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Weddings bring lots of excuses for celebration, including bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, day-after brunches and more. Here’s how to make those great!

As if it’s not enough to plan a wedding, other parties crowd the schedule, particularly as guests travel far and wide to take part. Gone are the days of the rehearsal dinner that includes only the bridal party, and day-after brunches have taken the wedding world by storm. Also, showers with all your besties will never go out of style. “There might be a rehearsal dinner on Friday, but welcome cocktails on Thursday,” says event coordinator Victoria Canada. “Pool parties, brunch the day after . . . people are really taking advantage of all Arizona has to offer and turning the celebration into a whole wedding weekend.”

Liven Up Your Rehearsal Dinner

Invite everybody, and do something different. Bring in a food truck or two—grilled cheese, tacos, ice cream sandwiches—and pour a good craft beer, and let the whole gathering celebrate the local purveyors as well as the two of you.

Shower Me Sophisticated

Drop the oh-so-’90s trend of the “couples shower,” and dial it back to just the girls. Pretty it up—declare a dress code, decorate with floral art, serve champagne cocktails in pink or blue (or a fine hard punch floating with sherbet), and don’t make anyone stand still for a toilet paper wedding gown.

Introduce Yourselves

At a welcome cocktail hour in the bar or a post-rehearsal gathering, introduce your stars by video. On a big screen, run a loop of the bridal party, complete with their names and a little about your relationship. Maybe it’s a bright font that says, “Sherri, maid of honor, met bride Catherine in kindergarten (stole her crayons, actually), loves cats, and will be the only one wearing flats.” Or run an on-screen interview with each member of the bridal party, right down to the adorable ringbearer who clams up and just stares.

Feed the Masses

“People are really looking out for their guests’ comfort,” says Canada, noting that a bagels and cream cheese buffet set up mid-morning will fuel people to keep going even if the wedding doesn’t start till late in the day. Set it up right with mimosas, dark roast coffee, several flavors of bagels and cream cheeses, and people will flock in, creating yet another gathering of new friends.

Games They Play

At any gathering, bring out the gigantic games.
Some possibilities:

Bocce ball, Corn hole, Giant jenga, Horseshoes, Lawn chess, Volleyball

For the full photo shoot and list of participants, see the Summer/Fall 2012 issue

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