Showers, luncheons, bachelor and bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners — there's a ton of wedding planning to be done before the wedding itself. If the schedule of festivities has you feeling overwhelmed, read on for a breakdown and tips from local event planners Kenny LaCour, owner of Grand Events, Dakota Restaurant and Dakota-Catered; Emily Radosta, sales manager of Tommy's Cuisine and Wine Bar and Tomas Bistro; and Sarah Hall, president of Joel Catering.
Who: Traditionally, the bride's parents hold the engagement party, but Hall says it is not compulsory. A close friend or family relation such as a godparent may hold the party. The guest list usually includes family and close friends of the bride and groom.
What to do: "Any considerate host or hostess wants to do something that they know the honoree will enjoy and that suits their interests," LaCour says. Conversely, Hall notes the guests of honor "should be respectful and appreciative of the people giving their time and money (to host the party)."
When: Schedule the party once the wedding date and venue are secured.
"People want to know when and where the wedding will be," LaCour says. "The wedding is the talk of the party."
Engagement parties usually are held six to eight months before the wedding. Hall says his clients often throw engagement parties three to four months after becoming engaged, which may be anywhere from eight to 12 months pre-wedding.
Where: An engagement party typically is held in the bride's hometown.
Who: Showers generally are the domain of close friends. In the case of couples' showers, a couple or several couples who are close to the bride and groom plan the party. Guest lists vary depending on the type of shower.
What to do: Bar, kitchen and lingerie showers are a few popular themes. LaCour suggests tweaking the tried and true — for example, consider a "grape shower" instead of a bar shower for the bride or couple who appreciates wine. Such an event can include a sommelier or wine expert, food pairings and bar- or wine-themed gifts. "It's a more focused way of having a bar shower," LaCour says. "It's fun and interactive."
When: Showers usually are scheduled during the month of the wedding or in the several weeks leading up to it.
Where: "It's more personal when done in a home," LaCour says. Plenty of other locales fit the bill as well. One of Hall's favorites is Le Salon at the Windsor Court.
Bachelor and bachelorette parties
Who: Friends organize the bachelor and bachelorette parties.
What to do: LaCour suggests combining two parties into one — for example, a lingerie shower and night out on the town — for a memorable bachelorette evening. Radosta says bachelor and bachelorette parties sometimes book small dinners, then head to the nearby French Quarter.
When: Bachelor/bachelorette parties take place two to four months before the wedding — never the night before, contrary to what's often portrayed in movies.
Where: LaCour recommends clients hold this event out of town so they can escape from the demands of wedding planning. Whether it's a laid-back beach gathering or a Las Vegas getaway, revelers should plan activities that take advantage of the environment. Hall suggests a day at the spa, where attendants can bond and relax.
Who: The bridal luncheon traditionally is given by the mother of the bride or a close friend of hers.
What to do: LaCour likes to plan a light menu. His favorite venues include Salon by Sucre and Cafe Amelie.
When: The day before the wedding, when bridesmaids and out-of-town family members have arrived.
Where: A private room at a favorite restaurant near the bride's and/or bridal party's accommodations.
Welcome party for out-of-town guests
Who: Friends of the bride and groom
What to do: With so many events preceding the wedding, some couples are merging the welcome party and rehearsal dinner. Some of LaCour's clients host an intimate rehearsal dinner in a private room of a restaurant and then move to different area in the restaurant (a balcony or bar, for example) where out-of-town guests join the party for dessert and drinks. Arnaud's, which has an assortment of private rooms as well as an iconic bar, is one of his favorite venues.
When: Usually a few days before the wedding or the night before the wedding if combined with the rehearsal dinner.
Where: Often at someone's home. May also be held at a venue.
Who: The groom's parents traditionally host the rehearsal dinner. Family, close friends and the bridal party are invited. Often the bride and groom invite out-of-town guests as well.
What to do: Keep this an intimate affair for guests who know the couple well enough to toast them, LaCour says. Size is relative, however. With large families, large bridal parties and the pressure to entertain out-of-town guests, many rehearsal dinners have guest lists of 70 or more, LaCour says. Radosta suggests a plated menu at the rehearsal dinner, because the wedding menu often is served buffet-style.
When: Usually the night before the wedding. For a Saturday night wedding, some of Radosta's clients have their rehearsal dinner on Thursday night, since Friday is the day of the bride's and groom's respective luncheons. "They're spacing it out more," she says.
Where: A private room at a restaurant.
Who: Often this is an extension of the wedding and is given by the bride's parents.
What to do: LaCour second-lines guests to an unannounced after-party venue. "Look for ways to make it fun and not cliche," he says. Guests can adjourn to a favorite place on their own. LaCour suggests the Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar and the Windsor Court's Polo Lounge.
When: After the wedding and reception.
Where: A well-known watering hole.
Day after party for out-of-town guests
Who: The bride's parents or several couples at one of the couples' home.
What to do: Typically, this is a farewell continental-style brunch. LaCour suggests giving it a local spin with cuisine such as grillades and grits or beignets and omeletes. "Convenience and easiness is key," Hall says. "People need time to pack."
When: Early the morning after the wedding as people are departing.
Where: The host hotel, a place close to the guests' accommodations or the home of the hosts.