Pre-Wedding Party Q&As

It's your turn to be the guest — but the etiquette guidelines still apply. Here, answers about rehearsal dinners, engagement parties and other festivities.

Q: My fiancé and I are having a very small wedding - only our immediate families and a few close friends are invited. However, my mother would like to host a bridal shower and ask some of her friends who were not invited to the wedding to attend. Is this proper etiquette? 


A: Not really. Only those people who are invited to the wedding reception should be asked to attend a bridal shower. Otherwise, it may appear as though you are simply asking for more gifts than you might already be receiving. The only exception is a shower hosted by office co-workers, not all of whom may be attending your wedding but who wish to give you a celebratory send-off. A better idea would be for your mother to host a party in your and your new husband’s honor after the wedding and honeymoon. This gathering would be a celebration of your marriage and your mother can invite as many of her friends as she wishes (most of whom will probably choose to bring a gift). Since quite a few couples are choosing to marry in distant locales, such after-the-wedding parties are becoming more popular.

Q: My mother wants to throw me a wedding shower. The problem is that my fiancé and I live in Texas, my mom lives in Arizona, and my friends (and relatives and attendants) live all over the country. My mom said that her friends, all of whom I’ve known since childhood, will be able to come. As nice as that would be, I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel at a shower with just her friends, and I know for a fact that, although they will do it for the wedding, my friends and attendants are not financially able to fly out for one weekend just to attend a shower. Should my mom invite them anyway? 

A: I suggest that you graciously accept her offer and enjoy yourself as best you can. Even though the crowd will be mostly your mom’s friends, you did say that you’ve known them all since childhood so let them make a fuss over you and revel in your role as star of the day. (Perhaps you can have a casual outdoor barbecue to make it more informal and fun.) Also, considering that most of your own friends are scattered throughout the country, it’s really not necessary for your mom to invite them to this shower. Since they can’t afford to fly to Arizona, you wouldn’t want them to feel obligated.

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My son is getting married and his Uncle isn't attending, but his Aunt is, she is requesting to bring her 30 year old daughter who is my sons cousin but they are not close, she also has a 4 year old, there will be other children. Is it proper for his Aunt to ask this of him?. They are traveling by car 1200 miles and making a vacation out of the trip. thanks, Barbara [email protected]

Considering that the original invitation was extended to both your son’s aunt and uncle and that she is traveling 1,200 miles by car to be there, I don’t think she can be faulted for asking if it is OK to have her daughter take the place of her husband or to bring a child (especially since there will be other children there). She’ll feel more comfortable and safer traveling that distance by car if she has a companion (as would I!). Many people who travel far to a wedding do make a vacation out of the trip, and who can blame them? They are spending time and money and no doubt want to enjoy a location they may have never visited before. Your son should let her know that her daughter and child are welcome and that he appreciates the effort she is making to be there. -Diane Forden, Editor in Chief of Bridal Guide

We are the grooms parents and have helped the couple with some of the wedding expenses but the brides parents have offered no financial help at all. Only criticism. We are prepared to pay for the rehearsal dinner as well, and have been informed that a large group of the brides family is from out of town and planning to attend this wedding..are we required to invite all of the out of towners to the rehearsal dinner? I would prefer to not spend a lot of money on the rehearsal if the brides parents are not willing to share in the expense....Kind of feels like we would be paying for their family reunion.

Great question! These days, it's not expected that all out-of-towners will be invited to the rehearsal dinner, It's perfectly acceptable to limit the party to just immediate family and bridal party members. Perhaps you can suggest that the bride's family hosts a cocktail party at the hotel that same evening for out-of-town guests. Another hospitable gesture is to host a farewell brunch the morning after the wedding.

We are having a destination wedding where we are only inviting our immediate family, but we want to have a very casual reception/party at home for all of our other friends and family. Would it be acceptable to have our reception before we leave to our vacation?

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I have asked my 6 best friends and my fiancé's 2 sisters to be bridesmaids at our wedding. I couldn't choose any 1 person as my MOH so I don't have one. 1 of my girlfriends took the lead on planning the bachelorette party but no one has stepped up to plan/host my bridal shower. I don't want to make any of them feel obligated to be in charge of that so what would be the move here?