11 Wedding Events to Know About, Beyond the Ceremony & Reception

Here's the who, what, when, where and why.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
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 Jun 19, 2023

A wedding is always more than just a wedding. Leading up to the actual ceremony, chances are you'll have multiple wedding events on your calendar, from the engagement party to the rehearsal dinner and everything in between. When it comes down to it, it can be a little confusing as to who's supposed to plan, host and pay for each of the wedding parties—especially when there's already enough to figure out for the wedding weekend timeline.

"Since you are essentially putting together multiple parties, PLUS your wedding, a lot of time will go into the planning process," says Manda Worthington, the founder and CEO of Mae&Co. Creative, a full-service event design and production company specializing in luxury and destination weddings. If you can swing it, Worthington, who founded her business in 2015, recommends partnering with a professional planner for your prewedding events to save yourself time, money and stress. "Planners work with a network of their preferred vendors, and being able to hire the same vendors on for multiple events will not only create cohesion to your entire wedding experience, it will also allow extra room for negotiating budgets."

Need to keep track of all the events leading up to the wedding? Our guide will lead you through all of the major prewedding parties, wedding festivities and milestones to keep on your radar.

In this article:

1. Engagement Party

After sharing the happy news following the proposal, an engagement party is the first wedding event to take place. This is often the first opportunity for both sets of friends and family to come together and celebrate the couple, whether it's a simple backyard party or a swanky rooftop cocktail hour.

It's usually hosted by one or both sets of parents or the couple's friends, but some couples choose to host their own engagement party. Planning a surprise engagement party for the to-be-weds is another option. If you're compiling the engagement party guest list, remember that you should only invite guests who will also be invited to the wedding (in other words, if you're planning the party on behalf of the couple, run the guest list past them first, or keep it very limited to close friends and family).

When to have event: Two or three months after the proposal

Who hosts: The couple, their parents/family or friend(s)

Who pays: The host

2. Bridal Shower or Wedding Shower

The bridal shower is a traditional wedding celebration that includes the bride, her bridesmaids and important women from both families, including moms, grandmoms, aunts and cousins. It usually takes place on a weekend afternoon, either at the host's home or other venue, like a restaurant or hotel banquet room. During the party, the bride receives wedding registry gifts and the group enjoys light refreshments, along with playing a bridal shower game or two. If you're aiming to be more inclusive—or if neither of you identify as a bride—you can choose to have a wedding shower or couples shower instead.

When to have event: Two to three months before the wedding

Who hosts: Maid/matron of honor, friend or a close relative

Who pays: The host

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3. Bachelorette Party

You've probably heard plenty of stereotypes about bachelorette parties, but this wedding event doesn't have to involve a wild girls' night out—unless you want it to. The bachelorette party historically started out as a single-day event, but many groups now celebrate for an entire weekend. Start by choosing a creative bachelorette theme and choosing a fun location—cities like Miami, Nashville and Austin are constantly topping the list of popular bachelorette destinations.

"Everyone loves a theme, even if it's as simple as 'the Hamptons,'" says Worthington."It creates an extra level of excitement for your entire wedding process. We just planned a Marie Antionette-themed bachelorette party dinner and it was a blast."

All of the bridesmaids should be invited to the bachelorette party, but you can also include close friends or relatives of the bride who aren't in the wedding (with her permission first, of course!).

When to have event: One to two months before the wedding

Who hosts: The maid/matron of honor and bridesmaids

Who pays: Costs can be split among the group

4. Bachelor Party

The bachelor party is the groom's counterpart to the bachelorette party. All of the groomsmen are invited, as well as other close friends or relatives if desired (with the groom's approval). The bachelor party, which can last for a single day or an entire weekend, usually involves a few group activities—consider attending a sporting event, planning a bar crawl or challenging each other with some friendly competition, like racing go-karts or axe throwing. Plan a staycation in the groom's current city or head to a popular bachelor party destination, like Chicago, Houston or Scottsdale.

When to have event: One to two months before the wedding

Who hosts: The best man and groomsmen

Who pays: Costs can be split among the group

5. Jewish Aufruf

The aufruf is a religious service that takes place at a synagogue about a week before the wedding. In some families, only the groom attends the aufruf, while other couples choose to attend the service together. This traditional Jewish wedding event involves reciting a blessing from the Torah, followed by a blessing from the rabbi and an optional reception.

When to have event: The Saturday before the wedding

Who hosts: The groom's family or both families

Who pays: The hosting family or families

6. Wedding Luncheon

Sometimes called a bridal or bridesmaid luncheon, this wedding event is totally optional, but it's a heartfelt way to thank your bridesmaids—or wedding party—for all of their support. The luncheon is a popular Southern wedding tradition hosted by the bride (or jointly by the couple) a few days before the wedding. Compared to the bridal shower or couples shower, the luncheon is more intimate and pared-down, since only the bridesmaids/wedding party and immediate family are invited.

When to have event: The week of the wedding

Who hosts: The bride or couple

Who pays: The bride or couple

7. Henna and Mehndi Parties

Henna and mehndi parties are common wedding events in Moroccan, Indian and Lebanese cultures. The exact timing varies, but the parties typically take place one to two days before the wedding. Immediate family members and friends are invited, although these events are considered to be more private and intimate, so the guest list is often smaller compared to the actual wedding day. In Moroccan tradition, the henna party follows the hammam (a prewedding spa ritual), which happens a few days before the wedding. For Indian weddings, the mehndi party sometimes takes place on the same day as the sangeet ceremony, a celebratory event that involves both families and is filled with performances and dancing.

When to have event: One to two days before the wedding

Who hosts: The couple and/or their families

Who pays: The couple and/or their families

8. Rehearsal Dinner

Following your ceremony run-through, the rehearsal dinner is a fun party filled with food and toasts. Traditionally, the groom's family hosts and pays for this prewedding event, but it's not uncommon for the bride's family to pitch in—or for the couple to host the rehearsal dinner themselves. The entire wedding party is invited to the rehearsal dinner, including flower girls, ring bearers and the officiant, as well as wedding party plus-ones and very close relatives or friends. The party usually takes place at a restaurant and involves short speeches from the host(s) and the to-be-weds.

When to have event: The night before the wedding

Who hosts: The groom's family

Who pays: The groom's family

9. Wedding Welcome Party

The welcome party is a separate wedding event that usually takes place immediately following the rehearsal dinner. This optional party is a great way to kick off your celebration, especially if you're planning a destination wedding or have a lot of guests traveling from out of town.

"I think a welcome party is the most important and potentially the most impactful, even if it's later in the evening and you just host cocktails," says Worthington. "Creating a time where you, as a couple, can say hi and connect with everyone on a day where you don't have a million other things on your plate takes the pressure off of you and makes your guests feel 10 [times] more special. It's a win-win."

Unlike the rehearsal dinner, all of your guests should be invited to the welcome party (including their plus-ones), but it can be much more relaxed and informal compared to the actual wedding. The party location should be fairly close to the wedding venue or wherever most of the guests will be staying.

When to have event: The night before the wedding

Who hosts: The couple and/or their families

Who pays:The couple and/or their families

10. Wedding After-Party

Not ready to end the fun after your wedding reception is over? A wedding after-party is your answer. This event kicks off shortly after the reception ends (if not immediately, then ideally within an hour or so) and can take place either at the same venue or a nearby location, like a bar or private event room. Spread the word about your after-party through word of mouth or by including it in the list of events on your wedding website. Hand out swag or surprise treats during the after-party, like glow sticks or midnight snacks.

When to have event: Immediately after the wedding reception

Who hosts: The couple

Who pays: The couple

11. Postwedding Brunch

Celebrate one final time with your friends and family (and nurse some potential hangovers) with a postwedding brunch. This is a super-casual wedding event that takes place during the late morning or early afternoon on the day after the wedding. Invitations should be extended to everyone who was invited to the wedding, although you can expect a much smaller guest count, especially if people are hitting the road bright and early to travel home. Serve classic brunch dishes and drinks, like pancakes, mimosas and omelets.

When to have event: The morning after the wedding

Who hosts: The couple and/or their families

Who pays: The couple and/or their families

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