Just said yes? Get the bubbles ready! From the engagement do to your post-wedding brunch, this is your ultimate guide to celebrating in style.
Traditionally the engagement party is hosted by the father of the bride to announce his daughter’s impending wedding, but these days it’s all about a couple celebrating their commitment to marry. Ideally, the get together should take place one to three months after the proposal, allowing the betrothed to savour the moment.
‘Anyone invited to the engagement party expects an invitation to the wedding,’ advises planner Gayle Garmaz of Exquisite Weddings. ‘If your guest list is restrictive, and you decide to throw an engagement celebration, let friends and family know your wedding list is small, so they don’t wonder why they didn’t get an invitation.’
Gifts are not expected at an engagement party, so don’t set up a registry. However, since some people will bring presents, the etiquette is to be discreet. ‘Put them somewhere inconspicuous so others don’t feel awkward,’ Gayle says, ‘and send a thank you card within six weeks.’
Speeches aren’t mandatory, but it’s a nice way to share the story of how you met, and of the proposal. Gayle suggests keeping it casual. ‘It’s important for the parents or couple to say a few words, but nothing too serious or lengthy. It’s good practice for the wedding.’
Lastly, everyone at your engagement party will ask whether you’ve set a date, so it pays to discuss this with your partner prior.
If you live in a different country from your family, or your wedding is less than six months away, you may like to skip the engagement party and have a rehearsal dinner instead so there is still a pre-wedding get-together for your relatives.
The term "hen party" derives from the role of the henna plant in North African, Middle Eastern and some Asian wedding traditions where henna tattoos are applied to the bride's hands the night before the wedding to protect her from evil. Today, modern evils come in the form of champagne excess. It’s never wise to over-indulge in the bubbly stuff the night before a special occasion, which is why the hen party is best planned for a couple of weeks before the wedding.
The chief bridesmaid should plan the hen night, but make sure she knows exactly what you want. If you’re a teetotaller who hasn’t seen the inside of a nightclub for years, hitting town at 2:00 am won’t be your idea of a great party. As one disgruntled bride says, ‘If you want the bride to be happy, it has to be what she wants, not what the bridesmaids think is a good time... I hated the tacky games, so I left them to it and went home early.’
Often the hen and stag do’s are scheduled for the same night, although if many of the wedding guests have children this is something you might want to reconsider. Typically, the best man organises the stag do, however if the planning is not his forte, Go Bananas specialises in such events
Similar to a hen function, the best impression on the groom (and bride) is made when the event is tailored to the groom’s interests such as sailing, hunting, fishing or cars.
The bridal shower originated in the 1890s as a way to inundate the bride to be with gifts if she came from a family too poor for a dowry, and today it’s still proper etiquette to arrive with a gift in hand.
The chief bridesmaid usually plans the shower, which takes place four to six weeks before the wedding. It can be a carefree get-together or a sophisticated event, but the golden rule is to keep it to the bride’s style. Choose a theme meaningful to the bride, and spin ideas or games around that, or decorate the venue in her favourite colours.
For cost-saving purposes or simply for convenience the bridal shower can easily be combined with the hen night – begin with the sophisticated shower, and follow up with the more casual hen party.
Add special touches, such as asking each guest to bring a photo of themselves with the bride. Collate them into a small album and present it to the bride as a keepsake. Simple gestures can make any event more special. If the shower involves a sit-down meal include place cards on the tables, and have the host greet each guest as they arrive.
The Day-After Bash
To carry on the celebrations, post-wedding gatherings are increasingly popular. Often organised as a casual barbecue, this is an opportunity for guests to wind down with extra time to catch up. ‘We had a barbecue at my parents’ house the day after the wedding. For guests who had travelled long distances to attend our wedding it made the trip even more worth it,’ says Chelsea Yandall, who tied the knot last year.
Alternatively, consider holding a brunch at the hotel where the majority of your guests are staying, or putting on a picnic. For couples having a destination wedding, hosting a party upon returning home is a great way to celebrate with those who were unable to make it to the nuptials.
As a relaxed occasion, the post-wedding gathering is ideally a buffet so that guests are able to arrive at their convenience, but still enjoy the spread. It’s the perfect time to catch up with guests, take photos, open gifts and thank all those involved.