Congratulations, you’re engaged! The early weeks of your engagement are exciting as you share the news and think about the celebratory events that are in your future. One of the first things to organize and plan is an engagement party, where you can celebrate this life-changing event with your closest family and friends in person! While not as grandiose and involved as a wedding, it does require planning. In this article, we will cover the basics of how to plan an engagement party, who to invite, and engagement party etiquette so your first wedding celebration is as fun and stress-free to plan as it is to attend.
When Do You Celebrate an Engagement Party?
It’s natural to want to dive in and have your engagement party right away. “Let’s get the party started,” most couples say! And while we recommend having it in the first few months of the engagement, waiting at least a month after getting engaged will give you a little time to enjoy your newly engaged bliss and allow you to plan an event without stress. However, some couples will have some sort of engagement party immediately following their proposal. It takes some serious creativity and planning to pull this off! Review our list of proposal ideas to see what other couples have done.
Who Hosts the Engagement Party?
Traditionally, the parents of the bride. However, these days the position of host is up for grabs! It’s common to have other relatives or friends of the couple take this role. Some couples choose to plan their own.
How Many Guests Are Invited? Who Do You Invite to An Engagement Party?
Close friends and loved ones are typically invited. You will want to consider whether you want children to be invited or not, so people with children can plan ahead and get a babysitter if they’re not. The exact number of people depends on the couple’s preference, however, it should be noted that engagement parties are more intimate than weddings so the whole guest list doesn’t need to be there. Those invited to the engagement party should also be on the wedding guest list, though.
How Long Should the Party Last?
Depending on the format you choose, you have some flexibility. You may decide to do a sit-down dinner, a buffet, or an appetizers and mingling event. There may be games and scheduled activities or you might just want it to be drop-in. The standard length is somewhere around four hours but you can decide what works best for your vision.
“Bold Yes”, designed by Creo Study
Does It Have to Be a Dinner?
The short answer is no! You and your partner can opt to throw your engagement party at different times of the day and take all different approaches, from a mimosa brunch to light afternoon bites, an evening cocktail party, or a full-on dinner. It really depends on the formality you desire for your engagement party and the location. Make sure you are clear about this on your party invitation.
What Is The Dress Code?
Once you decide what type of engagement party you’ll be throwing, it’s nice to include a dress code in the engagement party invitation you send out to guests so they don’t have to guess what to wear. It depends entirely on the formality of the party. Attire can range from casual to cocktail attire to black tie. Giving your guests a head’s up is a common courtesy.
Do Formal Invites Need To Be Sent?
You can opt between formal paper invites or electronic ones, but some sort of formal communication should be delivered. A simple text email, group text message, etc. does not reinforce the significance of the event and is likely to get lost, or worse, forgotten. An invitation will also allow for details like dress code, event location, and more to be shared.
Is It Customary to Bring a Gift to An Engagement Party?
Presents aren’t required at an engagement party – the main focus is on celebrating your happy news. However, some people may bring gifts and you can accept them graciously! You may want to have a discrete table to put these on so you can transport them home later to unwrap them. Make sure you write thank you cards for any gifts received.
“Geo”, designed by Melanie Kosuge
What Does The Wedding Couple Wear?
Regardless of the engagement party theme, the bride can usually wear a dress of varying length or pants with a blouse. Many brides choose to make this the first time they wear a little white dress, but you have many more events for that if you feel more comfortable in something else. Most people will be looking at the engagement ring anyway! The groom is safe in a pair of slacks and a button-down. If the event is more formal, then a suit and tie are perfect.
Is It OK If You Have Multiple Engagement Parties?
It is not uncommon for couples who are from different countries, states, or coasts to have more than one engagement party. While it’s ideal to have your closest friends and loved ones gather in one place, you aren’t breaking any rules by having more than one if it’s impossible to get everyone together.
Are There Traditionally Any Speeches or Toasts at the Party?
You bet! Engagement party etiquette stands that these speeches are typically far more informal than wedding speeches. Typically the couple will ask the host(s) to say a few words, the bride and/or groom will thank everyone for coming, and a friend or two will say a few remarks. These are typically light, funny, and casual. It is a time to celebrate and gear up for a season of festivities. The best is yet to come.
Pick a Date
Engagement parties usually happen soon after the actual proposal and engagement. But, as we mentioned before, wait a month or so to soak up all the just-engaged bliss before you jump into engagement party planning. Another idea: plan a party with your nearest and dearest, and then surprise guests by announcing your engagement at the celebration.
Decide on the Theme or Vibe
When considering various theme options, think about what fits you as a couple. If you both love brunch, you may want to do a brunch buffet. If you love art, you may consider something at a local museum. The theme and vibe you choose will heavily influence all your other decisions, such as dress code, food served, decorations, and venue. Ask yourself questions such as, do you prefer an elegant night out at a nice restaurant or a sunset beach picnic with pets nearby? Many couples choose to host an engagement party that will feel quite different from their actual wedding, even if it’s just an excuse to go for a less classic and formal theme.
“Modern Romantic”, designed by Carly Reed Walker
Pick a Venue
After you’ve decided on the general vibe you want for your engagement party, it’s time to pick a venue. Whether it’s a favorite bar, a fancy restaurant, or your own backyard, pick a venue that reflects the style of celebration you’re going for. If you’re planning your engagement party during the time of COVID-19, consider hosting it outdoors in places such as a backyard, park, rooftop, beach, etc. You may find our articles on wedding venue tips and questions to ask an event venue helpful in your hunt.
Set Your Guest List
The engagement party is a more intimate celebration, so invite close friends and family (keeping in mind that everyone should also be invited to the wedding, as well). Sit down with your partner and agree on the guest list together.
Create a Wedding Gift Registry
Depending on if you feel comfortable receiving gifts or not, it doesn’t hurt to at least start your wedding registry before inviting guests to your engagement party. You could always just say to save their gift for the wedding and provide a link to the registry. Alternatively, if you’re not ready to start your registry and want to give guests an option to give, ask them to donate to one of your favorite charities in your honor.
Plan What Will Be Served
Engagement parties offer some level of food and drinks and what that looks like depends on the type of party. Decide what celebratory drinks you’ll be serving (wine, beer, cocktails, juice for kids, mocktails), and make sure they pair well with the food items you’re offering. Take into account anyone attending who may have food allergies or dietary preferences (vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc.).
For a backyard celebration, choose your favorite picnic or cookout fare, plus a cheese and charcuterie spread (always a guaranteed crowd pleaser!). For a more formal dinner, opt for a family-style meal instead of a multi-course seated dinner.
Send Out Invitations
If the party is a more formal celebration, like a seated dinner or cocktail party, then sending a printed invitation will set the tone for an elegant celebration to come. But if your engagement party style is more low-key and casual, then send an online invitation with the party information. Also, there's no need to match these invitations to the rest of your wedding invitations—just choose a festive design that you both love and coordinates with the theme of your engagement party. A simple text email or group text message isn’t advised, however, as it doesn’t reinforce the significance of the event. Your loved ones will appreciate you sharing full details that include time, date, place, dress code, etc.
Plan a Small Toast or Something To Say
It is customary for the bride or groom (or both!) to say a few words at the engagement party. Thank the hosts for planning the party and thank everyone for coming. Because it is an intimate event, you don’t have to be super formal and your toast doesn’t have to be long. You can keep it short and casual.
“Sparkling Love”, designed by Faith Dorn
All-in-all, planning an engagement party is a lot of fun for you and your partner, and will help build anticipation for your upcoming nuptials! The most important thing is to make sure you and your new fiancé(e) are happy, so we hope these suggestions make the process a little simpler so you can relax and bask in that soon-to-be-wed glow.