Even though you are planning the biggest party of your life in six months, even though you have lots of other things to do to, it isn’t like life just stops because you’re getting married, you still have to go to work, walk the dog, maybe take the kids to daycare, whatever, no matter that you have all this going on, people are going to throw MORE parties for you.
Rehearsal dinners (although you might do that yourself).
Post-wedding brunch (again, you might organize that yourself).
Parties upon parties upon parties. And the important thing is that the parties are not about you. They’re not. Someone else wants to throw you a party, and your role is to say, “Thank you” and get out of the way. Usually.
Which isn’t to say that you won’t enjoy them, or appreciate them, you will. Yet often it is hard not to think, “But what about the 17 things I was planning to do this week and haven’t gotten to yet? I have to update the tracker on Sunday and I’m way behind!”. Doesn’t matter, there’s a party in your honour, and you’re going.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What if I’m an introvert? Doesn’t matter. What if I’m busy? Doesn’t matter. What if I just plain don’t like parties? Doesn’t matter. None of that matters. Someone is giving you a gift, and pretty much any response except “thank you” makes you look like an a**hole. Suck it up, buttercup, you started it — you announced the first party, and they’re responding. If you don’t want people being happy for you and celebrating you and your spouse-to-be, elope instead. Trust me, more than once in six months that thought will occur to you.
Are parties really a challenge? Let me put it this way. My wife and I work Monday to Friday, meaning a lot of our “extra” work (like planning a wedding) happens on weekends. Buying this, meeting with that person, etc. Six months to organize it all means 26 weeks, and 26 weekends. You’ll see below we had 1 engagement shower, 1 wedding shower, 1 bachelorette party and 1 bachelor party. Four different weekends. Or roughly 15% of our weekends taken up with parties. That puts it about fourth in the time commitment column for all the items (behind ceremony, reception, and invitations).
Showers and engagement parties are two sides of the same coin, basically. Showers have traditionally been afternoon things, often aimed at women only but often now for both bride and groom, while engagement parties are often evening events for both parties. Showers are often thrown by extended family members, engagement parties are often thrown by parents or friends. But honestly? There’s no real difference. It’s a pre-wedding party, there will likely be cake, gifts, and a toast of some sort from the host, with extended family invited. Particularly perhaps some who might not be mobile enough to travel all the way to the wedding or not “close” enough to make the A-list. And, if there is more than one by different sides of the family, often it is mostly people from that side of the family at one or the other.
My wife and I had the honour of being celebrated twice, once for an engagement party organized by two aunts on my wife’s side and once for a shower hosted by my mother and supported by my siblings. Both featured pandas prominently.
Of course, people insisted upon giving gifts. Some group gifts, some small or individual gifts. And 80% of the people also attended the WEDDING. So again, you feel guilty people are buying you gifts instead of, you know, just joining you for a ceremony and party.
Doesn’t matter, just go with it. It’s not all about you.
The next two parties are often viewed as the more exciting “fun” parties. The Bachelorette and Bachelor parties. So let me talk for a brief minute about these parties, and it applies to both sides. First, they are often left to the bridal party (maid of honour or best man) to arrange and coordinate. Quite common in fact. With lots of possible attendees offering suggestions. Second, the degree of activity is varied. Some are quite simple — golfing, for example. Others are quite sophisticated and elaborate — weekend trip somewhere. Third, they almost always involve a series of activities, not just one thing. Fourth, there is almost always some form of alcohol consumed. And fifth, the honoree usually doesn’t know what the activities will be, exactly, or perhaps not even the date — there’s a surprise element. As a result of the five elements, the party-goers are generally friends, siblings, cousins, etc…parental units are sometimes invited but gently discouraged.
Now, the groups are usually comprised of a wide spectrum of interests and tastes. If I go with the stereotype for males, i.e. bachelor parties, there is one person who is a complete anti-social, anti-fun, stick in the mud. Usually the designated driver. At the opposite end is the frat party wannabe. And somewhere, sometime, someone is going to say, “it’s not a bach-party without strippers”. The presumably funny part is that you’re celebrating your last nights of “freedom” before becoming institutionalized by marriage. And you know, nothing says love and commitment like dancing with naked strangers. If you’re into it, go for it. My point isn’t to slam it, my point is that about 50-60% of the honorees have ZERO interest in having or seeing strippers at all. In fact, their mind is going in the completely opposite direction…a bunch are more like, “Why aren’t we having a buck-and-doe party instead? Partying together with our mutual friends?”. Yet someone is likely to not only suggest it is REQUIRED for the party, but insist upon it quite passionately.
Neither my wife and I are wild partiers. It’s not who we are. She is more open to it than I, I’m the stick-in-the-mud, no fun type. An analytical introvert.
For the bachelorette party, her and her friends decided on going to an aerial park in the afternoon — something a bit adventurous — and then a nice fun dinner in the market. She quite enjoyed her evening, by all accounts. Not that I necessarily know or need to know everything that happened, but I never worry about these things — I trust her to be her. The woman I loved then, the woman I love now, the woman I will love forever.
For the bachelor party, let’s go back to the five things I mentioned above:
- Organized by the best man — I didn’t have one;
- Simple or elaborate — I definitely didn’t want elaborate;
- Series of activities — I’m not super adventurous, so the aerial park type activity wouldn’t be at the top of my list;
- Alcohol consumption — I have little to no interest in being part of or around a drunkfest, so it would have to be more responsible than that; and,
- Surprise — I am not a spontaneous guy.
Okay, let’s face it, I have control issues. The thought of a bunch of guys showing up at my place to go out and do a bunch of things they thought I might like — or not — is kind of horrifying. I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. And while a bunch of idiots out there think, “Oh, it’ll be fine, you’ll relax and have a blast”, the short answer is “no, I won’t”. I’m an introvert, not a wannabe extrovert.
Yet I also didn’t want to completely miss out on the experience. So I organized my own bachelor party (insert pity party here, go on, I’ll wait). Okay, back now? I have always wanted to go golfing with a bunch of my friends and family. So I organized a small outing of what turned out to be about 8-9 of us. Then our intent was to go to this indoor go-kart track in Gatineau, but I had no idea that you needed a reservation for it. Oops. We had plans later for a nice steak dinner at the Keg, and a few of us killed some hours in the middle playing pool and eating unhealthy snacks. It was kind of an ideal party for me. And fortunately, no strippers in sight. Although, of course, the idea was floated somewhere during the day, cuz of course it was a bachelor party. Someone had to propose it (nixed by me).
So you attended the showers and / or engagement parties. You did some bachelor and bachelorette parties. You tracked all the gifts, figured out your schedules, etc. And you’re thinking, “whew, time for the wedding.”
There’s often a rehearsal dinner. So, if you’re getting married in a traditional venue, you probably have access to it the day before (like a church). And the bride-and-groom-to-be go there with the Minister, wedding party, parents, support people and walk through the basic schedule. Who will go down the aisle in what order, blah blah blah. It’s not a rehearsal in the normal sense like a play, it’s a walk-through for the next day so everyone is on the same page. Sometimes it is bland, no big deal. Other times, you suddenly realize that NOBODY IS ESCORTING GRANDMA!!!! And you have to adjust your schedule. Or cousin Bob, who is also the Best Man, didn’t realize he had to greet everyone when they arrive and he thought he would be at the front.
And then you all go for dinner. There are three options for the rehearsal dinner. First, you all go to a restaurant somewhere. Second, someone (often the groom’s parents) will host at their house. Or third, the couple will host themselves at their home. So, restaurant or someone else’s home or your own home.
The best option? On everything except cost and mingling, the restaurant. No muss, no fuss, everyone orders what they want, it’s a relatively set amount of time (say, 90 minutes plus or minus 30 minutes), and then everyone leaves with promise to “see you tomorrow”. Often with the plan to get a good night’s sleep. Sure, it might deteriorate into the wedding party going for drinks somewhere and it runs later, but at least there’s the hope.
Hosting at a parent’s home is an option, but whoever the host is, bear this in mind — they too have a big day the next day with a wedding and a long reception. Do they really want to be hosting a big party and cleaning up afterwards?
We chose to host at our house, which was the stupidest thing ever. Now, don’t get me wrong, the night was fine. It was very informal, which was great, everyone got to mingle, some of my family got to meet some of the extended family, it was nice and relaxed.
The social side was great. But then here’s the problem. When we finished, everybody left, most of them had a big day tomorrow too (as I said) and my wife was going to the hotel for the night with her mother. All good.
Except that left me at the house doing a bunch of clean-up. No big deal, initially, but then I realized that I had more stuff than would fit in one dishwasher load and some didn’t go in the dishwasher anyway. Plus I was going to be essentially gone all the next day, and partly on the Sunday too, and so I couldn’t leave dirty stuff sitting for two days. By the time I was done, I was exhausted. It had been a long couple of weeks doing all the final finishing touches, and then I was up to 1:00 the night before doing dishes. Plus, not for nothing, I had planned to use some of that time printing the final versions of my speech (and truth be told, editing it a bit) and detailed program for the next day. So I had to do that too. It was probably about 2:00 or so before I finally crashed.
All of which would have been avoided if I had really asked myself a simple question…”Do I really want to host a party at my house the night before the biggest day of my life? Does that seem like an effective planning strategy?”.
Last but not least, after doing all those parties, you would think we would be partied out? Apparently not. Often, or at least more recently apparently, there is a next-day brunch. Sort of a casual, come as you are, brunch. Some people are even stupid enough to host this at their homes. See problems above. Instead, we got that right, and we just did it at the hotel. We had a small area of the restaurant for us, and we just hung out while the people in the hotel came down for breakfast, ate, kissed us congratulations again, and left for home. Some people use the brunch time to open all the wedding gifts too, others wait until later when they’re home.
For me? I think the brunch was a great way to signal to ourselves “the stress is over”. Obviously, though, if you’re going on a honeymoon and leaving immediately, you probably won’t make it to brunch.