Many couples find themselves planning or anticipating wedding-related celebrations for more than just their wedding day. Okay, most do. The whole wedding weekend or week or months prior can feel like a whole production for some and knowing where to find that balance of planned activities or events can be tricky.
When we’re talking about wedding-adjacent events and celebrations, there are some fun traditions and events to consider adding to build the excitement beforehand as well as keep the celebration going after the big day. Not everything needs to be done, not everything may fit in you or your friends’/families’ budget, and not everything may fit in your timeline or vision for your celebration. That being said, let’s check out some of those fun pre/post-wedding traditions!
YAY!! Just got engaged and want to celebrate with family & friends? An engagement party can be a great way to introduce yourselves as an engaged couple and give loved ones a chance to congratulate and celebrate with you! Some couples throw a party for themselves, while others have friends or family offer to host a party in their honor. I’ve seen engagement parties that range from super casual backyard BBQ to more formally planned events/dinners. Hosting an engagement party does not have to be expensive or a burden, either! This is a tradition that I see about 70% of the time. It’s fun, but not essential and can be large with a bunch of family & friends or very small and intimate with just a few close friends or family members.
Need some inspiration for a unique way to celebrate getting engaged? Check out this list of 75 Engagement Party Ideas, I believe each of them could work for just about any budget!
Closer to your wedding date (anywhere from a few months before to a couple weeks before), a family member or friend might host a bridal shower or couple’s shower for you and/or your fiancé to “shower” you with love and congratulations. Generally this does not involve an actual shower FYI… Often times, someone will offer to host a shower for you and/or your fiancé, but if no one is stepping forward and you would like to have a shower hosted for you, feel free to ask a friend or family member if they’d be open to helping you do so. There are usually gifts given by the guests, whether from your gift registry or sometimes there are traditions in families to give certain types of gifts at showers. Often a bridal/couple’s shower has a light and airy vibe (think garden party, tea party, brunch, etc.), but can really be whatever style you and your host like and that works for the shower budget. Sometimes, games are played related to marriage and you and your fiancé’s relationship, though they aren’t necessary to the experience. Depending on your families/friends/coworkers, you might end up with one shower or multiple showers hosted for you! This is a tradition that is very popular, though not everyone ends up having.
Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties
Oh boy! These parties come in a ton of sizes and shapes and you can call it whatever works for you to have a fun “let-your-hair-down” good time. There is of course the stereotype of bar-hopping and partying hard on a rowdy night, followed by hangovers and regret in the morning when there’s supposed to be a wedding… but that’s not often the reality anymore and we really only see it in movies, thank goodness. Generally a bachelor/bachelorette party takes place within the month of the wedding, ideally a few days before at the closest, rather than the night before. I had my bachelorette weekend a week our wedding before to give myself and my wedding party plenty of time to recoup and rehydrate before the real deal. My maid of honor organized it and the rest of the invitees helped fund it so the financial burden was not on just one person. I wanted a nice time to relax and simply have a good time with my friends, so we rented a cabin on a lake and enjoyed a fun weekend away together. (Having the extra few days to recoup was really helpful. 😉 ) This is a tradition that many couples still participate in, though they have taken on a lot of different formats, including a combined party/weekend with both partners and their people present.
Some other inspiration ideas for a “fling before the ring”:
During the week of your wedding, it’s possible that a number of guests will arrive a day or few early from out of town or maybe you want to start the festivities early with your local people! A welcome gathering can be a fun way to say “thanks for traveling to celebrate with us!” and provide a free meal for your guests who are away from home. Some couples will host this at a family/friend’s house, a restaurant or brewery, their wedding venue even – if they have the extra rental time allotted. Catered/delivered food, casual beverages, even a potluck fueled by local family & friends can be a great way to get people together!
If you choose to host a welcome gathering with specific guests, be sure to privately let them know via separate stationary insert or email/text so the other guests do not feel left out. Otherwise, if it’s an open party for all guests, feel free to include this invitation statement in all of your stationary suites and on your wedding website. It can be nice to include a note on the attire (casual, cocktail, etc.) for that gathering so guests know what to wear and don’t feel out of place compared to your vibes. This is a tradition that is most common when your guest list includes a lot of out-of-towners. Sometimes it’s combined with a more open-style rehearsal dinner to include more people.
In case you haven’t seen it mentioned in one or a few of my other posts: please have a rehearsal of your ceremony (with officiant, parents, flower/ring people, and wedding party if possible) so you can run through it and your wedding manager/planner can see if there is anything that needs modification.
Following that ceremony rehearsal, many couples/families host a rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding! (It’s also sometimes called a groom’s dinner as traditionally the groom’s parents would host it- but times have become much more fluid, so it can take any format or name to suit you and your fiancé.) It’s a wonderful way for your close family and wedding party to enjoy intimate time together and bond before the big shindig. A few people usually give more personalized speeches, including the couple, family members who won’t be giving a speech at the reception, etc. Many people host their rehearsal dinner at a restaurant so they don’t have to worry about cleanup that evening and the food is easily ordered and served by staff. Others host a more casual style dinner at a winery/brewery, backyard, a smaller section of their venue, or similar setting, where they can have a buffet catered by the business or another provider… a food truck! This is one tradition that is very seldom skipped, even if it’s held with just a couple special people.
Morning-After Brunch/Gift Opening
Sometimes family or a good friend will offer to host a morning-after brunch, sometimes the couple will host it themselves. It offers guests the chance to reminisce on the festivities, say one last congratulations, and enjoy a hearty meal to replenish their energy after a night of dancing! Sometimes it’s held at one of the hotels guests are staying at, other times it’s held at a family or friend’s home nearby, or even more fancy would be a reservation at a local brunch restaurant. Sometimes couples use this casual, late-morning (think 11am or later start time) event as an opportunity to open their wedding gifts in front of the guests interested in sharing in the joy of the process. This wedding-related tradition is probably the least often followed, unless you’re wanting a full-weekend experience for your guests, so don’t feel obligated to make it happen if you’d rather rest and recharge after all that celebrating and socializing.
Of course, what you choose to include in your wedding celebrations and how all of that looks is entirely up to you and your fiancé. Any of these types of events can be done on any type of budget, so don’t be discouraged by thinking they’re going to cost a ton of money if you don’t want them to. In addition, some people prefer not being around a lot of people that often and might feel more comfortable with just a select few smaller, wedding-adjacent events. How you choose to celebrate your love with others is up to you! Feel free to reach out to me for help with planning any of your wedding and wedding-adjacent events!