Years ago, once couples got engaged, they had two celebrations to look forward to — the bridal shower and the rehearsal dinner. Although those traditions continue and have changed a bit, as time moved on, couples have gotten more creative with the addition of other events. Some are beautiful ideas borrowed from different cultures, and some are just an excuse to get together and party. No matter your reasoning for scheduling more events to your pre-wedding itinerary, seize the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends. Here’s our ultimate guide to doing so.
The question gets popped, a ring is placed on your finger, and it’s time to celebrate with loved ones. Instead of everyone asking to see your bling or eyeing it for the first time on social media, let folks congratulate you and see your engagement ring in person. Ideally, an engagement party usually takes place within the first month of the proposal, but if your schedule prevents that timeline, do it whenever convenient.
Since this is a more intimate celebration, hosting anything from a casual backyard barbecue with lawn games to a more upscale dinner — think farm tables and globe lighting — is appropriate. Who hosts depends on your take on the event. If you and your future spouse want to have family and friends gather to meet each other and celebrate the blending of families, feel free to play the host. However, if you’re going to be hands-off, have someone close, such as a sibling or parent, orchestrate the event.
Once referred to as a bridal shower, today’s wedding shower is more inclusive than its formerly females-only predecessor. Of course, you can keep it to just the ladies if you’d like, but 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, such as giving articles related to experiences (think restaurant gift certificates and local theater tickets) or stocking the couple’s bar.
Even though you’re excited about receiving gifts, it’s probably best to let someone else handle the hosting and inviting for your wedding shower. However, that doesn’t mean you need to stay uninvolved. Talk to your sibling, aunt, or attendants — all appropriate choices for hosting a shower — about a theme and what type of gifts you need. Invite close friends and family members, and hold the event two to three months before the wedding at someone’s home, a local tea house, or somewhere else that gives off intimate, romantic vibes.
There is no better event to let loose than the bachelorette or bachelor party when it comes to having fun. Although these parties have gotten a bad rap for overconsumption of alcohol and hiring strippers, today’s couples have reframed these events to be more classy while still partying and making memories with people they are close to, which is who this event is for. So think about inviting your bridal party, siblings, and close friends — as long as they don’t feel stilted by not being asked to serve as an attendant.
It’s perfectly appropriate for you to host this event yourself, or your wedding party can also take the reigns. Often, bachelor and bachelorette parties have everyone pay their own way, especially if you spend the night at a bar or fly to Cancun for a long weekend. However, this pre-wedding celebration is more about getting together and being festive than about gifts or anything else, so feel free to enjoy the planning and be flexible so that everyone can let their hair down for a while close to the wedding day.
Of course, it’s always great to get together with your wedding party, and if you’re a groom who wants to hold a groomsmen’s brunch, go for it! This meal for bridesmaids focuses on socializing and just catching up, providing a fabulous opportunity for your attendants to get to know each other. Breaking the ice on or before the big day is a fantastic way to set the tone. The bridesmaids’ brunch usually takes place at a restaurant or cafe unless someone, such as your mom, aunt, or cousin, loves to entertain and would like to host it at their home.
If you’d like to host this event, feel free to take the reigns. However, just be careful if you plan to hold it near or even on your big day. As your wedding draws closer, you will still have a lot of to-do’s, so unless you love planning, you may want to ask your wedding planner or a creative relative to take care of the event. When you have the bridesmaids’ brunch is up to when your wedding attendants can make it. If they all live in town, picking a date should be simple, but if they’re all long-distance, the event may have to be very close to your special day.
Having a rehearsal dinner is another tradition that has been around for quite a while. Typically, the officiant and wedding planner get together with the couple, the wedding party, and anyone else participating in the big day, such as parents being seated and those doing readings or singing. Either before or after your wedding’s dress rehearsal, it’s nice to feed everyone expected to show up at the practice. Traditionally, this event is hosted and paid for by the groom’s parents, but feel free to break from expectations.
Concerning the rehearsal dinner, it’s also nice to invite any close family members — say, grandparents, aunts, and uncles — and family traveling from far away. Also, don’t forget to include a plus one for your wedding attendants so that their significant other can join in the festivities. As expected, the rehearsal dinner is usually the evening before your wedding, and it’s best to host it somewhere close to the wedding venue. Choose a restaurant close by, or see if your ceremony venue has space that is not already dedicated to your wedding reception.
Borrowing beautiful influences from Hindu and Muslim traditions, the henna party is a unique way to celebrate while focusing on self and practicing ancient rituals. Also known as a mendhi, 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.
Another unique cultural infusion is the Chinese tea ceremony, intended to show honor within the family. As elders — say, parents and grandparents — accept a new family member, the tea ceremony signifies approval of the marriage union. In addition, the nearly weds participate to demonstrate respect towards previous generations, which all adds up to a beautiful lacing within family lines.
Since this is an intimate, meaningful event, the only participants should be those taking tea. The couple can dress in traditional Chinese garments to serve tea to their families, and the elders should accept the tea signifying that they welcome their future daughter or son-in-law. Even if you don’t have Chinese heritage, having a tea ceremony showcases the strong bond created within families that lasts for generations.
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.
Jewish culture has many celebrations, such as Hannukah 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 more 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.
The mikveh is another Jewish tradition — albeit little known to those who practice other religions — centered around purification by immersion before the wedding day. Traditionally, the bride will enter the mikveh seven days after her last period and within the four days before her special day.
Essentially, the mikveh is traditional yet very private. A bride will often go alone or with a close family member, such as her mother. Sometimes the groom will enter the mikveh to purify himself before the wedding day, but it’s not a must like it is for the bride.
While planning your special day, getting bogged down with the details is normal as you’re making sure your guests will enjoy your wedding ceremony and reception. However, don’t forget that others want to honor and celebrate you — both on and before your big day. Creatively incorporating one or more of these events gives you an extra reason to celebrate with family and friends or with a more intimate group, if you prefer.