The Bridal Shower
What it is: A shower is a way of honoring the bride-to-be, and “showering” her with gifts for her new married home. For showers, there are usually three key components: refreshments, fun activities, like games or quizzes and the bride opening her gifts in front of her guests.
Who hosts: Classic etiquette rules state that the bride’s mom or sister isn’t supposed to host the shower but these days, many moms and sisters do act as hostesses for these fun festivities, and it’s really a personal decision. You might find that a relative offers to host one shower for you, and a friend offers to host a different, more laid-back bash, where you can invite your pals. Sometimes, co-workers will throw you a shower, too. It’s completely fine to have multiple showers.
Who attends: Usually, it’s close female friends and relatives—just how big the guest list is up to you and your host. But the same rule goes for the shower as goes for the other pre-wedding parties: Don’t invite anyone you won’t invite to the actual wedding. There is only one exception: an office shower. It is understood that you may not be able to invite all your co-workers to the wedding.
Why to have it: Not only does a shower provide the couple with things that can make their newlywed house more of a home, it’s another opportunity to socialize with family and friends.
When to do it: Two to six months before the wedding is the ideal time. Keep it spaced out from your wedding date. That way, guests don’t feel like they’re going to so many wedding events right in a row.
Good to know: The bride absolutely must write a thank-you note to each guest, and it should be personalized.
The Bachelorette & Bachelor Parties
What it is: Girl bonding. Some people see the bachelorette party as a time for the bride to get ‘wild’ with her bridal party and maybe a couple other close friends. But they don’t necessarily need to go all out. For some, it’s an excuse to get together with girlfriends for some female-only fun. Some groups go on a weekend getaway to somewhere exciting like Napa or Las Vegas. Others just plan a classic girls’ night out.
Who hosts: The maid or matron of honor is responsible for planning and organizing the bachelorette party. All the bridal attendants are ex- pected to help with the planning.
Who attends: Usually the bridesmaids, and maybe some other close girlfriends of the bride. Destination bachelorette parties can mean a smaller group, since there will be travel costs.
Why have it: To let loose a little and have fun! Here you are spending time and energy planning your wedding. Isn’t it a great idea to chill out with your BFFs?
When to have it: It’s a big no-no to have your bachelorette party within two weeks of your wedding. Your plate will be filled with to-dos at that point, and you don’t want to risk any partied-out bridal-party members on the big day. One to three months beforehand is a better idea.
Good to know: The key here is to design a party that suits the honoree. Not everyone wants a wild
experience. I recommend not posting bachelorette-party photos to Facebook or other social-sharing sites where work colleagues, for example, could see them. And make sure your partygoers know not to, as well.
Bachelor Parties That Aren't Tacky
Your guy may not want the typical night of male debauchery. If he’s looking for more ideas, how about suggesting some of these?
Concert: He and his friends can go see a favorite band—and even tailgate beforehand.
Karaoke: Some karaoke places have private rooms you can rent out for parties, so anyone who sings only has to do it in front of friends.
Oktoberfest: In the fall, plenty of restaurants and organizations put together these rollicking festivals with lots of beer and food tasting.
Sporting events: A group trip to a favorite baseball, football or basketball team’s game is a perfect idea for a sports fan.
Golf outing, fishing adventure or camping: He can pick whatever outdoor activity he and his buddies are most into.
The Rehearsal Dinner
What it is: Most couples have a wedding rehearsal, where bridal-party members and parents (and grandparents) of the bride and groom gather together to practice their roles in the ceremony. Afterward, there’s often a dinner to celebrate with those VIPs.
Who hosts: Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is hosted by the groom’s family, but these days, some
couples prefer to host this dinner themselves or to have both sets of parents co-host.
Who attends: In the past, this was just the bridal party and the immediate families of the bride and groom.
But now some people include out-of-town guests as well, since these folks may have come a long way to be with you on your wedding day.
Why have it: You’ll have your nearest and dearest with you to celebrate more intimately than you likely will on your wedding day. Often, the rehearsal dinner is filled with speeches and toasts from family members and friends, and the bride and groom present presents to the wedding party members and parents, thanking them for their help.
When to do it: Usually the night before the wedding, or two nights before the wedding, directly after the rehearsal. If you’re not having a rehearsal, it’s okay to still have a rehearsal dinner. You might want to call it a “welcome dinner.”
Good to know: If it’s the day before the wedding, best not to plan this party to take place too late at night, since most people will want to be well-rested for the wedding. Consider hiring a photographer to come to this bash, since it’s often a very meaningful event.