When you start planning a wedding, you think you’re hosting one big party. But along the way someone will helpfully point out that there are several other parties you should be planning too. (This helpful person will most likely not be helpful enough to pay for said parties.) These complementary wedding parties are like cousins to the actual wedding: They’re not mandatory but they are traditional, and some could even be considered expected.
The good news is you’ll have help planning them – in fact in some cases you won’t even be in charge! (Deep breaths…) To get you started, we’ve compiled a simple list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for each of these wedding-related soirees. Now that’s helpful.
Do: Keep the focus on the bride. This is the bride’s time to shine … or sip, or shimmy, or whatever she wants to do (within reason).
Definitely Do: Arrange for the groom to deliver something during the party. A bottle of champagne or a bouquet that includes flowers from her wedding are sweet gestures that will make every girl in attendance swoon. We can already hear the collective, “Awwww!”
Don’t: Make her do something she doesn’t want to do. Bridesmaids, this is not your chance to attend a Chippendale’s show or do a body shot. This is a night to celebrate the bride for the woman she is, keeping in mind the wife she will be.
Do: Make sure your plan for the evening – or weekend – meets with the groom’s approval and can be paid for by the groomsmen (and whoever else wishes to pitch in). There’s no point in flying everyone to Vegas for a groom who’d rather golf than gamble. And there’s nothing more awkward than watching the groom help pay for the trolley you rented because you neglected to factor in a tip.
Definitely Do: Keep the bride in mind. Respect her wishes and the groom’s boundaries, lest you find yourself uninvited to the wedding.
Don’t: Plan the bachelor party for the night before the wedding. There’s just no way that’ll turn out well.
Do: Keep it simple, so the focus is on the relationships you have with these pretty ladies.
Definitely Do: Write individual notes to your bridesmaids (maybe even with small gifts) that spell out how important their friendships are to you. Presenting these at the luncheon instead of the larger rehearsal dinner will give you and your girls an intimate moment of mutual appreciation.
Don’t: Force your bridesmaids to fork over money for spa services they don’t want, if you’re choosing to include some pampering as part of the luncheon. You want them to leave with happy memories, not a heap of resentment and a credit-card bill.
Do: Keep it casual. Think of this not as a dry rehearsal but a pre-wedding mixer. If your wedding party doesn’t already know one another, this is the time to get them mingling, so set a relaxing, fun mood with the theme and food.
Definitely Do: Take a moment to thank those special people in your life who helped you be the awesome spouses you’re about to become.
Don’t: Make this a late night. Tomorrow’s a big day!
Do: Keep the coffee brewing. Also we recommend bacon; some guests could probably use the electrolytes. Also, bacon is awesome.
Definitely Do: Give your guests one last way to share the experience of your wedding. An iPad set to scroll through the candid pics your sister took the previous night would make a great table centerpiece. Have your guestbook out and available for any stragglers to sign, along with a journal or scraps of note paper for people to jot down memories and inside jokes while they’re still fresh. You can add these to your wedding album or video.
Don’t: Skip it. Unless you have an early flight out of town and you’ve already told the hosts you won’t be attending, you should make a point to stop by and give your final round of hellos, thank yous and goodbyes.