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Party Guide: Before & After the Big Day

Your guide to celebrating the fêtes that surround the big day— from the engagement party to the post-wedding brunch, and everything in between.

Getting engaged means more than just planning a wedding—immediately, people will want to celebrate your good news, and the upcoming months will be filled with parties full of toasts and good cheer. All these parties set the stage for the big celebration. “It’s a fun way to start the festivities and prepare your guests for the upcoming nuptials,” says Sarah Trotter, owner of Lasting Impressions Weddings in Minnetonka. Whether you’re planning a party or being showered with love, follow this guide for party perfection.

The Engagement Party

Host: Often the family of the bride will host the engagement party, but it’s not uncommon to see both sets of families hosting.

Guest List: Close friends and family should be invited, including the wedding party (if you know who’s in it at this point).

What Happens: You’re engaged—it’s time to celebrate! An engagement party is an excellent way to get into the swing of celebrating, and for family and friends to get to know one another before the big day.

Tips: There is no such thing as a typical engagement party. “I see both formal and casual events, with everything from parties at top restaurants to barbecues,” says Joan Nilsen, owner of Ambiente Wedding & Event Planning in Minneapolis.

The Shower

Host: Bridal showers are hosted by the maid of honor, bridesmaids or female family members. Traditional etiquette dictates that the bride’s mother shouldn’t host, though these days, practicality trumps the fear of a faux pas.

Guest List:
All women in the wedding party should be invited, as well the bride and groom’s mothers, sisters and close friends. If you’re having a couple’s shower, then all of the men in the wedding party should also be invited, along with close friends of the couple.

What Happens: The bridal shower was traditionally an event where women showered the bride with gifts, and this isn’t changing any time soon. “The traditional bridal shower is still going strong,” says Trotter. “However, couple’s showers are becoming popular as well.” The event may include brunch, lunch, snacks or afternoon tea, followed by gift giving.

Tips: Often couples will have many showers, and therefore should be considerate of the expense incurred by guests who receive multiple invitations. “It’s nice for the couple to tell the bridal party that they should not feel obligated to bring a gift for every event,” says Amy Zaroff, owner and creative director of Amy Zaroff Events + Design in Minneapolis. “Let them know that their presence at the party is enough.”

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Photography by Emily Steffen Photography

The Bachelorette Party

Host: Typically the maid of honor organizes, but bridesmaids, family members, friends (or even you) can take the reins.

Guest List: Bridal party members, close friends and family of the bride’s choosing should be invited.

What Happens: Every bride should celebrate her last single days before she says, “I do.” The maid of honor should work with the bride to determine her preferences, as well as determine what activities are feasible for the guests to do together.

Tips: If you’re not heading out of town, consider a trip to a local winery, art classes or a traditional night out on the town. “Lately, I see more full-weekend bachelorette parties,” says Nicolle Sellers, owner and lead planner at Mother of the Bride, a Twin Cities-based wedding planning company. Zaroff agrees. “A lot of people are taking bachelorette parties on the road. They are going to a lake cabin, Las Vegas and anywhere in between,” she says.

The Bridal Luncheon

Host: The bride or her family typically host.

Guest List: Invite your wedding party.

What Happens: A bridal luncheon held a day or two prior to the wedding is designed to say “thank you” to the female members of the wedding party. “In conjunction with a lunch, many brides are inviting their ladies to a spa day,” Sellers says. “It’s a nice opportunity to spend quality time together before the wedding.”

Tips: If the budget is tight, brides should not feel obligated to financially host this event. “If you’re inviting your bridesmaids to a spa day, communicate whether or not you will be hosting,” Zaroff recommends.

wedding_decor

Photography by Emily Steffen Photography

The Rehearsal Dinner

Host: Traditionally, the groom’s family does the honors, though today’s rehearsal dinner may be hosted by both families or the couple themselves.

Guest List: Anyone in the wedding party including readers, ushers and soloists should be invited as well as close family and, if desired, friends. Some couples also opt to invite all out-of-town guests.

What Happens: You’ve practiced walking down the aisle, and now it’s time to kick back and celebrate. Also referred to as a groom’s dinner, the rehearsal dinner is typically held the evening before the big day and is an opportunity to thank the wedding party and your family for their love and support. The rehearsal dinner can range from a lavish affair to a casual meal, depending on the desired style and the budget.

Tips: If inviting out-of-town guests isn’t feasible, Sellers recommends having a casual welcome event after the rehearsal dinner. “The couple can announce that following dinner they will be at the hotel bar, or any other convenient location, and guests can stop by and say hello,” she says. “It’s a nice way to spend time with your guests before the wedding.”

The Post-Wedding Brunch

Host: Anything goes.

Guest List: Guests should include all out-of-town guests, the bridal party and other close family or friends.

What Happens: You’ve exchanged vows and are wearing the rings—now it’s time to wrap up the festivities. A post-wedding brunch is the perfect way to have one last hurrah with your guests and to send everyone off in style. This event is another opportunity for the couple to thank guests for traveling to the wedding.

Tips: “Brunch is still the most popular post-wedding event, but you could also have a cookout in the backyard or a similar event,” Nilsen says. “It’s nice for your out-of-town guests to be able to get some food and say goodbye before they travel home.” If you’re not hosting a post-wedding event, consider finding other ways to provide guests with a snack before they leave town, such as a voucher for breakfast at the hotel.