You’ve said yes, and now you’ve started thinking about the engagement party. These days, the this is the first of several pre-wedding festivities, and is often an informal event attended by friends and family of the soon-to-be newlyweds. When it comes to planning an engagement party, you have a lot of choices. Do you want a casual backyard bash, or a more formal restaurant celebration? Do you need to invite all of your friends, or is it okay to keep this particular guest list small? If you’ve already started planning, these etiquette questions and more have likely already come up for you.
SO YOU’VE GOT SOME QUESTIONS
Wedding planning can be overwhelming, and these pre-wedding celebrations are no exception. Not sure who throws this party? Where or when it should be held? Worry not—I’ve gathered your most pressing engagement party queries and answered them, just for you. While there are general guidelines to all the questions you have, it’s important to remember that each part of your wedding—from the the initial fete to the post-wedding celebrations—is completely up to you. Each event should be personalized to your actual style, what you are comfortable with, and what makes sense for you budget.
There are a few things, however, that you shouldn’t skip when preparing for this particular party. Be sure to host the event in a space that makes sense, where you and your spouse to be can greet guests and give them some face time—they’re there for you (and to hear that sweet proposal story!), after all. When it comes time for speeches, be sure to toast the host as a thank you, whether that be your parents, a friend, or a soon-to-be-in-law.
The engagement party should come soon after the engagement, while the news is still fresh. Traditionally, the engagement party is hosted by the parents of the couple, but friends of the bride and groom and other relatives may want a chance to organize the gathering as well. The couple may opt to have more than one party: one for relatives and family friends, for instance, and another for their own friends. This might also make sense if the couple is long distance, or if they live away from their hometown or the location of the wedding. If there will be multiple gatherings, a good rule of thumb is to let the bride’s parents have the first opportunity to celebrate the engagement.
HOW FORMAL SHOULD THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY BE?
A cocktail party hosted by parents at their home is the most traditional example, but it is by no means the only option. Part of the delight of an engagement party is that it allows the host room for improvisation and inventiveness. Some engagement parties are very formal (think country clubs and event halls) and others, less so. The photos featured in this post were taken at an engagement party located in the garden of a wine shop and tasting room. A casual backyard party with homemade food and and some personal touches will also do the trick.
HOW ABOUT THAT GUEST LIST
The traditional rules of etiquette dictate that guests invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding, so keep that in mind when inviting people. However, the guest list will likely be shorter. Often the idea is to make this gathering a more intimate celebration than the actual wedding itself. But this not the only option, remember every couple is different! Now, since many people throw smaller ceremonies or hold their destination weddings far from friends and relatives, the engagement party often includes people who may not make it to the eventual nuptials. Pro tip: For a traditional party, both sets of immediate families should be invited, whether or not all members will be able to attend the event.
Once the party is underway, there is also the matter of toasts. At a formal engagement party given by parents, etiquette regarding toasts is quite clear: First, a parent proposes a toast to the newly engaged couple. Then, the couple rises and toasts their parents. At informal events hosted by friends, of course, anyone can make a toast at any time. The engaged couple will also want to make a speech of their own before the end of the event.
SAYING THANK YOU
Giving an engagement party is a special act of generosity and affection on the part of your family and friends. Among the many memorable stops along the road to a wedding, it is typically the first and has a special significance. The bride- and groom-to-be may want to give a special gift to the host as a thank you— a bottle of wine, tickets to an event or a dinner out somewhere.
HOW SHOULD YOU SEND ENGAGEMENT PARTY INVITATIONS?
Invitations are a beast in an of themselves, and EVERYONE has a different opinion on them. Since engagement parties can be thrown one week to three months after the proposal, let the date you choose inform how you spread the word. If your parents, for example, opt for a more spontaneous celebration—say, the weekend following your proposal—then it makes sense to go with e-invites or phone-only invitations to ensure that guests living within a reasonable distance can attend. However, paper invitations can be mailed if your party is taking place around the three-month mark. Typically, those celebrations will be a tad more developed (after all, the host or hosts has more time on their side to pull off the celebration), so the invite can specify dress code and other details, like things to do in the area, or overnight accommodations for those traveling from further away. These paper invites could also include the couple’s wedding website if it’s up and running (and for the guests eager to gift you, this is how they’ll find your registry).
WHAT SHOULD GUESTS WEAR TO AN ENGAGEMENT PARTY?
Without any guidance, guests tend to dress for the time of day, with an afternoon affair being more casual and evening lending to cocktail attire. The best way to avoid confusion and make sure everyone arrives looking his or her best is to specify the dress code on the invite, or spread the information by word of mouth. And don’t rule out a good theme, as a trend I have seen in recent years (especially in larger cities) wedding festivities are getting more and more thematic. This might be a good opportunity to let that shine.
I hope this cleared up some of these questions for you! What other thought do you have about engagement parties? If you are an already married couple, leave your best tips below in the comments!