Many people think of a wedding as one big event, occasionally two (ceremony and reception). In truth, a wedding usually means several different events need planning. Some of these events are optional, but most people choose to have at least a few extra events besides the ceremony and reception. That can mean a huge wedding planning process to keep track of!
It can all be pretty confusing, so where to begin? Here are eight of the most common wedding events to help you start planning.
This is usually the first event people plan after they get engaged: an opportunity to celebrate the impending marriage with friends and family. An engagement party can be as casual or as formal as you like. Some people treat them as almost a mini wedding, booking out a hall, having everyone decked out in black tie, and serving a full sit-down meal with an engagement cake to follow. Others are happy to keep things casual with a backyard barbecue or gathering in their home. The important thing is to get all the important people in your life together to celebrate. Plus, it can be a great trial run at dealing with caterers, venues, and other vendors.
Bridal shower or kitchen tea
A bridal shower or kitchen tea usually involves family and friends, and is all about the bride. It is often held as a luncheon or high tea, and traditionally only women are invited. It is usually a fairly demure occasion, although gifts of lingerie and advice about ‘pleasing’ your husband are not uncommon, since it is traditionally a sort of induction into the circles of married women. A bridal shower may be held in someone’s home, but it is often held in a cafe or restaurant event space. It’s totally appropriate to delegate the organisation of this event to a close female family member or friend.
A bachelorette party (also known as a hens party or hen do) is usually a more wild party to celebrate the last days of being single. Again, guests are usually women, but normally just friends not family members. Of course, there is no hard and fast rule that this has to be the case. Usually a bachelorette party involves drinking and dancing, and sometimes even male strippers. Of course, the nature of the event depends entirely on your friendship group and the way you normally spend time. Some women opt for a fancy restaurant dinner, a weekend retreat or a day hiking somewhere beautiful. It’s usually the maid of honour’s job to organise the bachelorette party, but she’ll want plenty of guidance from you to make sure it’s exactly what you want.
This is the opportunity for the groom and his buddies to get together and celebrate the last days of the single life. Bachelor parties are usually held in a bar or other licensed venue, often starting with dinner at a restaurant and progressing to different venues as the night wears on. Again, this is often a pretty wild event with drinking and adult entertainment, but it doesn’t have to be. Some men prefer to head to a sports event, a casino or do something like paintball or laser tag for their celebration. Usually the best man plans the bachelor party in consultation with the groom.
This isn’t an official event, but that also makes it the most frequently overlooked: most people end up throwing something together at the very last minute because they haven’t planned ahead. With the entire extended family in one place, they’ll be wanting to make the most of it. It’s a good idea to plan an event that will just be for the family sometime before or after the wedding. It doesn’t have to be anything formal: work out when people are arriving and when they are leaving again, and create an opportunity for as many family members as possible to gather. Brunch the morning after the wedding is a popular time for this. Book an event space at a restaurant or have a local member of the fam open up their home, then delegate any other planning to another family member. Even if the happy couple aren’t going to be there (wedding week is busy, and there’s a honeymoon to get to!), family will love the opportunity to get together and catch up.
The rehearsal dinner is a tradition in American weddings that is quite foreign to most people in other parts of the world. Held one or two nights before the wedding, just after the rehearsal, it is similar to the wedding reception but is typically used to thank everyone who has participated in making the wedding happen. It gives the two families a chance to meet and mingle, without the distraction of wedding day stress. Ideally, this should make the actual wedding day easier for everyone. The rehearsal dinner is traditionally organised and paid for by the groom’s family, but people are now often bucking tradition when it comes to these things. The rehearsal dinner may be an informal backyard gathering, but is usually a fancy soiree more akin to the wedding reception. Just make sure it’s not too similar to the actual wedding – you want the ‘wow’ factor where it counts.
The main event of any wedding is, of course, the wedding ceremony. This almost doesn’t need explanation. The ceremony is the part of the wedding where you actually do the deed: say your vows, exchange rings, sign all the paperwork, and get pronounced man and wife. Traditionally the wedding ceremony is held in a church, but there are endless possibilities for non-traditional venues, including the beach, art gallery, industrial warehouse, restaurant, or backyard. It can be the same venue as your reception, or somewhere different. Just make sure you have enough privacy and quiet for your needs.
The big party of the wedding process is the wedding reception, when you can celebrate finally being married (and celebrate the end of the wedding planning process!) There’s nothing like the final celebration of everything having gone off without a hitch. Receptions usually take place in restaurants, but caterers can usually come to you wherever you need them. Just remember to take into consideration all the furniture, plates and cutlery, and other practicalities you will require. A reception on your parents’ ranch might seem perfect, but there are a lot of logistics to work out, so keep that in mind when you make your decision.
These are the main events that make up a wedding. Some of them are completely necessary (the wedding ceremony, for example) while others are optional (bachelor and bachelorette parties). Decide early what events you want to include, and make sure you allow ample time for planning every part, so you have the perfect wedding from start to finish.
This was a guest post by Maddison Wallace from Paperlust. Maddison is head of content at Paperlust. She is a communications professional who loves words and drinking cups of tea.