A bridal shower is a lovely way to celebrate the bride-to-be before her big day. The rehearsal dinner, or “the party before the party,” is the perfect event to kick off the wedding celebration. But how do you plan these two traditional wedding events? Ashley Fonzo, director of sales and events at Irem Clubhouse, has some tips for you. She has booked hundreds of bridal showers and rehearsal dinners at the unique wedding venue in Dallas, PA.

After setting a date and creating a guest list, you need to pick a location for the shower. Sometimes a bridal shower is held at someone’s house, but you can also hold the party at a nearby venue, such as a local restaurant. Irem Clubhouse will take 10% off both your shower and rehearsal dinner if you are holding your wedding reception at their location as well.

Once you have your venue and you’ve sent out your invitations, it’s time to choose the bridal shower decor. Pick a theme or color scheme that translates to your centerpieces, linens and other decorations to keep things consistent. Games can be focused around your theme, as well, from Bridal Shower Bingo to scratch-off cards to Mad Libs and more, according to WeddingWire.com. Just plan a time during the shower, possibly after everyone has finished eating, to sit down and play!

Unlike engagement parties, guests are usually expected to bring a gift to a bridal shower. That said, times have changed, and since a lot of couples are already living together, a traditional registry to Crate & Barrel or Bed Bath & Beyond are not as common anymore, according to Ashley. Many couples already have a home with china and glass wear and don’t need these type of items, but their family still wants to throw them a shower.

“More common is the monetary shower (gift cards or money), lottery shower (lottery tickets) or registering for your honeymoon (to help with travel costs and accommodations). Guests can put money into your account with your travel agent to, for example, pay for a dinner on your honeymoon or contribute to your overall cost,” Ashley said.

Another trend is the “display shower.” The bride-to-be does not open the gifts, but they are unwrapped and on display to everyone. That way, you can spend more time with your guests without having to open all of the gifts, especially if you have a large shower. Leave an envelope for a thank you note on everyone’s seat and have them fill out their name and address. This can be used for random prize drawings and for your thank you note envelope. “That ensures you have everyone’s correct address, and they don’t get lost in the mail,” Ashley said. “You want to have them for the wedding, too.”

Giveaways are popular items at a bridal shower, from individual gifts or favors to raffle baskets made by the bridesmaids. “Tie the favor to the theme of the shower so everything matches and is cohesive,” Ashley said. There are a lot of options that can work for any shower theme, and guests will love being able to take home the gift too!

When it comes to food, don’t be afraid to ask for a custom menu for your guests, Ashley said. “If you see something you like on the menu, let us know,” she said. “There’s always an option to incorporate it. One of our brides wanted a taco-themed shower, so she did a taco bar and margarita fountain. There’s something out there for everybody!”

Rehearsal Dinner – Simple and Stress-free

You have a lot to do the day of the wedding, so you want to keep it simple when it comes to the rehearsal dinner the night before. A quick buffet dinner is easiest so you don’t have to worry about what dinner each guest requested, Ashley said. Don’t assign seats – it only adds stress to the day. Try to make it an early night, with a half-hour rehearsal and then the dinner.

“You don’t want to party all night when you have a wedding the next day,” Ashley said.

A theme is not required for the rehearsal dinner. Make sure the menu incorporates different foods than you will be having at your wedding, Ashley recommends. Guests don’t want to eat the same food two days in a row.

Most of all, enjoy. This will be the last time you really get to sit, relax and catch a breath with family and friends before the big day!