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NOW HOW TO: The Small Parties Around the Big Day

Engagement Portrait at the New Orleans Museum of Art
Amin Russell Photography

The ‘Small’ Parties Around the Big Day

Written by: Rena Sweeney, Alchemy Events

While the wedding day itself is the focal point of each engaged couple’s attention and budget, there are so many smaller celebrations that traditionally surround the “big day”. While none of these events are mandatory per se, many are highly anticipated by not only the couple, but their friends and family as well. 


We’ve compiled a list of the most common pre and post wedding parties along with time frames, who hosts and what you need to know about each. Be sure to consider your personal circumstances and budget when choosing which parties to include as part of your celebration.

Event:  Engagement Party

When:  Within 3-4 months of getting engaged.

Who Hosts:  Parents/Family of the couple; sometimes close friends.

What to Know:  This celebration is typically for family and close friends; a way for your inner circles to celebrate your commitment to one another and for family and friends on both sides to meet if they haven’t already.  While often held at the host’s residence, it’s also not uncommon for it to be a more elegant affair hosted at a restaurant or venue.  Although it typically calls for dressy attire, we’re seeing more couples opt for fun, laid back engagement parties such as a crawfish boil or barbecue.

Event:  Wedding (or Couple’s) Shower

When:  Anytime during the engagement period, although typically closer to the wedding date.

Who Hosts: Wedding Attendants

What to Know:  Whether you have one or more showers, typically these are hosted by the wedding party.  Although a shower can be held at any point during your engagement, typically we recommend our couples have their shower between 2-6 months ahead of the wedding date.  This allows for time to put together your registry, whether it be for physical items or a charity, as well as plenty of time to send out thank you cards afterwards while also not overwhelming your to do list all at once. It is also not uncommon for showers to be hosted in other cities for couples who have extended families in other areas.  In this case, they will sometimes be hosted by a friend, an aunt, cousin or other extended family member. Note, only people who will be invited to the actual wedding should be invited to a shower.

Event:  Bachelor and/or Bachelorette Party

When:  2-4 weeks before the wedding

Who Hosts:   Wedding Attendants

What to Know:  We can’t stress this enough – do not wait until your wedding weekend to go out for one last hoorah!  Two weeks before the wedding is a good time to celebrate with your friends, although, if you are planning a destination party, you may want to go as early as one month out from your wedding.  Don’t feel like it must be a night of “adult entertainment” either. Many couples are opting for get-aways with their friends where one might go on a ski trip and the other on a yoga retreat, etc.  This is simply your time to focus on your friendships and enjoy a night with those closest to you since you might have been busy recently with wedding planning.

Event:  Attendant’s Luncheon

When:  1-2 weeks before the wedding

Who Hosts:   The Couple

What to Know:  Whether you want to host this separately or together for your entire wedding party, this is a time to thank your wedding attendants who will stand next to you on your wedding day.  Take this opportunity to give them gifts and share your gratitude for their support.  Popular options include afternoon tea or a dressy lunch.

“A lot of wedding vendors have blogs that include helpful planning tips and so if you have an example timeline and your timeline is all about “bride and groom,” change it,” advises Nash. “You can make very simple changes and then instantly they know this vendor is not just here to take our money or to work with us; they also are thinking about the larger implications of working with an LGBTQ couple.”

Event:  Welcome Party

When:  One or two days before the wedding

Who Hosts: The Couple

What to Know:  Depending on your circumstances, some couples opt to have a welcome party to host their out of town guests.  Whether that is a small group from your hometown or your entire guest list, this is just another great way to spend time with your guests during a weekend that is going to fly by before you know it! This event can be very formal or more casual depending on personal preferences.

Event:  Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

When:  One or two days before the wedding

Who Hosts:  Parents of the Groom (historically) or The Couple

What to Know:  Held following the wedding rehearsal, most couples opt to host this at a restaurant or venue.  Typically the immediate family and wedding party attendants (along with their spouses or significant others) are invited, as they’re also present at the rehearsal.  This is a great time to do speeches or give gifts to your parents as well. Etiquette states that out of town guests should be invited to the rehearsal dinner if they have arrived in town at the time of the event. The formality of the event is again, based on personal preference.

Event:  After Party

When:  Following the wedding reception

Who Hosts: The Couple

What to Know:  If you’re not ready for the party to end, you can always go out after the formal reception ends.  Options include booking a private room of a local club or just casually bar hopping.  Consider changing clothes before heading out and keep in mind you may need to be up early the next morning for hotel check outs or your morning after brunch. If the couple is planning a formal after party, they should plan to cover the costs for any room rental and refreshments served. For a more impromptu after party, guests may be expected to cover their own drinks and food if they wish to join in the fun. Either way, be sure those invited are aware of what the plan is.

Event: Post-Wedding Brunch

When:  The morning after the wedding

Who Hosts: The Couple or their Parents

What to Know:  Whether inviting just your out-of-town guests or everyone, just make sure you don’t schedule this too early the next day!  On the wedding day, remember that you’ll need your toiletries and clothes for this morning event and have them sent to your wedding night room so you won’t have to scramble when you wake up the next morning. Be sure to choose a location convenient to where you and your guests are staying!


Need help planning? Check out The NOW List to find fabulous wedding vendors and be sure to check out the free planning tools we offer!

champagne bottles and glasses
Sarah Alleman Photography

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