Recently engaged? Congratulations! Thinking about an engagement party? We’ve got you covered. Nervous? Don’t be. No one is required to have an engagement party. And—it can be fun and relatively stress-free. Best of all? There are (almost) no rules!
Think of it this way: It’s a chance for your friends and family to get to know your partner’s friends and family in a relaxed, joyous environment before the big day. Who wouldn’t want that?
Ready to give it a shot? Here are 12 tips to help you plan an engagement party that’s memorable for everyone—especially you and your partner.
1. Decide who’s hosting
Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the engagement party, but traditions change. If it’s geographically feasible, both sets of parents can host the party. Or you and your dearly beloved can throw the party yourselves. Perhaps a friend wants to do the honors. Just don’t ask someone to host it for you and expect them to pay!
2. Don’t wait too long!
Hold the party soon after your engagement is announced and well before the wedding—while it’s still news. You might want to announce the engagement at the party itself, providing you can find a pretext for bringing everyone together (and you’re good at keeping secrets).
Here’s another reason to hold the party early on: The months and weeks before the wedding will be full of planning, showers and other festivities. Celebrate your engagement before the whirlwind of wedding-related activities sweeps you away.
3. Pick the venue and menu you want
Any place can be the right place for an engagement party — everything from a friend’s backyard to the swankiest hotel around. It all depends on your budget and taste. One possibility is to select a place that’s meaningful to you and your beau. For instance, the place you met, a favorite pub, or the restaurant you went to on your first date are all great options.
Really, there’s only one thing to keep in mind: don’t let your engagement party outshine your wedding. If you plan to get married in a barn with a barbecue-and-beer reception, you probably don’t want your the engagement dinner to be held at a Michelin star restaurant.
The type of food you select is also completely flexible, as is the venue. Pizza in the backyard is perfectly fine if that’s what you’re feeling! For that matter, caviar at the Ritz is great too. Just be sure to have food, and plenty of it (drinks might be a good idea as well).
4. Build the invitation list carefully
This is the time to select the people with whom you want to share this special event. But remember: proper wedding invitation etiquette dictates that guests invited to your engagement party should also be invited to your wedding.
The reverse, however, isn’t true. You don’t have to invite everyone who’s coming to your wedding to your engagement celebration. But you should invite everyone in the wedding party. Sure, not everyone will be able to make it—like your college roommate who lives 1,000 miles away—but let them know they’re welcome.
5. Create and send the invitations
The invitations should match the formality (or informality) of the party. A simple gathering in your parents’ backyard? An email invitation will probably do the trick. Just keep in mind that your older relatives may not be as nimble with email as you are, so consider paper invitations for your grandparents and other elders.
A phone call could also be a nice, personal way to inform people about your engagement party. This can be done in addition to sending emails/paper invites.
For a fancy dinner at a high-end restaurant, send paper invitations to everyone. You can even save money making them yourself if you’d rather spend that cash elsewhere. Or, if you’ve already selected a wedding invitation vendor, see if you can get a package deal.
6. Share the joy—and the tasks
If you and your spouse-to-be are hosting, give yourselves time to mingle and celebrate! In the weeks before the party, enlist a few friends and family members to help with set-up, photos, stocking the bar, keeping the food platters full, etc.
7. Encourage mingling
Engagement parties are all about the mingling and mixing. Remember: This is an opportunity for your nearest and dearest to meet your partner’s nearest and dearest. So think buffet, unassigned seating and lots of small tables and chairs.
8. Be discreet about gifts
Presents are not customary at an engagement party but, of course, some people will come bearing them—even if you put “no gifts, please” on the invitation. When folks do, thank them politely but put the gift somewhere out of sight. You can open them after everyone’s gone. After all, you don’t want to make other guests feel guilty or uncomfortable.
9. Do the family meet-and-greet before the party
One of the traditional reasons for an engagement party is to introduce the families. But a party may not be the best venue for that first meeting. Consider a small family gathering the morning of or evening before the party.
10. Dress for the occasion
What you and your partner wear should match the tone of the event. But don’t wear something that will outshine your wedding garb!
If you’re going to show off an engagement ring, be sure it’s polished, your hands are neat and nails trimmed: This may be a good time for a manicure.
11. Prepare to toast and to be toasted
The father of the bride usually traditionally proposes the first toast—especially if he’s a host. The groom-to-be follows, toasting his future father-in-law, the fiancée and her family. Even if you aren’t following tradition, expect the host to toast you and your partner. You, in turn, should have a gracious toast prepared for your host. Regardless of who’s hosting, be sure to toast the parents!
12. Be prepared to tell your story
Everyone will want to hear about how you met, who proposed to whom and some of your wedding plans.
To avoid telling this over and over, share your story together—in front of everyone—perhaps after the toasts.
See? It’s about celebrating your engagement with those you love and giving everyone a chance to meet, mingle and have some fun. Now go plan that party!
What’s your experience with engagement parties? Have any unique traditions or stand-out moments that weren’t covered here? Let us know — we would love to hear from you! Plus, don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages for more wedding inspo!