Wedding Planning Guide
How to Plan an Engagement Party
Everything you need to know about the pre-wedding party.
Photo: Diana McGregor
Congratulations, 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. This pre-wedding celebration is typically the first of many parties leading up to the big day. Thankfully, 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.
To help you plan a celebration to remember, we created this guide that goes over everything you need to know, from engagement party ideas and themes, engagement party planning tips and strategies, engagement party decoration ideas, and answers to all of your engagement party etiquette questions (When do you throw an engagement party? Who throws the engagement party? Who do you invite?). Keep reading for our comprehensive engagement party–planning guide.
ENGAGEMENT PARTY ETIQUETTE & FAQs
Thankfully, there aren’t many hard and fast rules around engagement parties. We’ve outlined the most common engagement-party questions:
Who throws 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.
When do you have an engagement party?
Plan the engagement party for within the first few months of the engagement. However, a caveat: We recommend waiting at least a month after getting engaged so that you can enjoy your newly engaged status without jumping right into engagement party planning-mode.
Who do you invite to an 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 engagement party 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.
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 an 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.
What are you supposed to do at an engagement party?
This party is all about celebrating the engagement: eating, drinking, and being merry—catching up with friends and introducing your families and friend groups to each other. It's a nice idea if someone offers a celebratory toast at some point (just a few congratulatory words, nothing too formal). But truly, nothing is mandatory, so just plan (or let others plan) whatever will make you and your fiancé feel happy.
Are you supposed to bring a gift to an engagement party?
Presents are not required at an engagement party—the main focus of the party should be celebrating the couple and their happy news. However, if you're attending an engagement party and would like 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). Couples should also be prepared to write thank you cards to any gifts received.
HOW TO PLAN AN ENGAGEMENT PARTY (IN 7 STEPS!)
Whether you're just engaged and planning your own engagement party, or hosting one for friends or family members, the goal is to throw an engagement party that's all about celebrating the happy news. Choose an engagement party theme and setting that suits the couple's style and gives everyone a chance to congratulate the couple and have a great time. Keep reading for our step-by-step guide to engagement party planning.
1. Decide who’s hosting.
Just about anyone can host and plan the engagement party (including yourselves!), so figure out what makes the most sense for your celebration. And don't forget: You don't have to have an engagement party (it's not mandatory by any means!). Or, you can have multiple engagement parties (quite common if you and your partner are from different places or live far from home).
2. Pick a date.
Engagement parties usually happen soon after the actual proposal and engagement. But, like 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.
3. Create a 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).
4. Choose 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.
5. Mail 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 or email 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.
6. Plan the menu.
Celebratory drinks are a must and since you're serving booze, you should also have some food on offer, as well. 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 multicourse seated dinner (a little too fussy and drawn out, in our opinion).
7. Decorate the space.
Engagement party decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you'd like. But whatever you do, keep the focus on celebrating the couple and add decor elements that will create a festive atmosphere. If you're hosting the party outdoors, a few strands of string lights will add instant ambiance. Candlelight is always a good (and affordable) idea, and a few small floral arrangements will enliven any space. If you're hosting the engagement party in a restaurant or cocktail bar that's already decorated, don't worry about bringing additional decorations—just embrace the existing aesthetics.
ENGAGEMENT PARTY IDEAS & THEMES
We've rounded up the coolest engagement party ideas and themes around to help you throw a celebration to remember.
Photo: Winnie Au
Sweet and savory brunch-based dishes, coffee, and mimosas create a celebratory mood. You could even create an engagement-themed brunch menu with ring-shaped foods like donuts and bagels.
Time to get the party started and pop the bubbly! Set up a DIY mimosa bar with a selection of juices (orange, pomegranate, passion fruit, guava), fresh fruit toppings, and plenty of bottles of champagne.
Arrange a wine tasting, stock the couple’s wine rack, and provide delicious food pairings. For a more formal engagement party celebration, planning an al fresco dinner on the lawn of a winery is a great way to go.
“We Do” Brews & BBQ
If you're looking for a more casual engagement party idea, then consider a backyard barbeque. Take it up a notch with gourmet sliders and locally brewed craft beers to make the engagement party extra special, along with "He popped the question!" paper bags filled with popcorn.
Set up a fondue bar, a cheese and charcuterie spread, or even a wine and cheese tasting with tasting note cards for guests to fill out.
This engagement party theme is perfect for the couple who loves music. Plan an event with a great soundtrack: Book a live band, have guests create custom playlists, or add to the couple’s record collection.
Set up a dessert table with the couple's favorite sweets and treats; provide champagne, coffee, or tea to pair. Order sugar cookies from your local bakery that are iced to resemble a calendar, with the couple's wedding date marked (or engagement ring-shaped sugar cookies—those are fun, too!). Get guests involved and make it a potluck, inviting everyone bring their favorite sweet treat.
His & Hers Cocktail Party
One of our favorite engagement party ideas: Have the couple each pick a signature cocktail for the occasion, serve tasty hors d'oeuvres, add guests, mix well, and enjoy.
Celebrate the happy news with a casual bonfire on the beach, complete with all the fixings for a lobster or clambake and fireside s'mores.
ENGAGEMENT PARTY DECORATIONS
Once the engagement party location and theme have been chosen, then it's time to decorate. Here are some of our favorite ideas for fun, personalized engagement party decorations:
Party Signs & Balloons
- Signs printed with:
- The couples names
- Mr. & Mrs., Mr. & Mr., or Mrs. & Mrs.
- She/He said Yes!
- I Do!
- Banner printed with the wedding date
- A wedding countdown sign (noting the number of days until the wedding)
- A chalkboard that outlines a timeline of the couple's relationship
- Metallic letter balloons spelling out words like “Love” and “I Do”
- Oversize balloons filled with confetti
Photo: David's Bridal
Engagement Ring-Themed Decorations
- Ring Pops as party favors
- A ring-shaped cake for dessert
- Engagement ring-themed napkin rings at every place setting
- Glazed donuts topped with ring-shaped toppers
Photo: Money Can Buy Lipstick
Keepsakes & Mementos
- Display a bottle of champagne and ask guests to sign the bottle (and then open it on the wedding day!).
- Have a “date jar” for guests to offer date ideas.
- Pass out sparklers because, of course, “sparks fly” between the engaged couple.
- Ask people to submit song requests to play at the wedding reception.
Photo: Jessica Burke
ENGAGEMENT PARTY GAMES & ACTIVITIES
Since it's very likely that some of your family members and friends will be meeting each other for the first time, it's a good idea to plan an activity or two to help break the ice and get guests mingling. Here are a few of our favorite engagement party games and activities.
Photo Guest Book
Set up a photo guest book station at the party and provide instant cameras and film; invite guests to snap photos and place them in a guest book, along with a message to the newly engaged couple.
This easy activity is perfect for an outdoor engagement party. Set up a crate filled with empty glass bottles (you could even spray-paint the bottles a different color, if you'd like). Have a stack plastic rings on hand so guests can take turns playing this engagement ring-themed game.
The (Almost) Newlywed Game
Pass out index cards to guests and invite them to write down a question for the couple to answer (What's your least favorite food? When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? If your partner were to throw out one piece of your clothing, what would it be? Are you a morning person or a night person?). Seat the couple back-to-back and have guests take turns asking questions; instruct the to-be-weds to write their answers (about themselves) down on white boards. One person goes first and tries to guess what they think their partner answered; then, their partner flips over the board to reveal what they actually wrote (and vice versa for the other person's turn).