Obviously an engagement party is the first celebration on the list, which can be as extravagant or as intimate as you like.
A bridal shower can be had instead of, or aswell as, an engagement party. It is usually hosted by the Maid of Honour (if you have one), or by one or all of the bridesmaids. There is nothing in tradition that says who you must or must not invite to the bridal shower, so it really depends on you and you F.H. You can make it classy and formal or have it casual and fun. For my bridal shower, I’m going to have a few close friends and family over to my M.O.H’s house (as it is much bigger than mine). We’re going to watch romantic/wedding-themed movies, have lots of wine and food, play lots of fun wedding-themed games, pamper ourselves with face masks, etc and then all sleep over. I think it’s a fun, relaxed environment to have for the shower. Men and women can be invited, unless of course you wish for an all-girl shower.
Traditionally, the day before the wedding you should host a bridal luncheon. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for it to be hosted 2 to 3 weeks before the big day. This should provide an opportunity for you to thank those in your bridal party for being involved in the wedding, give out any gifts you may want them to have, discuss any last arrangements for the wedding day and just generally celebrate how close the wedding day is. It’s a thoughtful gesture, for you to provide acknowledgement for each attendant for her friendship and participation. A bridal luncheon can be anything from a lunch or brunch to a formal dinner or cocktail hour.
Also, traditionally, you would normally have a rehearsal dinner. This is usually restricted to the bridal party and close members of immediate family. It is traditionally on the evening before the wedding day, and hosted by the groom’s family. This, in modern times, is not always the case. You may choose to host it yourself, or have another close member of the family to host it (such as your parents). If you have wedding guests that have travelled a long way to attend the ceremony and reception, it is a thoughtful gesture to invite them to the rehearsal dinner.
With the hen and stag parties, you aren’t obliged to invite or not invite anyone in particular. It really depends on how many people you are close to and what activities you are planning. For example, if you are going out to a pub or nightclub, you obviously won’t be inviting any young guests such as flower girls. If you are going on a spa day, you may only want the female members of your bridal party, including your mother and mother in law. But an activity day or a meal can involve anyone you wish. If you have close family or friends that aren’t part of your official bridal party, you are welcome to invite them – especially if they have been involved in the planning process of your wedding.
I hope this helps you and your F.H. x