Wedding Etiquette: Events Before the Big Day

pink die cut engagement announcementYou’re engaged: Mazel Tov! Felicidades! Congratulations! Now, let’s celebrate. Though your wedding day will undoubtedly be the crowning event of much anticipation and planning, a day you and your future husband will never forget, the events leading up to it can be just as exciting. Well, almost.


Engagement Party
Meeting Your Fiancé
Save the Date Cards
The Bridal Shower
Bridal Tea
Rehearsal Dinner

Engagement Announcements

He proposed. You said yes. Let’s get down to business. Quite appropriately, you may want to share your excitement with others by officially announcing it (and we don’t mean via Facebook & Twitter). The announcement is traditionally made by your parents as soon after the engagement as possible. While there are no strict rules regarding the wording of engagement announcements, they are usually pretty straightforward.

While you may think of calling it a day after including an announcement in the local newspaper, note that they only reach those people who subscribe to that paper. If you want to make sure all of your friends and family members find out about your engagement, you need to send announcements — or make a lot of phone calls.

Similarly, while updating your Facebook status to “engaged” is easy and an efficient way to share the big news, you’re announcing your upcoming marriage, not what you had for lunch. Such a huge milestone certainly deserves a proper and formal announcement.

If you are worried sending an engagement announcement will make people think you are soliciting presents, know that the announcement not a request for a gift. It’s simply intended to announce an event — your engagement. Those receiving an announcement should not feel obligated to send a gift.

Engagement Party

engraved engagement wedding invitation

If your wedding is the Big Event (and it should be), consider your engagement party the pep rally. A very fabulous pep rally, of course.

An engagement can be celebrated with a party hosted by your parents. If your parents live out of town and it’s more practical for your fiancé’s parents to host a party, they may do so instead. If an engagement party is hosted by your friends or friends of your parents, the invitations are issued by said friends, and so their names appear on the first line of the invitation.

The invitations — usually engraved but fill-in style may be used for small parties — should say that the event is being held in honor of you and your fiancé, although they don’t usually mention that it’s in honor of your engagement. The guests will undoubtedly figure it out on their own.

If your engagement is being announced at an engagement party, neither your name nor your fiancé’s should appear on the invitation, as that would likely give away the surprise. The invitations should read as though they are not for any special event other than to enjoy the company of family and good friends.

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Meeting Your Fiancé

In lieu of, or in addition to, an engagement party hosted by the other set of parents, a party to meet you or your fiancé may be in order. If, for example, your parents held an engagement party in New York and your fiancé’s parents in California wanted to host a party as well, they may host a party to “meet” you. This party gives their family (your future in-laws) and friends an opportunity to get to know you before the wedding. The party is in your honor and the invitations allude to that.

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Save the Date Cards

Tennis Save the Date CardsYou’ve set a date, now you need to let your potential wedding guests know to pencil it in as well. Send your Save the Date Cards at least three months before the wedding. These notices should advise family and friends of your wedding plans and allow them to take your wedding date into consideration when making their own plans.

Save the Date Cards may be sent to all guests. However, it’s especially important for out-of-town guests to receive them in order to better plan their travel. Keep in mind: If you send save-the-date cards only to your out-of-town guests, who in turn speak to your in-town guests, then your in-town guests might think they are not going to be invited to your wedding.

Save the Date Cards are also sent when a number of overseas guests are invited, or when a wedding is held in a resort area (since guests might like to plan a vacation around your wedding).

Traditionally, Save the Date Cards are small, heavy ecru or white cards and are mailed in an envelope. They should match the wedding invitation.

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The Bridal Shower

bridal shower invitationThe modern bridal shower is a throwback to the days when a bride brought her dowry to the marriage. Provided by her father, the dowry made the bride more attractive to potential husbands and gave the newly married couple material goods and finances to help them start their new lives together.

We like to think a lovely smile and an affinity for the whipsmart comeback are the qualities du jour when it comes to attracting a suitor, but the tradition of the bridal shower is as popular as ever.

Attended by family and friends, modern bridal showers are often thrown so that brides and grooms have the basic necessities to furnish their new homes. Even if the happy couple has everything they need, however, a bridal shower is still a lovely way to celebrate the upcoming nuptials.

Bridal showers are usually hosted by one or more friends of the bride. Since the purpose of a shower is to receive gifts, members of the immediate family should, if possible, not host. It may appear as though she is soliciting gifts for you at your request.

Invitations to a bridal shower are usually informal. They may be engraved, but many times fill-in invitations are used. Many bridal showers have gift themes, such as linens, kitchen or lingerie. For older brides, the themes might include tennis, golf, garden or travel. When a shower has a theme, the theme is mentioned in the lower right-hand corner.

Historically, bridal showers have been reserved for first-time brides. That, however, is a tradition that is changing. Showers are now being given for the second-time bride, especially if she did not have one before her first wedding.

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Bridal Tea

In some parts of the United States, close friends of the bride host teas in her honor. The invitations mention that the tea is being given in the bride’s honor and may also state your fiancé’s name by announcing you’re his “bride-elect.” Traditionally, invitations to bridal teas are engraved in black ink on ecru or white card stock.

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Rehearsal Dinner

rehearsal dinner wedding invitationPractice makes perfect, and it works up an appetite. After a run-through of the wedding, usually the rehearsal dinner takes place on the night before the Big Day and is given as a courtesy to the bride’s family.

Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner was held for just the wedding party in order to get them fed after the rehearsal — and to give the bride’s mother one less thing to be responsible for. While many rehearsal dinners are still reserved for the wedding party, others have expanded to include the wedding party, their spouses or dates, and out-of-town guests.

Custom suggests that the groom’s parents host the rehearsal dinner and, therefore, issue its invitations. The rehearsal dinner invitations are usually worded formally, but many times just first names are used. This less formal style can let guests know how you, your fiancé and your fiancé’s parents wish to be addressed.

Just as the rehearsal dinner should not compete with or upstage the wedding, the rehearsal dinner invitations, which should be sent two weeks before the wedding, should complement (but not match) the wedding invitations. For example, a rehearsal dinner invitation on a flat white card engraved in navy blue ink nicely complements a formal wedding invitation.

For small dinners, it’s appropriate for the groom’s parents to use their “Mr. and Mrs.” informals or fill-in invitations. (Informals are small, fold-over notes that are always ecru or white and engraved in black ink with the name(s) centered on the front.) If they choose to use their informals, the groom’s parents may either write the information on the front of the informal or write a short note inviting their guests on the inside.

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9 thoughts on “Wedding Etiquette: Events Before the Big Day

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