Wedding Planning Guide

Engagement Party 101

engagement party planning

Photo: Ashlee Taylor

Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now what? The next step is to celebrate the two of you making it official. Enter: the engagement party. This pre-wedding celebration is typically the first of many parties leading up to the big day, and we’ve created this etiquette and planning guide for the couple, hosts, and guests detailing the who, what, when, and where.

Engagement Party Etiquette

Thankfully, there aren’t many hard and fast rules around engagement parties. We’ve outlined the most common questions:

1. Who throws the engagement party?
Traditionally, a formal engagement party is thrown by the parents of the bride-to-be, but more casual celebrations can be thrown by friends or even the couple themselves.

2. When do you throw an engagement party?
Plan the engagement party for within the first few months of the engagement. Our advice: Wait at least a month after getting engaged so that you can enjoy this happy time together without jumping right into wedding planning mode.

3. Who do you invite to an engagement party?
Invite the families of both sides, close friends, and wedding-party members (or potential wedding-party members—it’s OK if you haven’t asked them yet). Just remember that anyone invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding (although not everyone invited to the wedding needs to be invited to the engagement party).

4. Do I need to mail out formal engagement party invitations?
This depends on the type of celebration you’ll be having. For something more casual and low-key, like a gathering at someone’s home or backyard, feel free to skip the printed party invitations and send a online invitation or email with the party details. But for a more formal gathering, mailing a printed invitation will clearly set the tone for an elegant celebration to come.

5. Should guests bring gifts to an engagement party?
Presents are not required at an engagement party—the main focus of the party should be celebrating the happy news. However, if you do decide to buy an engagement gift, don’t spend more than 20% of your total gifting budget (factoring in the wedding present and potentially a bridal shower gift).

Advice for the Host

Consult the couple.
Before you start planning, find out what kind of engagement celebration the couple wants, who they’d like on the guest list, and what date works best for them.

Choose a venue that suits the formality.
Whether it’s a favorite bar, a fancy restaurant, or your own home, the venue should reflect the style of celebration you’re going for.

Plan ahead.
Make reservations and send invitations well in advance to avoid any last-minute complications and to ensure as many guests as possible can attend the party.

Share the important information.
Whether online or printed, the party invitations will set the tone for the event and give guests cues for what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect.

Arrange an activity.
A round of trivia, lawn games, or a photo booth are fun ways to help guests get to know each other and have a good time.

Get inspired.
Find cocktail recipes, DIY decoration ideas, playlists, and more on our blog, Julep.

Engagement Party Planning Checklist:

  • Coordinate with the couple on the party date and guest list. Or coordinate with close friends and family members to make it a surprise!
  • Organize the venue. Arrange any restaurant reservations or park permits well in advance.
  • Order and send printed party invitations or online invitations.
  • Order flowers, balloons, banners, and any other decorations.
  • Plan the menu or coordinate dishes for a potluck.
  • Set up a photo booth with a custom backdrop and props.
  • Rent or borrow servingware, audio equipment, and extra tables and chairs.
  • Create a playlist.
  • Prep food, drinks, and decorations.
champagne toast

Photo: Diana McGregor

Engagement Party Ideas

You’re engaged! You just agreed to spend the rest of your life with the person you love, which means a celebration is definitely in order. That’s where your engagement party comes in.

There aren’t many rules for how to throw an engagement party, so as you read this remember: Engagement parties should be fun, not an extra stress. This is a party for you to enjoy, so don’t worry about making everything perfect. Here are some handy tips on engagement party etiquette and engagement party ideas.

When to have the engagement party

Your engagement party should be planned within a few months of the engagement, giving just enough time to plan it and celebrate before you start to focus on the particulars of the wedding.

Who hosts the engagement party?

The position of host for the party is up for grabs. Often the parents of the bride host, but it’s common to have other relatives or friends of the couple claim the role. Many couples even choose to host their own celebrations.

Who's invited to the engagement party?

When planning the engagement party guest list, keep in mind the guest list for the actual wedding may not be finalized. Which means the engagement party should be a more intimate event with close friends and family, all of whom you know will also be invited to the big day. Once you’ve determined your guest list, be sure to send out printed or online invitations well in advance; also note that the invitation design will indicate to guests the formality and theme of the event.

Here are some details to consider when planning an engagement party: potential themes for the party, the corresponding engagement party decorations, what engagement dinner ideas best fit with your vision of the event, and finally, if there are any engagement party games you want to play to keep you and your guests entertained all night (or day) long.

Engagement Party Themes

Here are some popular types of engagement parties to consider:

  • The couples’ favorite bar or restaurant
  • Recreate the couples’ first date
  • An “I do BBQ”
  • A laid-back backyard engagement party
  • A classy brunch
  • An elegant dinner
  • A party on the beach
  • Wine tasting
  • A picnic
  • A bonfire

Engagement Party Decoration Ideas

Once you have the theme and venue chosen, it’s time to plan the engagement party decor. Here are some ideas for fun, personalized decorations:

  • An engagement party banner or engagement party signs:
    • The couples names, “She said yes”, “I do”, “Pop the champagne, she’s changing her name!”, “he popped the question” popcorn bags
    • The date of the wedding
    • A countdown until the wedding
    • A chalkboard with a timeline of the relationship
  • Engagement party balloons
    • Use letter balloons spelling out words like “love”, “I do”, giant balloon bouquets, confetti-filled balloons, and more!
  • Engagement ring theme:
    • Faux engagement rings as party favors
    • Engagement ring napkin rings
    • Donuts with diamond toppers
  • A banner featuring photos of the couple
  • Ask people to submit song requests for the wedding reception
  • Set up a photo booth with props
  • Have people take instant photos and place them in a guest book
  • Have guests sign a bottle of champagne
  • Have a “date jar” for guests to offer date ideas
  • Pass out sparklers because, of course, “sparks fly” between the engaged couple

String lights, candles, paper lanterns, and balloons always add festive flair to the celebration. And, of course, fresh flowers and greenery garlands will also help beautify any party space.

Engagement Party Games

  • The Newlywed Game
  • Two truths and a lie
  • Ask your guests questions and have them decide if the facts are about the bride or groom
  • Engagement ring-themed ring toss

Engagement Party Food Ideas

  • Donuts or bagels as “rings” for a brunch celebration
  • Sugar cookies in the shape of rings, hearts with the names/initials of the bride and groom, calendars with the date of the wedding marked
  • Champagne!
  • “He popped the question” popcorn bags
  • Potluck-style luncheon
  • “I Do” BBQ
  • Dishes representing the couple’s heritage