In addition to the rehearsal dinner and reception, there are plenty of smaller opportunities to celebrate the nuptials. The parties listed below are the most popular ways for family and friends to help paint the town red in honor of your marriage.

Engagement Party

Traditionally hosted by the parents soon after the engagement. Occasionally, the parents of the bride and groom will host the party together, but more often separate parties are held. It is a convenient way for parents to introduce their child’s fiancé to family and friends and can also be a good way for the parents of the couple to meet if they have not already done so.

Showers

Showers are given by any friend or relative who wants to do something special for the couple. Customarily, the immediate family of the bride and groom do not host a shower, because it is seen as asking for gifts. Often, the honor attendant and bridesmaids host a shower. Since the shower is always given by someone other than the bride, registry information may be included with the invitation.

Bridesmaids’ Luncheon

The maids’ luncheon (or tea) is either given by the bridesmaids as a “farewell” to the bride or hosted by the bride herself. This luncheon may take place in a home or restaurant, wherever the bride and her ladies can take time to get together. The bride often gives her ladies their wedding mementos at this time, schedules final dress fittings, and just enjoys their company.

Bachelor/ette Party

These very casual gatherings emphasize having fun, unwinding and celebrating the wedding. Bachelor/ette parties often incorporate a theme and can include attending a sporting event, going to a comedy club or having a shopping excursion to Chicago or the Mall of America. Some enjoy activities such as laser tag, paintball, gambling, golfing, bowling or even camping.

Wedding Breakfast

This wedding day breakfast is hosted by a close friend or neighbor for out-of-town guests. Simple breakfast foods, coffee and juice are just as acceptable as an extravagant breakfast buffet. This is an ideal time to remind people of the day’s schedule. The bride, groom, and their families may be present for the occasion if they choose to, but are not expected to attend.

After Party

A casual hang out with friends at an after party in the hotel bar or other nearby place ensures you are able to celebrate with your nearest and dearest. Relax in the casual atmosphere, munch on snacks, and enjoy the presence of your best friends. This can be an ad hoc affair or pre-planned event. Keep it simple, and ask a bridesmaid or groomsman to handle any arrangements.

Bridal Brunch

This gathering is held the day of or the day after the wedding and gives the bride an opportunity to visit with out-of-town relatives she might not see for a very long time. Many of these guests arrive shortly before the wedding and return home before the bride returns from the honeymoon. The brunch is a thoughtful way to include family members in the celebration and to build relationships for the future.

Gift Opening Party

This small gathering usually only includes the bride and groom’s families and members of the bridal party. More often than not, gifts are opened the day after the wedding or soon after the newlyweds return from the honeymoon. When held the day after the wedding, the gift-opening party is often planned around a meal. Snacks and refreshments left over from the reception may also be served.