Let the Celebrations Begin! Your Guide to Pre-Wedding Parties

Whether gathering with your girls for a laid-back afternoon or hosting a celebration as a couple, there's no limit to the kind of pre-party you can throw.

From engagement parties to bridal showers, you will have many opportunities to celebrate your engagement with friends and family. Not only is this an excellent time to share good food and drinks with great company, but it also provides a unique opportunity to spend quality time with those closest to you. We've compiled this go-to guide for special events leading up to your wedding day, complete with creative party ideas and proper party etiquette.

Your engagement is an unforgettable and exciting event. The party celebrating your engagement is where all your family and friends have gathered in honor of you and your new fiancé. This can often be the first time for most of your family and various groups of friends to meet. The engagement party is typically thrown shortly after the proposal and is traditionally hosted by the bride’s parents. However, it is entirely acceptable for the couple’s friends or the groom’s family to host an engagement party, should the bride’s parents decline the opportunity.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to hosting an engagement party. The guest list may be short, providing for a more intimate gathering, or you may opt for “the more, the merrier” with a large cocktailhour event. Whether it’s a simple cocktail party, a special dinner party or even a casual backyard barbecue, the event should, above all, reflect the couple’s style and personalities. It is important that the guest list for the engagement party be limited to only those guests who will also be invited to the wedding. Both sides of the family should be invited unless geographical location prohibits their presence, in which case separate parties are held. Some grooms discuss the engagement party plans with the bride’s family prior to the proposal and then surprise the bride immediately following the proposal with a party.

Couples are encouraged to create a preliminary gift registry before the engagement party so guests who wish to bring a gift to the party can access the couple’s selection of gift  ideas. For your registry, it is best to select items of varied price points to give guests the most flexibility in choosing a gift. Please note that it is not appropriate to list the gift registry on the invitation. However, since it is likely that some guests will wish to bring a gift, it is perfectly acceptable for you to inform close friends and relatives of your registry preference in case someone inquires. Keep in mind that unless all of your guests bring gifts to the party, it is best to open packages after the festivities to avoid embarrassing anyone who did not bring a gift.

Also, it is proper etiquette for the engaged couple to give the host(s) and/or hostess(es) of the engagement party a gift as a token of thanks and appreciation. There will be many people who lend you a helping hand along your wedding planning journey, assisting either with planning or celebrating. It is important to acknowledge those special individuals along the way, even if it’s as simple as a sweet handwritten note expressing your gratitude.

Bridal showers have been a tradition for many years and are a terrific opportunity to gather with friends and family to honor the bride and shower her with gifts. It is common for the maid of honor and bridesmaids or friends to host the bride’s shower. A bridal shower should typically be hosted months or weeks prior to the wedding and only wedding guests should be invited. Also, this is the one occasion that it is appropriate to list where the bride is registered on the invitation. There are many traditional games and activities for bridal showers. However, themed showers are becoming very popular. These bridal showers are a fun and unique way to provide entertainment for the guests. Below are some of our favorite themes and activities to consider when planning a shower.

Baking Theme 
If the bride enjoys baking sweets and treats, encourage guests to bring a shower gift inspired by baking. Set up a buffet of three to four desserts or baked goods for guests to sample while they mingle. On the invitations, include a recipe card with each RSVP to jot down their favorite recipe and bring it along to the shower. Send guests home with a jar of homemade jam and a loaf of bread tied with some colorful string or simple jute along with the recipe.

Date Night
The couple will love this theme, as it will supply them with months of activities and ideas for date nights throughout their first year of marriage. Encourage guests to bring a date-night themed gift pulled together with items from their gift registry. For example, movie passes and popcorn bowls or a blanket and bottle of wine. As a shower activity, supply guests with note cards and markers to jot down date-night ideas. Suggestions may range from free activities such as a walk at sunset, to more expensive options like a date night at a fine-dining restaurant. Put each note card in a sealed envelope and mark it with an estimated cost or a good season to use them. After their wedding day, the couple can pick from the envelopes to find a unique date-night idea.

Brunch showers are great for larger gatherings and can be a hit when you pull together a yummy brunch menu. Host a parfait bar for guests to build their perfect parfait with different yogurts, fruits, nuts and granola. This allows guests to mingle and also provides an easy food option for the hostess. This theme could carry throughout the party by pairing a variety of freshly cut fruit, fruit juices and champagne to create a mix-and-match mimosa bar. This is a deliciously light and easy self-serve beverage option. Guests who prefer a non-alcoholic beverage could simply opt for the fruit juice.

Bridal showers have been evolving over the years into couple’s showers. Friends of the engaged couple often host a lunch or dinner and invite close friends to celebrate their upcoming nuptials. These showers are typically more casual and relaxed, and are ideal for couples who already share many household items. Yard games and refreshing beverages are perfect for this type of shower, allowing guests to get to know one another and mingle.

Many brides are shying away from bachelorette games and barhopping for this special event with their closest girlfriends. Some brides are gathering their friends to participate in a local cooking class while others might head out of town to relax by a pool. The most important element of the bachelorette party is for the bride to feel comfortable with the plans, especially since this is a time for her to truly kick back and relax before the wedding day. Looking for some fun and creative activities that are a bit out of the ordinary? Below are a few of our favorite bachelorette party ideas.

Cooking Class
Perfect for the bride who loves to spend time in the kitchen, invite a small group of girls to participate in a cooking class. This gives the bride an opportunity to spend quality time with her friends while the guests are entertained and may even pick up a cooking tip or recipe.

Vineyard Tour and Wine Tasting
This is a simply fabulous way to host a relaxing bachelorette party. Invite guests to a local vineyard to taste wines while catching up and chatting about wedding plans. The scenery itself will provide a relaxing experience for the bride and her guests.

Art Class
Give guests an opportunity to create a gorgeous piece of art without the need for any artistic talent. At some area art classes, guests are given step-by-step instructions to help each artist create a memorable painting while also affording the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine.

As we’ve demonstrated, the possibilities for bridal showers are only limited by your own imagination. Have fun with it and enjoy celebrating with your guests.