An engagement party is a great way to celebrate the upcoming nuptials with friends and family.
It’s also a perfect excuse to have an extra good time because you are about to embark on one of life’s most meaningful journeys.
This blog will cover everything you need to know, from planning your guest list, choosing your venue, budgeting for food and decor, as well as some tips for throwing an unforgettable bash. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 1 Planning an Engagement Party
- 1.1 Figure Out Who’ll Host.
- 1.2 Take Some Time to Breathe—and Then Set a Date.
- 1.3 Determine the Budget.
- 1.4 Pick a Place That Matches the Formality.
- 1.5 Get the Guest List Together and Decide Who to Invite.
- 1.6 Send Out Engagement Party Invites With Plenty of Lead Time.
- 1.7 Decide on a Menu.
- 1.8 Think About Décor.
- 1.9 Come up With a Gift Strategy.
- 1.10 Assign Day-Of Duties.
- 1.11 Prepare to Dress the Part.
- 2 Engagement Party Etiquette
- 2.1 Who Throws the Engagement Party?
- 2.2 When Do You Throw an Engagement Party?
- 2.3 Who Do You Invite to an Engagement Party?
- 2.4 Do You Need to Send Formal Invitations?
- 2.5 Should You Include Registry Information With the Invitation?
- 2.6 Can You Have More Than One Engagement Party?
- 2.7 Can You Combine the Party With a Holiday or Birthday?
- 2.8 When Should the Parents Meet for the First Time?
- 3 The Do’s and Don’ts of Planning an Engagement Party
- 4 What Are Good Activities to Include?
- 5 Conclusion
Planning an Engagement Party
First and foremost, congratulations! We’re so happy for you and your partner. Now that the proposal’s out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about something else that’s important—we’re talking about planning your engagement party.
Not sure where to start or exactly what to do? No problem—we’ve got all the answers on how (and when) to plan an engagement party.
Figure Out Who’ll Host.
Want to throw your engagement party? Go for it!
Traditionally, the bride’s parents host, but these days it’s entirely appropriate for anyone close to the couple to take on this role or for several people (say, both sets of parents) to host jointly.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to how to plan an engagement party. You can also have more than one engagement party hosted by different people.
So there’s no need to stress if your parents want to throw a formal event just for family, while you might like to host something more casual for your friends.
Two parties might also make sense if you live in a different city from your families.
Hosting duties usually include sending the invites, making a toast and paying for the party, so whoever decides to take on the task should keep that in mind.
Take Some Time to Breathe—and Then Set a Date.
Whether you or someone else ultimately hosts this fun event, you are probably wondering when to have an engagement party.
Once again, there’s no right or wrong answer. You need to factor in your host’s schedule if you’re not self-hosting the event.
Also, you might want to factor in guest availability –– particularly for close friends and family who might need to travel from out of town to be a part of it.
Perhaps more than anything, we recommend that you try to figure out when the party would be most enjoyable for you.
Depending on the length of your engagement, you might throw a party anywhere from a few weeks after the proposal to six months into wedding planning.
While an intimate and impromptu family gathering the weekend after the proposal is the perfect opportunity to break out the bubbly, don’t schedule an all-out opulent affair the first month.
Give yourself some time to revel in your newly engaged status and absorb the fact you’re getting married before you jump into planning your first party.
Waiting also gives you time to envision the guest list size, style and location of your wedding, which will help decide on the type of event you want to throw for the engagement party.
Determine the Budget.
If you are hosting, be careful not to blow your entire wedding budget on this one pre-wedding event.
If someone else is hosting, you may have a little more flexibility –– but be careful to respect their generosity and discuss some solid numbers upfront.
Detailed budgets aren’t just for the wedding, and this will give you a chance to practice crunching those numbers.
Even if you’re having a very low-key event, a budget is still a good idea because you (or whoever’s hosting) will want to have a sense of what’s realistic to spend.
Knowing your budget will also help you narrow down venue ideas and decide on the number of guests you can invite.
Pick a Place That Matches the Formality.
When planning an engagement party, one of the most important decisions is where to host it.
A restaurant or home is a classic choice for an engagement party, but there’s no reason you have to limit yourself to those two options, and any spot—from an art gallery to a beach—is fair game.
Just like the wedding venue, the place you pick should speak to the formality of the party you want to throw, so if you’re thinking casually, your backyard or a local park could be a great option. Or, perhaps a friend or family member has the perfect place to throw a party.
For something more formal, you might look into a country club or hotel rooftop.
As you decide on the venue and formality, keep in mind: You never want to upstage the actual wedding.
So try to create a different mood for the engagement party—maybe you balance a destination wedding with a home-cooked dinner party or set apart a black-tie ballroom affair with a sit-on-the-floor, buffet-style engagement bash.
Think of this as a fun launch to what’s sure to be a unique and memorable period of your life.
Get the Guest List Together and Decide Who to Invite.
If you’re wondering, “Who do I invite to this engagement party?”
Just know that there are no rules, except this important one: Any guest invited to your engagement party should also be asked to your wedding.
That means you should think about the size of your wedding before you set your guest list for the engagement party—you wouldn’t want to have a 100-person engagement party if you’re planning an intimate 50-person wedding.
If you don’t have a sense for your guest list yet (and that’s okay), just keep it small with only your closest friends and family to make sure you avoid any hurt feelings later on.
The guest list for your engagement party will also depend on the amount of space available, your party budget and who is planning the party.
For example, if your parents are planning the bash and covering the cost, it’s probably appropriate to let them help you decide the guest list.
If you already have a space picked out for the party — such as a local restaurant, a friend’s house or your backyard — space limitations may help you cull your list.
Also, consider who lives in town or within driving distance of the venue.
Send Out Engagement Party Invites With Plenty of Lead Time.
For the best engagement party attendance, let your guests know the date as soon as possible.
Just like with the venue, your invites should match the formality of the event you’re planning.
E-vites with a summertime theme are appropriate for a backyard cookout, but for a sit-down dinner at a chic restaurant, you should consider a paper invite.
If you’ve chosen your wedding invitation designer already, see if they’ll give you a special rate.
And don’t worry if you haven’t settled on a colour palette yet—your engagement party invites don’t need to match the rest of your stationery.
Send out the invites at least a month in advance (six weeks ahead if many guests are coming from out of town).
There’s no need for a formal save-the-date, but once you’ve pinned down the day, it’s a good idea to let guests know by word of mouth before you send out the formal invites.
Your stationery can also double as engagement announcement cards.
Decide on a Menu.
Another essential element when planning an engagement party is, of course, the food.
You certainly don’t have to serve a five-course sit-down dinner with an open bar (unless you want to), but there should be something to munch and sip on at your party.
Anything from passed appetisers or tasting menu stations to an eat-when-you-want cookout will work.
If you’re not serving a complete course, you should pick a time between typical meals and make it clear on the invitation, so your guests know what to expect.
For example: “Join us in celebrating Alex and Taylor’s engagement with desserts and champagne.”
We love the idea of an afternoon affair with a chip-and-dip bar and margaritas or a brunch-time omelette station and mimosas.
Another idea is to add some personalisation to the food and drink by featuring cuisine from a memorable date or vacation, such as sushi rolls and sake-tinis for a Japanese-inspired menu. This is a great time to introduce some of your favourite foods to your loved ones.
Think About Décor.
Give the décor some thought, but don’t overthink it.
You don’t have to match the style or colours of your wedding perfectly, or even at all, for your engagement party.
When in doubt, keep it simple—a bunch of fresh or paper flowers will instantly perk up any space.
You can work with a florist to have them make a few small arrangements, but this is also a great time to try your hand at some DIY projects too.
Want to look beyond flowers? Dress up the tables with colourful fabric, an assortment of votive candles or a few accents that hint at your wedding theme, like seashells for beach nuptials.
Come up With a Gift Strategy.
Unlike the bridal shower and the eventual wedding, gifts aren’t necessarily given for the engagement party.
That said, there’s always a chance you’ll get some anyway.
If you’re hoping to receive gifts for your engagement party, then this would be a great time to start building your registry so that you can add a link to your wedding website on your invitation.
If you prefer guests not to bring gifts or want to suggest a favourite charity they can donate to instead of presents, a polite note on the invitation will make it clear.
Assign Day-Of Duties.
These days, it’s not unheard of to hire a photographer or even a videographer or coordinator for a more elaborate engagement soiree.
You don’t have to do that, but you may need to enlist a few friends and family to help out with tasks like setting up, collecting gifts, facilitating games and taking photos.
Figure out ahead of time who would be good at what and ask if people wouldn’t mind lending a hand so you can focus on mingling with guests.
Prepare to Dress the Part.
Your first party as a to-be-wed couple deserves special outfits.
As you shop for something new (or raid your closet), keep the party setting and venue in mind.
For the bride-to-be, aside from the obvious (don’t wear a long, beaded evening gown to a casual backyard bash), select something that won’t outdo your wedding look but is unique enough that you’ll still stand out from your guests.
A sundress will work for an outdoor affair or a fancier fete, and a cocktail dress is a safe bet. And for the groom-to-be, while you don’t have to don a suit and tie (and certainly not a tux)—unless the venue calls for it—you should match your partner’s level of formality.
Also, remember the many other parties you’ll have to get dressed for ahead, from the bridal shower to the rehearsal dinner. With those in mind, now might be the perfect time to sign up for a particular program.
Engagement Party Etiquette
Not sure who plans and pays for an engagement party? Who gets invited? And what’s the best way to send invitations? Here are answers to the most frequently asked engagement party etiquette questions.
Who Throws the Engagement Party?
Traditionally, engagement parties are hosted by the bride’s parents, but anyone can throw the engagement party. Some couples even choose to throw their celebration!
When Do You Throw an Engagement Party?
Throw your engagement party soon after you get engaged.
There will be many other festivities in your honour along the way, so it’s great to spread them out. If you’re having a more prolonged engagement or don’t have time to travel home right away, a slight delay is no problem.
Who Do You Invite to an Engagement Party?
As with all of your pre-wedding parties, anyone who makes the guestlist for your engagement party must also be invited to the wedding.
This is particularly the case if the two of you or your parents will host the engagement party.
Do You Need to Send Formal Invitations?
Deciding whether or not to send formal invitations to your engagement party depends on the type of event.
If you have a little time and are hosting a seated dinner, paper invitations are an elegant option. Are you going more casual?
Opt for an e-vite with a playful theme. The great thing about e-vites is that the design options are endless so that you can choose a formal design for a fancier engagement party.
Should You Include Registry Information With the Invitation?
While it’s A-OK to complete a registry for guests who want to bring a gift to your engagement party, it’s inappropriate to include registry information in your engagement party invitation.
Instead, include registry links on your wedding website or rely on word of mouth.
Just remember that giving gifts, while certainly customary, is not mandatory for engagement parties.
Can You Have More Than One Engagement Party?
Having more than one engagement party is quite common, especially if the bride and groom are from different places (or live far from home) and want to have a party with non-locals, too.
If your friends or coworkers want to plan something informal, like after-work drinks, you can invite a more extensive group without worrying about a faux etiquette pas.
Can You Combine the Party With a Holiday or Birthday?
Whether you got engaged over the holidays or any other time of year, you have the option of combining your engagement party with another celebration.
Just try to avoid holidays for which people will have other plans and focus on family traditions, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, or a date like Valentine’s Day when people want to make plans with their special someone.
When Should the Parents Meet for the First Time?
At an engagement party, the atmosphere isn’t going to be correct. Your parents’ first meeting should give them a chance to talk and get to know each other in an intimate setting.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Planning an Engagement Party
To help you determine whether an engagement party is right for you, we’ll take a moment to answer some of the more common questions and provide some party planning tips to make sure your party is engaging.
Why Should I Have an Engagement Party?
Before you get busy with the flurry of wedding planning details, an engagement party allows you to savour and celebrate the loving decision you’ve made. It’s also an excellent opportunity for extended family and friends to interact and get to know each other better.
Is it Mandatory?
An engagement party is customary in some social circles or when the engagement period will last longer than a year.
If you’re planning to get married quickly, there is no need for a formal party, and an announcement in the newspaper or save-the-date magnet should suffice.
Who Hosts the Party?
Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the engagement party. But there is no set rule in today’s society. The party can be hosted by either parent or by the couple themselves.
Should My Engagement Party Be a Particular Size or Style?
No. Don’t feel compelled to invite everyone you would to the wedding. This is a more intimate gathering for family and friends.
Therefore, it can be as casual or as formal as your budget allows. From dinner parties at home, a luau on the beach or a more formal affair at a hotel, just like your wedding, the engagement party should reflect your style and personality.
Should I Provide Party Favors for the Guests?
Inexpensive favours, such as save-the-date magnets or personalised chocolates and candies that serve as reminders of the wedding date, are a great way to thank guests.
Can My Engagement Party Be a Surprise?
Absolutely! But proceed with caution.
A family gathering can easily be turned into an engagement party just by proposing. Or you can plan the entire community for that very purpose.
However, be very sure that your intended audience will accept it. Otherwise, things could get awkward and embarrassing.
What Are Good Activities to Include?
Depending on the type of party, a program of activities may not be necessary. However, a few words about the engaged couple are always appropriate, even at a casual affair. For a more structured event, here are some suggested activities:
- The couple can share how they met
- Guests can roast the couple
- Show a video of the couple then and now
- The couple can give gifts to each other and their parents
- Introduce immediate family members
- Have guests share “advice” on marriage
- Take a family photo
- Announce wedding date and further details
Whether you decide on an intimate dinner party or a swanky soiree, let a sense of romance drive the mood of the celebration. Love is definitely in the air, and it’s engaging!
Planning an engagement party doesn’t need to be stressful. If you enjoy planning parties, take charge and make it a blast! If you’re not so excited at the prospect, take up someone else’s offer to host this signature pre-wedding event.