your hands and feet for your wedding day, it’s best to have henna applied three days beforehand to allow the natural ink to darken.

Welcome party

If you’re having a destination wedding (or a wedding weekend people are traveling in for), it’s customary to have some form of welcome reception when your guests arrive at the wedding location.

This differs from the rehearsal dinner—which typically happens the night before the wedding and only hosts the bridal party and your closest family.

A wedding welcome party can be as casual as welcome drinks or a barbecue once everyone arrives and settles in. It can also be as extravagant as your budget and style preferences allow. Just remember that it’s optional.


Often celebrated in India, sangeet is all about merriment with many family and friends. As a result, the number of folks invited to sangeet will often outnumber the wedding reception. Folks get together to party — sing, dance, eat, drink — before the big day to showcase their support for the couple and gather with those they haven’t seen in a while. Because this is a large celebration, hosts can often vary and may depend on the number of guests invited.

Because of the higher guest count, hosting should happen at a wedding venue or another location that can hold many people. Although, sometimes, the sangeet will include a smaller number of guests. When it comes to pre-wedding events, sangeets are one of the most flexible, meaning that the location, who hosts, and its proximity to the wedding day can all vary. However, one thing sangeets have in common is the presence of music, which is no wonder since the word means “music” in Sanskrit.

Rehearsal dinner

The rehearsal dinner follows your wedding rehearsal, in which your officiant or wedding planner guides you and everyone involved through your wedding ceremony. Along with these people, it’s nice to invite any close family members who are wedding guests, as well as those traveling in.

As expected, the rehearsal dinner is usually the evening before your wedding. As such, it’s best to host it somewhere close to the wedding venue. Choose a restaurant close by or see if your ceremony venue has a space that is not already dedicated to your wedding reception.

Wedding party/bridal luncheon

It’s always great to get together with your wedding party. Plus, if you’re a groom who wants to hold a groomsmen’s brunch, go for it! Traditionally, a bridesmaids or wedding party luncheon or brunch is a meal for bridesmaids and/or groomsmen focused on socializing the wedding party. Breaking the ice before the big day is a fantastic way to set the tone.

The bridesmaids’ brunch usually takes place at a restaurant, café, or loved one’s home. If you’d like to host this event, feel free to take the reins. As for when it takes place, that comes down to your personal preference and everyone’s schedules. If everyone is local, picking a date should be simple, but if a few are long-distance, the event may have to take place closer to your wedding day.

After party

Just because the DJ has played the last song and the lights have come up doesn’t mean the party has to be over. It’s becoming more and more common for couples to host an after party that is, quite literally, after the party.

This after-hours event usually involves extra cocktails and snacks, is in a different location than the reception itself, and can help to keep the party going. And going, and going. Find the best DJs and live bands for your after party on Zola’s Vendor Marketplace.

Farewell brunch

The final culminating event of a wedding celebration is the farewell brunch. It can be hosted by the couple, the families, a close relative, or anyone else who offers. It’s typically reserved for guests who’ve spent the night in a designated hotel or resort.

The farewell brunch gives your guests a chance to regroup, enjoying breakfast and coffee before heading on their merry way. It’s not a mandatory event, but it’s definitely nice to have for both the couple and their guests. As a result, it’s a relatively easy way to put the cherry on top of a great wedding.

Final thoughts on extra wedding events

As you can see, weddings can be as simple as the ceremony and reception itself. Or can be a true series of parties and events that lead up to and even continue after the wedding itself. There are no obligations or limits to the amount of wedding fun you can have.

Others want to honor and celebrate you—both on and before your big day. Incorporating one or more of these wedding festivities gives you more opportunities to spend time and celebrate with everyone you love. The best part? You don’t have to get overwhelmed with planning everything when you’ve got Zola on your team. Get instant access to our full suite of free wedding planning tools when you sign up.

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