The celebration begins long before the wedding itself, with a variety of gatherings with family and friends. You can stick with tradition or add your own twists with these pre- and post-wedding day parties. For the wedding itself, if a day is not enough to spend with those you love, consider creating an agenda of wedding-weekend festivities.

ENGAGEMENT PARTY: Whether hosted by parents or the couple, it's a great way to meet or get reacquainted with new family members before the big day. If you have a wedding party, it is an opportunity for them to get to know each other, and of course to celebrate your engagement! 

SHOWERS: Family and friends usually host showers, so it is good to discuss with them if you want to go solo or if you both want to be the guests of honor. Wedding showers for the couple are more common than ever before. From themed parties to fun outings, ideas are endless from a day of wine tasting, boat cruises, to paint or calligraphy classes. You can create wedding gift and alternative wedding registries.

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LUNCHEONS: This gathering can be enjoyed with close friends and family, but is often enjoyed with members of the wedding party, following a fitting of dresses or formalwear. This is also an opportunity to give any gifts to those with a special role in the wedding. 

BACHELOR/ETTE PARTY: This is a fun and casual outing with close friends and family. It can be as simple as celebrating at home or a local establishment, to a weekend destination. You can combine festivities with your soon-to-be spouse or have separate celebrations.

WEDDING BREAKFAST: This can be hosted by the couple, a friend, or family member at a home or at the hotel where guests are staying. It's another opportunity to spend time with those near to you and for those who have come a distance to celebrate with you. It's also a great time to go over the day's agenda. 

REHEARSAL DINNER: This meal is held after the ceremony rehearsal, and can be as simple as a backyard barbeque or as elaborate as the host wishes. Traditionally this has been hosted by the groom's parents, but can of course be paid for by the couple themselves or someone else close to them. This usually includes the couple, immediate family, attendants, ceremony officiant (& spouse), special out-oftown guests, or other family or friends that the host chooses to invite.

AFTER PARTY: A casual affair in the hotel bar, a specially created lounge, or at a nearby establishment ensures a little celebration and relaxation with those nearest and dearest, following the reception dinner and dance. 

BRUNCH: Before your out-of-town guests return home, a post-wedding day brunch is a perfect opportunity for one last gathering, to share your appreciation and say your goodbyes.

GIFT OPENING: Gifts are usually opened the day after the wedding. Close family and friends enjoy gathering around, visiting once again, and seeing what the couple received. Some couples choose to do their gift opening in private and sometimes even wait until they return from their honeymoon. The choice is yours.

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Find a full list of wedding party vendors and venues throughout Madison and the surrounding areas here: