For Couples

Who Plans What? Navigating All Of The Pre-Wedding Festivities With Grace

March 25, 2024

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Welcome back loverves, today, we’re diving into one of our MOST requested episodes to date. You all have been blowing up our DMs and emails which I LOVE to see, because you know I always love to hear from you, and so this week, by popular demand, we’re breaking down the pre-wedding festivities (the events that come BEFORE the wedding), so grab a cup of coffee or a glass of bubbly because we are going to cover a LOT today!

From the excitement of the engagement party to hosting a big welcome party bash, we’re leaving no stone unturned. Whether you’re a bride-to-be, a type A best friend, or just someone who loves a good party, today’s episode is for you. We’re spilling all the secrets, tips, and ideas to make each event leading up to your wedding as magical as the big day itself. 


how to plan the pre-wedding festivities





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EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS: Planning the Pre-Wedding Festivities

  • Planning Your Engagement Party [3:25]
  • Your Bachelor and/or Bachelorette Parties [6:23]
  • Your Bridal Shower or Wedding Shower [10:45]
  • It's Almost Wedding Time! Let's Talk About Your Bridesmaid/Groomsmen Luncheon [15:28]
  • Your Rehearsal Dinner (or Welcome Party!) [20:06]
  • Bonus Tips for Your Pre-Wedding Festivities [24:07]




And if you prefer to read, here's the summary of the podcast episode!

From the moment you say ‘Yes!’ to the night before you say ‘I do,’ there’s a whole journey of celebrations that take place. For anyone who has ever been engaged, you know it’s not just about the wedding! We’re talking engagement parties that kickstart the pre-wedding festivities, bridal showers that sprinkle you with love and gifts, to those unforgettable bachelorette parties that have you and your closest friends making memories to last a lifetime.


First, Let's Talk About Your Engagement Party

First, let’s zero in on the event that often marks the beginning of your wedding journey – the engagement party.

The engagement party is that sweet spot where excitement meets official announcement. It’s your first major celebration as an engaged couple. Traditionally, the engagement party is hosted by the parents of the bride, but as we all know, traditions are evolving. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for the couple to take the reins and host their party. Or sometimes, both sets of parents will host their own parties. It’s really up to you.


The key takeaway here? There’s flexibility in who gets the honor.

Traditionally, whoever hosts the party covers the cost. This could mean a formal dinner at a fancy restaurant, a casual backyard BBQ, or something in between. The style of the party can vary greatly, but the sentiment remains the same: it’s a celebration of love, commitment, and the journey ahead.

Now, let’s talk guest list. This can be a bit of a tricky area, but here’s a golden rule: anyone you invite to the engagement party should also be on your wedding guest list. Think of it as a sneak peek of the big day. This helps manage expectations and keeps things smooth down the line. It’s definitely bad form to invite someone to the engagement party who is not going to be invited to the wedding. 

Next, let’s talk about timing. The sweet spot is usually within the first three to four months following the proposal. It’s early enough in the engagement to feel celebratory, yet not too close to the wedding to add to the stress.

One common question we get is, ‘Do we need to have our wedding date set before throwing an engagement party?’ And the answer is, absolutely not. The engagement party is all about celebrating your decision to marry, not the logistics of the wedding itself.


Your Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties

Next, let’s move on and talk about bachelorette and bachelor parties! When it comes to pre-wedding festivities, these should probably be the next on the agenda because we are all so busy. Our calendars fill up fast, so start planning early, ideally even nine months out if you're aiming for those last 3-4 months before the wedding. This might sound a bit much, but believe me, it’s worth it to ensure all your VIPs can make it.

While we’re talking about invites, remember, your bachelorette party can be bigger than just your wedding party. This is your chance to bring together all the people who make you feel loved and celebrated.


However, a word of caution: choose guests who bring joy and fun. This isn’t the time to worry about spreading out costs by inviting more people; it’s about creating memories with those who truly matter.

As an aside, I was scrolling through Dear Abby and Reddit and saw a thread started by a friend of the bride who couldn’t afford to go on an $8K trip for the bachelorette party. When she told the bride this, the bride got angry and they had to change their plans because they now couldn’t afford to go on the trip without her participation. This left the friend feeling like she was only being invited for her financial contributions, not because of their close relationship. So make sure you’re intentional about the invitations to this event (and this goes for the rest of your events for the wedding, too).

Now, onto a question that pops up often: Who pays? While there is mixed advice out there, we really believe that the person getting married should be prepared to cover their own expenses, unless there’s a pre-arranged pact among friends. At the end of the day, it’s all about setting clear expectations to avoid any awkwardness. But it’s a lot to ask your friends to cover the cost of your trip when we all know how expensive it is to be in someone’s wedding party to begin with.

When it comes to who is planning the bachelor or bachelorette party, while there isn’t a traditional host, it’s usually the maid of honor or best man (or whoever your VVIP is if you’re not using these terms) that kicks off the planning for these kind of events. For more of the nitty gritty details into planning a bachelorette party, make sure to tune into episode 129 where we talk to Danielle Eisenberg, the founder of BachPlace on to talk all about bachelorette planning specifically. 


Wedding Showers

Next, let’s talk about the bridal shower or wedding shower! The wedding shower is a pre-wedding celebration where friends and family shower the bride, or the couple, with gifts and good wishes. While traditionally focused on the bride, joint showers for couples are becoming increasingly popular, reflecting the collaborative nature of modern relationships. As wedding planners, we are HERE for it!

Kicking off with the etiquette rules you need to know, and as you all are aware, I'm a huge enthusiast for etiquette. Traditionally, an aunt, cousin, or a close family friend throws a wedding shower. The concept behind this tradition is to avoid the appearance of immediate family members, such as parents or siblings, hosting a shower, which could seem like they are directly soliciting gifts for their loved one. However, like many traditions, this is evolving, and it’s becoming more common for immediate family to take part in the planning and hosting.

So while the “who hosts” etiquette rule is becoming more flexible, there’s another etiquette rule you should be aware of: everyone invited to the shower needs to be on the wedding guest list. This one is less negotiable!


Next, let’s talk about when the wedding shower should take place.

In a perfect world, I would say you will want to plan for it about 4 months before the wedding. This timeline gives guests plenty of notice and fits nicely into the wedding countdown, building excitement without crowding your final preparations.

Then, to make sure your shower runs smoothly, aim to send out invitations about six weeks in advance of the shower. This allows enough time for RSVPs and ensures your guests can mark their calendars well ahead of the big day.

If you have guests that are traveling across the country or great distances, I highly recommend telling them about the date as far in advance as possible.


Need Help Planning Your Wedding?

We are about to move into the events that are closer to the wedding day, but before we do, I wanted to check-in with you. How is wedding planning going? Feeling overwhelmed with your wedding to-do list? Wondering if you’ve missed something important in the whirlwind of planning? If so, you have GOT to check out our Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist! This isn't just any checklist. It's your comprehensive guide to every detail you need to consider, from the big decisions to those tiny details that make your day special. Not only have we broken up every task per month for you, we’ve also included helpful resources to guide you throughout the wedding process, including links to related blog posts and podcast episodes. If that’s the kind of support you need (and deserve!) head here and use code PODCAST10 to get 10% off today!



Bridesmaid or Groomsman Luncheon Ideas

Next, let’s move onto the events that are during your wedding week! The countdown is on and we are going to kick things off by talking about your bridesmaid or groomsmen luncheon.

Now, you might be wondering, ‘What exactly is a bridesmaid or groomsmen luncheon?' Simply put, it’s a heartfelt way for couples to say a big ‘Thank you’ to their wedding party. This gathering is typically a more intimate affair, involving the wedding party and possibly immediate family members, celebrating the support and love these close-knit friends and relatives provide during the wedding journey.

While the wedding week can feel like a whirlwind, setting aside time for a luncheon can be the perfect pause in the festivities. Thursday might be your best bet, as Fridays tend to ramp up with last-minute preparations and arrivals. Plus, it gives everyone a relaxed space to connect before the big day.


Plus, while we typically talk about this as a luncheon, why stop at lunch?

Pairing this meal with a fun activity can elevate the experience, turning it into not just a meal, but a memorable day out. Think spa treatments, a round of golf, a private wine tasting, or even a craft workshop. The idea is to create an environment of relaxation and joy, celebrating the journey you’ve shared.

For my wedding, I decided to host just my wedding party and mom for a picnic with croquet. We had it at the property where the wedding was going to be and we just relaxed. They gave me the sweetest gift at the luncheon, which was a scrapbook / recipe book and it’s still one of my prized possessions to this day. It included a recipe from each one of my close friends complete with pictures from our trips in college, going out, etc. I loved it when I received it, but I love it even more 15 years later because those pictures truly captured a really special time in our lives. 

In contrast, my husband decided not to have groomsmen’s luncheon but instead took any guests that arrived early on a wine tour around Charlottesville, VA. We paid for the buses and the guests paid for their tastings at each of the wineries. 


Honestly, I didn’t want to be hung over for the rehearsal dinner or the wedding the next day, so I was happy for him to take that on.

Going back to what I was saying, this luncheon is essentially a gesture of appreciation, a way to acknowledge the efforts, the late-night pep talks, and all the little ways your wedding party has contributed to making your big day special. It’s typically hosted by the couple themselves or their parents, it's a personal touch that resonates deeply.

Also, remember, the luncheon doesn’t need to be extravagant. The focus is on sincerity and gratitude. A thoughtful gathering, a few words of appreciation, and perhaps a small gift can make your wedding party feel truly valued.


Your Rehearsal Dinner Or Welcome Party

Lastly, let’s talk about the rehearsal dinner or welcome party!

Traditionally, the wedding party and immediate family have reserved the rehearsal dinner as a more intimate gathering. This cozy prelude to the big day unfolds right after the ceremony rehearsal, soothing last-minute nerves and sparking the true beginning of excitement.

But, as with many wedding traditions, we're seeing a shift. The scope of the rehearsal dinner is expanding, transforming into something that can accommodate a wider circle. While keeping the dinner limited to your Very Very Important Persons creates a personal and intimate experience, there’s a growing trend towards inclusivity – opening the arms wider to include more guests in what’s now often referred to as a welcome reception.


This larger, more inclusive gathering isn't just about logistics; it’s about extending warmth and celebration to all your guests, especially those who have traveled from afar.

It's a beautiful way to kickstart the festivities and make every guest feel like an integral part of your journey. Plus, it’s a lot of fun! More and more couples are planning their wedding to be a true wedding weekend experience instead of focusing on “just” the wedding day, and this welcome party is a great way to kick things off. 

Traditionally, the groom's family foots the bill for this event, a nod to the days when the bride's family was expected to cover the wedding. However, like all things wedding, flexibility and personal preference are key in modern celebrations. The most important thing is to create a gathering that reflects the couple’s personalities and gratitude towards their guests. Sometimes both parents will split the costs, or the couple will cover the welcome party themselves!

If you're contemplating between a rehearsal dinner and a welcome party, consider your wedding's overall vibe and what feels right for you. A rehearsal dinner can offer a moment of calm before the storm, a time for heartfelt toasts in a more private setting. On the flip side, a welcome party is a grand gesture of hospitality, setting the tone for a weekend of celebration and unity. There’s truly no bad option!



Bonus Tips for Planning Extra Wedding Events

Before we let you go, here are three quick bonus tips when planning all of the extra events leading up to your wedding.


First on our list, let’s talk about gifts.

Whether it’s a token of appreciation for your bridal party, a heartfelt gift for your parents, or a surprise for your soon-to-be spouse, timing is everything. These gifts can be given during the bridesmaid and groomsmen luncheon, the rehearsal dinner, or the morning of the wedding. Choose a moment that feels right for you, one that allows for a personal touch and a bit of sentimentality amidst the festivities.

If you want to dive deeper into gifting, check out Episode 47: the Do’s and Don’ts of Wedding Gifting with Alexandra Puccini from lavender and pine.


Next, Before any of the auxiliary events begin to take shape, make sure your wedding invitations are sent out.

If you want, you can include additional cards for your rehearsal dinner or welcome party WITHIN the wedding invitation, but in general, you’ll want to invite people to these extra events after they’ve already received a wedding invitation. Only after these have been mailed should you start sending out invites for the additional gatherings.


When it comes to listing the pre-wedding events, only include the events on your website that every guest is invited to attend.

This helps avoid any confusion or feelings of exclusion among your guests. Being transparent is essential, but presenting information thoughtfully matters just as much. I've encountered numerous wedding websites that label the welcome dinner as “invite only,” which frankly, often upsets guests not invited, leaving them with a bad taste. Therefore, it's best to omit it. It’s just not the vibe you want as you kick off your wedding day weekend.


Finally, I wanted to touch on wedding registries – and cash gifts.

While not directly to these events, a lot of the events we talked about today include gifts for the couple. If you want to dive deeper into wedding registries and gifts, check out Episode 94 with Sara Margulis, the CEO of Honeyfund, which is a website that helps you request cash gifts for your wedding, as well as other milestones in your life, like building a house.



Whew – that was a LOT! Who else is getting excited about all of the events leading up to your wedding day? Remember, each of these pre-wedding events is an opportunity to celebrate love, create lasting memories, and bring together those who matter most. While I hope it’s been helpful to learn a little more about the etiquette, traditions, and planning tips, I want to remind you that there don’t have to be any “rules” when it comes to your wedding day, and that includes all of the events leading up to it!

Lastly, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for tuning in and making this episode a part of your wedding planning journey. Your enthusiasm, your stories, and your love are what make Ask the Planner such a joy to create.



If you have any questions, DM me on Instagram at @asktheplannerpodcast, call the wedding planning hotline at 585-210-3467, or drop it in your review on Apple Podcasts.

Plus, don’t forget to check out the Wedding Planning template shop, including my new Wedding Day Master Organizer which includes the same spreadsheets we use in our day-of production books.

And for all my planners out there, check out my new wedding planner coaching service! Whether you’re in the first 1-2 years of your business and you don’t know how to increase your prices, build a team, attract your ideal clients, find your brand’s voice, or you’re a little further in your career and you want to take it to the next level with a digital product, start a podcast, or something else, I would love to help you build the dream wedding business you deserve!

Learn more and schedule a call with me to see if this is what your business needs at




tips for planning the pre-wedding festivities