17 Bridal Shower Alternatives and Other Nontraditional Prewedding Event Ideas

Say goodbye to the same old wedding-related events.
illustration of wedding couple surrounded by disco ball, photo booth strip, shopping bags, boat, and champagne glasses
Illustration by Shelby Warwood for The Knot
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
by
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Apr 30, 2024

Your wedding day is just one event in a string of celebrations. (We know, we know—more things to plan.) The prewedding events don't have to be a bore, but if you feel like you've exhausted all your creative energy on the wedding itself, we've got you covered. Branch out with these bridal shower alternatives, rehearsal dinner alternatives and other ideas to keep you and your guests entertained. When you've decided on an idea (or two), the next step is finding the right venue, whether you're hosting informal welcome drinks or an afternoon wine tasting for your wedding party. We can help you do that on The Knot Vendor Marketplace—just start your search by location, then filter by venue type, guest capacity and more.

Alternative party ideas in this article: Rehearsal Dinner | Wedding Shower | Bach Party | Engagement Party | Wedding After-Party

Rehearsal Dinner Alternatives

The rehearsal dinner is usually pretty straightforward: practice your ceremony runthrough and finish the evening with a sit-down dinner. It's not the time to throw an all-nighter (you're getting married in the morning!), but you can liven up the event a little bit with unexpected activities and personalization.

1. Group Activities

Since you're inviting a smaller group—typically just your wedding party and immediate family members—there's a little more room to get creative with your rehearsal dinner ideas. You'll want to provide a nice meal, but don't take the 'dinner' element too seriously. Rent out a bowling alley for some friendly competition, plan a beachfront lobster bake or hire a party bus to take everyone on a group sightseeing tour.

2. Welcome Drinks

Not in the mood for a sit-down dinner? Skip the formalities and go straight to drinks, hors d'oeuvres and dessert following your wedding ceremony runthrough. Host a wedding welcome party or wedding weekend kickoff at a local wine bar or brewery that implies a more casual vibe. You can opt to keep it to a smaller group of wedding attendants and family members or open up the invitation to all wedding guests (in that case, ask everyone to RSVP through your wedding website using The Knot Guest List Tool so you have an accurate head count).

3. Food Truck Rally

Instead of a sit-down catered meal, put your budget toward hiring food trucks and other vendors (like an ice cream truck) to serve guests for a few hours. If you don't have the budget or venue to arrange everything privately, take your group to a local food hall or market with a variety of vendors everyone can choose from.

4. Live Music

Why wait until the wedding day to start the festivities? Curate the perfect rehearsal dinner soundtrack by hiring a band or DJ for the evening. "We love to see some live music at rehearsal dinners," says Tara Blackwell, owner and lead planner of Lotus Events in Austin, Texas. "It really sets the tone for the wedding the next day. There is something about bringing loved ones together with music that makes you feel good. Vibes are right and energy is high!"

wine tasting room with long wooden table decorated with low centerpieces and votive candles
Photo: Gerber Scarpelli Photography

Wedding Shower Alternatives

There's nothing wrong with traditional bridal shower ideas, but sometimes, they can feel just that: traditional. These bridal shower alternatives, wedding shower alternatives and couple's shower ideas go beyond opening gifts and making toilet paper wedding dresses.

5. Wedding Party Potluck

Prewedding party expenses can add up quickly. Turn the wedding shower into a group effort by asking everyone in the wedding party to bring one homemade appetizer, entree or dessert. Not only will you cut down on the cost coming out of the host's pocket, but the overall experience will feel more personal and intentional. Each person can include a recipe card for their dish so the newlyweds can make their faves at home anytime they're feeling sentimental.

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6. Couple's Wedding Shower

One thing that's great about a wedding shower? Getting to open your carefully curated wedding registry gifts (and acting surprised when guests give you the exact items you picked out yourself). One thing that's not so great? The old notion that wedding showers are only for one person in the relationship. Do it your way by throwing a couples' wedding shower that you can both enjoy. You can skip the group games and activities, too—we love a fun icebreaker for laughs, but don't feel like you need to play wedding-themed bingo just because.

7. Bespoke Experiences

Make the wedding shower more memorable by finding a unique location that acts as its own form of entertainment, like a private room at a winery, a chartered afternoon cruise or reservations at a formal tea house.

Bach Party Alternatives

There's nothing wrong with having separate bachelor or bachelorette parties, but that isn't your only option. Whether you want both sides of your wedding party to celebrate together or you want to ditch the bach tradition entirely, here are a few alternative bachelorette party ideas and bachelor party alternatives.

8. Double Bach Bash

Invite everyone in your wedding party for a dual bachelor/bachelorette where you all celebrate together. It's guaranteed to be a fun bonding experience, whether you have a big group of mutual friends from college or your crew needs a little more time to get to know each other. Rent a house (or two) for the weekend and plan group activities like olympic-style games, a backyard pool party or a day at the theme park. You'll get valuable prewedding time with your partner and your BFFs, and the group's connection will show through on the actual wedding day. A few other fun bachelorette and alternative bachelor party ideas that Blackwell recommends: go-kart racing, laser tag, mini golf, paddle boarding or Sunday brunch.

9. Prewedding Pampering

If planning a wedding (on top of your everyday responsibilities) has left you feeling slightly worse for wear, treat yourself to a few uninterrupted days of rest and relaxation. Instead of an activity-packed weekend, bring your closest friends along for a wellness retreat or spa getaway—resist the urge to invite too many people. Splurge on luxury loungewear, self-care treatments and indulgent meals in between lazy mornings and lowkey movie nights.

10. Solo Trip

Remember that it's important to take time for yourself during your engagement, too. If the idea of a big bach party or other prewedding event where all the attention is on you doesn't sound like your idea of fun, there's no shame in wanting to celebrate solo. Take a break from wedding planning and schedule a trip to somewhere you've always wanted to visit, or use the opportunity to finally sign up for that art class you've been putting off. You'll be married soon enough—and while getting married won't change who you are, planning a wedding can sometimes feel like it brings a lot of obligations, so we say take every opportunity to enjoy what you genuinely love.

Engagement Party Alternatives

When it comes to prewedding events, the engagement party sometimes gets overlooked. Probably because there's a lot going on at once—now you're starting to test the waters of wedding planning, so the idea of brainstorming engagement party ideas on top of that might seem like a lot. You don't have to throw a full-blown party (you're busy!), but the newly engaged phase is so fleeting that it's extra-important to really pause and savor the moment. If the thought of a big party gives you a stress rash, pare down the celebration to just a handful of your loved ones and try one of these alternative engagement party ideas.

11. Parent Meet-and-Greet

Once you're engaged, it's time to introduce all of the parents if they haven't previously met. Celebrate the engagement with reservations at a nice restaurant—meeting in a neutral territory (instead of at someone's house) can help ease some of the nerves if you're worried about everything going smoothly. If one party has to travel from out of town, consider planning a group outing like a sightseeing tour or other informal activity where parents can make conversation.

12. Long Weekend Getaway

Before diving into wedding planning, book a long weekend getaway to let your engagement sink in—you can ask friends or family to join you (a perfect way for people to get to know each other) or keep it exclusive for just you and your partner. "Destination engagement parties are fun," says Blackwell. "It's a great way to travel with close friends and family. If cost comes into play, then a staycation is just as great! Here in Austin, Texas, another great engagement party celebration would be renting out a party barge on Lake Travis," she recommends.

13. Themed Dinner Party

Don't want all eyes to be on you at your engagement party? That's totally fine. Counteract some of the mushy-gushy vibes by hosting a themed dinner party in place of a traditional engagement bash. You'll still get a chance to celebrate with your favorite people, but a fun theme (and optional costumes or games) takes some of the focus off of you as a newly engaged couple.

Wedding After Party Alternatives

Everyone knows that the afterparty is where the festivities really get underway—the Oscars, the Met Gala and your wedding, obviously. Continue the energy from the reception by moving the party to another location at your venue, or organize group shuttles to take guests to a nearby spot.

14. Local Hangout Spot

An informal get-together at your favorite local bar or eatery is a fun way to cap off the night without a ton of planning on your part. Choose a place with late-night snacks—the promise of hangover-friendly foods like pizza and fries should be enough to entice guests to stop by. Depending on the location, it's a good idea to give the venue a heads-up or ask if you can reserve part of the room for your group.

15. Pajamas at the Hotel Bar

After a night of dancing, everyone wants to change into their lazy clothes ASAP. If you're getting married at a hotel (or if most of your guests are staying at one location), schedule a short intermission between the reception and after party so people have time to slip into something more comfortable. Encourage everyone to wear PJs and regroup at the hotel bar for a nightcap.

16. Bowling Alley

Guests might have gotten their fill of dancing at the reception, so consider an alternative wedding after-party idea instead. Late-night bowling is a fun option—it gives people a chance to grab a bite to eat and relax while they're waiting for their turn.

17. Morning-After Breakfast

If you think most of your guests would rather head straight to bed after the reception, we get it. Let them know that you're hosting a postwedding breakfast by mentioning it on your wedding website and spreading the word the night before. Offer grab-and-go options for people who need to get on the road and can't stay long.

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