Your guide to who hosts what (and when)

You're busy planning your big day. But what about all the events that come beforehand? As the bride or groom, you shouldn't have to worry about throwing multiple mini-fetes—so who traditionally takes on host/hostess duties? And what's expected at each? We asked Jamie Rapavy, wedding specialist at Columbus Bride & Groom, to help untangle etiquette, expectations and trends.

Engagement Party

The host: A relative or the couple

The guests: Family and closest friends

The details: Rapavy emphasizes that, contrary to what TV and movies may suggest, glamorous engagement parties aren't a given. “It's certainly not necessary. If you want to host one, I'd suggest a nice, relaxed dinner at Lindey's or a Cameron Mitchell restaurant with close family and friends,” she says. One thing to keep in mind: Even in the age of constant social media sharing, it's still strongly recommended to first share your big news with family and closest friends (in person if possible) before hitting “send” on that Instagram announcement video.

Bridal or Couple's Shower

The host: Bride's mom, sibling, relative, friend and/or maid/matron of honor

The guests: All the women from your bridal party, along with close female friends and relatives (for couple's showers, the gender restriction is lifted)

The details: Your shower is a great time to welcome older loved ones like aunts and grandmothers in a setting they're likely to enjoy. “This is often a casual daytime gathering at someone's home. You can also rent smaller spaces, such as a room in a restaurant,” Rapavy says. She adds that couple's showers are becoming increasingly popular; these lighthearted gatherings of mixed company typically features fewer traditional shower games and activities.

Bachelor/Bachelorette party

The host: Matron/maid of honor and best man organizes for the bride and groom, respectively

The guests: Generally limited to the male or female bridal party members and closest friends

The details: Rapavy encourages couples to ask their planner for helpful suggestions and referrals to trusted local vendors. “Lately, guys want a golf outing or trip to the shooting range,” she says. “The ladies tend to like nice spa weekends, weekends away with friends or a winery.” She adds that most men now think beyond the outdated cliché of strippers and binge drinking, opting for something like renting a Hocking Hills cabin instead. The timing is changing, too. “I don't know anyone who does this event the night before the wedding anymore,” Rapavy says. “We recommend one to two months beforehand, because those final weeks before the wedding are busy; it will give you plenty of time to recover and enjoy your big day.”

Rehearsal dinner

The host: Groom's parents and/or family

The guests: The bridal party, the couple's immediate families, anyone who will have any role during your wedding (such as readers or ushers) and typically any family or close friends traveling from out of town

The details: “This is the groom's family's chance to celebrate him and welcome the bride and bride's family. For this reason, it's the perfect place to serve a groom's cake,” says Rapavy. She notes that same-sex weddings could easily switch things up with two grooms' (or two brides') cakes. This also is the ideal time to pass out attendants' gifts and recognize individuals who have helped make the big day possible.