WHAT: After you and your beloved have tied the knot, it's time to celebrate with the biggest bang for your buck. The key to a smooth-running reception is planning ahead. If you stick to your tasks, your guests will never know the grueling work it's taken to make your reception shine—they’ll just bask in the glow of your love and talk about it for years to come.
WHERE: Unless you’re saying “I do” at a church or synagogue (check out our Local Resources section for houses of worship that allow same-sex weddings), you might have your reception in the same vicinity as your ceremony. Event venues range from simple restaurants to hotel ballrooms to rooftops of city buildings.
WHO: Everyone who was invited to your ceremony should be invited to the reception. In straight wedding traditions, the bride’s parents hosted this lavish affair, but modern-day couples (gay and straight) are taking the reins on this—even if parents are donating money for the overall wedding cost.
WHEN: Always held on the day of your ceremony, but can take place hours later if necessary (though this can take a certain toll on your guests).
HOW: The possibilities are endless from afternoon cocktails to a full-on gala. In the pages of EquallyWed.com, we’ll provide you with inspiration and tips to help you plan this magnificent party.
BY THE WAY: Your reception encompasses many, many, many details. Start planning it as soon as you can so nothing falls by the wayside. With that said, know that not everything will go as planned. Something will be different, whether your orchid centerpieces have inexplicably morphed into gardenias, your DJ plays the wrong song for your first dance or the raspberry garnish on your signature cocktail is missing. The more organized you are throughout the planning process, the lesser the chances of something going wrong. But if it does, keep a cool head. No one likes a bridezilla or a groomzilla. And your vendors who are working so hard to make this the best day of your life will be much more accommodating if you remain gracious and polite.
Showers & Parties
From the engagement party to the send-off brunch, Equally Wed has you covered on the who, what, where, when and how.
WHAT: Now that you're betrothed, it's time to for a public celebration. This isn't required, but it's a wonderful way to kick off the wedding festivities and announcing your engagement to the world—or rather, your world. It's also a lovely time for your friends and family to get to know one another. Plus, if one family is showing any hesitation over your engagement and the other isn't, this is a perfect place for them to pick up a few lessons on how to better support your plan to wed.
WHERE: There's no right way or place for an engagement party. It can be a BBQ held at a pool or a lavish dinner at a luxe hotel.
WHO: As for who throws it, there are no rules here. Tradition used to be that the parents of the bride gave the engagement party, but practicality (and the presence of two brides or two grooms) translates to anyone can host it. As for who to invite, only invite those who will be invited to the wedding. Yes, this means it’s time to get your list finalized!
WHEN: No less than two months after the engagement and at least six months before the wedding.
HOW: The guests can be invited to the party in honor of the couple, but don't mention that it's an engagement party. It'll ruin the surprise announcement!
BY THE WAY: Gifts aren't expected at this celebration, nor should they be opened at the party. Don’t worry! You’ll get plenty later.
WHAT: The purpose of the shower is to “shower” the couple with gifts to help set up your new home together. In straight weddings, the tradition is for the bride to be the guest of honor. In the case of two brides, there might be a more feminine woman in the relationship who wants to have her own shower, or vice versa for two grooms. However, in both straight and same-sex weddings, many couples opt for a couples shower.
WHERE: Generally at the home of the host or a private area of a restaurant.
WHO: The host can be anyone but you or your immediate family. Close family members throwing you a shower is looked upon poorly as it can be perceived that the couple is asking for gifts through their relatives. As with all the parties surrounding your wedding, only wedding guests can be invited to your shower. The only exception to this rule is if your office co-workers or another group you’re involved in (book club, club soccer team, church, wine tasting association) want to throw you a separate shower. In this case, it’s understood that they’ll not be receiving wedding invitations. You may have multiple showers thrown for you, but don’t invite any of your wedding guests to more than one shower except your immediate family members and wedding party. You do not have to invite all your wedding guests to your shower(s). Close friends, family and your wedding party should be the basis of your guest list.
WHEN: Two to three months before the wedding.
HOW: Let people approach you about throwing you a shower. It’s by no means a requirement to the wedding. If someone does want to treat you to a shower, show your appreciation and be organized with your guest list (providing full mailing addresses, emails and phone numbers). And then back off. This is your host’s party, and you should only have to show up. Besides, you’ll be too busy planning your wedding to have time to be involved. If you’re not keen on the theme of the party or the colors on the invitations, keep it to yourself. The host is going to a lot of trouble to honor you, and you should remain grateful. The shower’s style doesn’t need to match your wedding.
BY THE WAY: Gifts are the reason for the shower. Be a good guest of honor by opening them at the party (and have someone write down who gave you what). Receive each gift with appreciation and thanks, but by no means is this verbal thank you enough. Follow up with a thank you note for every gift received. Don’t neglect your host. Buy him or her a personal gift, such as custom stationary, a custom necklace by a local artisan, monogrammed guest towels or soaps.
WHAT: A time to have fun with your closest friends—and sometimes family, too. This is your fond farewell to single life!
WHERE: The world is your oyster. You can go all out with a weekend trip to Rio de Janeiro or Vegas, or keep in more budget-friendly in your hometown.
WHO: Traditionally, your honor attendants plan these parties for you. But if one or both of these people lives in another city or state, it’s fine if another attendant organizes the affair. All your attendants are expected to help plan and execute. As far as who pays, the only rule is that you don’t. They can divvy it up any way they want. With that in mind, let them choose the activity—not you.
WHEN: In the olden days of weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties took place the night before the wedding. But smart brides and grooms will want to enjoy this party several days, weeks or even a month before you tie the knot. You need time to recover if you imbibe too much alcohol. What bride or groom wants to be nursing a hangover from Jaeger shots on their big day? Holding them on the same day as each other’s can be fun—especially so you’ll both be out having fun and not wondering about what the other one’s doing. Plus, if you’re holding them in the same town, it can be exciting to all meet up later in the night.
HOW: The only rules on the bachelor/bachelorette party are the ones you impose. It can be as tame (a weekend spent at a spa, a ski resort or a golf trip) or as wild (club-hopping, Vegas-style card games, strippers, naughty scavenger hunts) as you want.
BY THE WAY: Talk to each other about what’s OK and what’s not. Then talk to your honor attendant about what you’re adamantly against in the early stages of planning.
WHAT: Essentially, it’s the meal held after the ceremony is rehearsed. It’s a time for family and friends to get to know each other and celebrate the couple in a more intimate environment than the larger chaos of the wedding.
WHERE: At the host’s home or a restaurant.
WHO: Common tradition dictates that the groom’s parents host (translation: fork over the cash) and even plan the evening, including ordering flowers, sending out formal invitations and planning the menu. However, with two grooms, no grooms or the absence of parents, that old-fashioned plan won’t work too well. There are no hard and fast rules on who can host. Quite frequently, we see the couple hosting their own rehearsal dinner. And sometimes at the end of the evening, a generous relative or best friend might pick up the tab. As for who to invite, you must include everyone who will be at the rehearsal: the couple, parents, siblings, wedding party and officiant. If an entire wedding guest list is small, a couple might choose to invite everyone—or only the out-of-town guests as an expression of hospitality.
WHEN: The night before the wedding. Try to make it an early night though. You want everyone to be refreshed and awake for your big day—especially you!
HOW: Rehearsal dinner nvitations should be sent a month before the wedding, separately of the wedding invitations. An exception to this rule is destination weddings, where an enclosure card would be part of the invitation package. As with your wedding reception, your guests shouldn’t be paying for themselves—not even tipping. If you—or your host—can’t afford to pay for them, cut your guest list down.
BY THE WAY: Work with the host to keep the event as separate and different from the wedding as you can. It should have its own flowers, cocktails, music, cuisine to distinguish it from your wedding ceremony and reception. But it also shouldn’t outshine all the hard work you’ve done for your big day.
WHAT: In the last decade and especially with the increase in destination weddings, couples are having post-wedding brunches more frequently. This is a casual get-together that provides more time for family and friends to recap the wedding fun, and to feed your guests before they get on a plane to head home.
WHERE: At the host’s home or a restaurant. Oftentimes, the most convenient place is the restaurant of the hotel where the most guests are staying.
WHO: The couple or one set (or both) of the parents usually host. Invite everyone who you invited to the rehearsal dinner.
WHEN: The morning after the wedding.
HOW: This event gets its own invitation or enclosure card in the wedding-invite packet. The style is up to you, but something very easy, like a “stop in and get a bagel and say hello and goodbye before you leave town” kind of thing works best.
BY THE WAY: The happy couple doesn’t have to stay for the whole shebang. You have a honeymoon to get to, after all.