Engagement Party 101

Friends at a formal dinner with champagne

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you or someone you know are newly engaged! Congratulations to the joyful couple! Whether you’re going to an engagement party or throwing one, it can be hard to know what is expected. Engagement parties can be traditional formal affairs or casual get-togethers with family and friends. Whichever one you and your partner decide on, here are some common aspects and things to consider when planning or attending this event.

Announcements and Invitations

An engagement party is a great time to formerly congratulate a couple on their news, and a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to get acquainted. Usually, the engagement party takes place within a few months of the engagement. When planning your event, you may want to consider having more than one. While traditionally one is perfectly fine, many couples nowadays will have a formal affair for close family and friends, while also throwing a more causal party for a larger group.

Announcing your engagement is common on social media, however you might want to consider announcing it privately first to family and friends, as not everyone will be invited to your engagement party. These websites are a wonderful place to send out announcements and private invitations, and think carefully about who you should tell personally before making a public announcement. After all, you wouldn’t want Grandma Rosie to find out from her neighbor (who saw it on Facebook) before she heard it from you.

These days, you can either use mail, social media, or an old-fashioned telephone call to invite guests to the party. When planning your engagement party, you can even use apps to help stay organized with guest lists, planning details, gift registries, and the rest of your wedding. There are also many free websites for this purpose, which you can setup in advance before your engagement party for invitations and any gift registry links (in case someone wants to bring a gift), which you can finish setting up later for the wedding. Many sites also let you add photos and/or the story of your engagement that can be fun for your guests to read.

If your wedding is a destination affair, then you might consider using the engagement party(s) in lieu of the wedding itself for people who won’t be attending. For example, it can be a good idea to complete your wedding gift registry for everyone who can’t attend your big event. Otherwise, keep in mind that people at engagement parties usually expect to be invited to the wedding as well, which is why traditional ones only include close family and friends, as weddings become expensive quickly. Also, give people enough time, in case they need to make travel or other arrangements.

A family toasting with wine at a backyard dinner

Hosting an Engagement Party

It’s been traditional for the bride’s parents to host this first affair and then for the groom’s parents to throw their own party, which especially works for those who have parents far away. For same-sex couples, both sets of parents would discuss and decide in what order to have the parties. These days however, both sets of parents often opt to co-host the engagement party. This is especially fortunate for any invited families and friends who live closer together.

If your friend(s) are hosting the affair, then, of course, it’s the host(s) responsibility to cover the costs, unless the engaged couples help by sharing costs. Please be mindful there could be expenses or other considerations. Even if you’re only asking friends to help by using their location for the party, there could also be cleaning costs, damages from guests, or other unexpected costs. Be careful, as you don’t want to choose between your friendship or the property, or have any legal issues.

Bottom line is that anyone can plan or pay for an engagement party, but the host(s) know that every guest will expect to be on the wedding guest list too, so they should check with the couple to verify the guest list.

Friends toasting with wine glasses at a dinner party

What is Expected at an Engagement Party

In the past, and engagement party was a time for the father of the bride to announce to his guests his daughter’s engagement. Nowadays, we all usually know about a couple’s engagement by the time the party takes place and celebrate instead with lots of toasts and speeches.

An engagement party can take place anywhere you’d like to celebrate, such as at homes of close relatives, a friend’s, favorite bar, beaches, or your own backyard for a BBQ. Also, gifts are not mandatory, but if someone would like to bring something, they are usually small and less expensive than a wedding gift. Keep in mind, if someone is kind enough to bring a gift, perhaps because they won’t be able to attend the wedding proper, remember to send out a thoughtful thank you card, as it is always appreciated.

Whether you’re having a traditional or a non-traditional affair, engagement parties have been long known as a time for people to get together to celebrate a new couple’s lives together, and for getting to know each other’s friends and families. It’s also an opportunity to have fun and show you and your partner’s unique style. The type of party you choose to host can be whatever you imagine. Your event could be simple or elaborate, but keep in mind that you and your sweetie should match each other in style, formality, etc., so make sure you both are on the same page and plan the event together.

When choosing food, keep in mind that some guests have dietary restrictions, so have a variety of foods available. Some simple ideas and choices could include wine, cheese, and dessert for a more formal, but light, affair (this can also be an opportunity to help chose the wedding’s wine). However, if the party is taking place around mealtime, guests will expect something more substantial. You may want to consider renting out space at your favorite restaurant or bar that can provide full meals for your guests and are well-stocked with beer and wine.

If you’re planning something more casual and budget-friendly like a backyard BBQ or pool party, try interactive foods like s’mores that will help guests break the ice as they have fun building their desserts. Potlucks are another great way to get guests talking while also saving a little more money for the wedding. Prepare some games for guests, anything from a simple board game to larger trivia game about the couple are great ways to get everyone socializing, as well as providing entertainment younger guests, if you’re inviting children.

An engagement party can be extremely chill or super exciting, just remember it’s your party, celebrating your love. Make sure it’s something you both are looking forward to as a couple and invite the people you want to be with.

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