Congrats on your recent engagement! Now, it’s time to start planning all of the events that will require invites, guest lists, and dress codes. On the roster are possibly an engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, bridesmaid luncheon, welcome party, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, after-party, and day-after brunch. Of course, if there are cultural or religious events also included in your itinerary, you’ll need to slot time for those too. It sounds like a lot, and it probably will be (honesty is the best policy), but we’re here to step in and make your life a little easier by explaining when each gathering should take place.
TIMING: 1-3 MONTHS AFTER PROPOSAL
Typically hosted by either the bride-to-be or the groom-to-be’s parents, the engagement party can also be hosted by the couple or their friends in the city they’re currently living in if it’s easier for travel purposes. This should be one of the first pre-wedding events to celebrate the two as a couple. Invitations to this event should be sent out to immediate family and close friends at least a month before. These are the people at the top of your wedding invite list, too.
Bridal Shower or Couples’ Shower
TIMING: 2 MONTHS-2 WEEKS BEFORE WEDDING
This shower is thrown closer to the wedding date to celebrate the bride (or couple) with gifts. Close friends or family usually host, and more than one shower isn’t uncommon, especially in the south or if family is scattered around. If more than one event is hosted, the wedding party shouldn’t be required to attend all of them—they don’t have unlimited funds. However, anyone invited to these showers should be getting an invite to the big day.
Bachelor and Bachelorette Party
TIMING: NO LATER THAN 1 WEEK BEFORE WEDDING
Thrown by the best man and maid of honor respectively, these fêtes are usually celebrated with the groomsmen and bridesmaids and additional close friends and siblings. Hen and stag dos (as they’re called in the U.K.) can last anywhere from a night out to a whole weekend.
Bridesmaid and Groomsmen Luncheon
TIMING: DAY BEFORE OR DAY-OF WEDDING
These breakfasts, brunches, or luncheons are typically held separately and hosted by the bride and groom respectively. It’s a time for them to say a formal thank you to the wedding party for all they’ve done. Family members outside of the wedding party are also invited to attend.
TIMING: 1-2 NIGHT(S) BEFORE THE WEDDING
For couples hosting a wedding weekend or destination wedding, this party kicks off the festivities. Hosted by the couple or their parents, it’s usually done as a cocktail party that all guests are invited to attend.
TIMING: 1 NIGHT BEFORE WEDDING
Traditionally hosted by the groom’s parents, but just as often co-hosted with the bride’s parents or solely by the couple themselves, this dinner is a great opportunity for speeches and toasts. For local weddings, this invite can be extended to the wedding party and immediate family; however, for destination weddings, usually all guests are welcome to attend or are at least invited to a welcome party after a more intimate dinner.
TIMING: NIGHT-OF/MORNING AFTER
Some reception venues have noise restrictions and early closing times, and the after-party has become a fun way to end the night with friends. Hosted by the bride and groom, this post-reception celebration is open to everyone, but the most common attendees are younger friends and family who aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel.
TIMING: DAY AFTER WEDDING
Popular for destination weddings, as a way to nurse hangovers with a plate of bacon and a Bloody Mary as well as say good-bye before catching flights, this informal event takes place over a couple of hours with a buffet-style selection of food. Invitations are extended to all guests.