The A-Z's of Planning an Engagement Party
An engagement party marks the beginning of many wonderful wedding festivities to come. Here's everything you need to know to plan the perfect party—from A to Z!
Availability – Ensure that the bride and groom are available for the party before you choose a date. This may sound obvious, but it's not uncommon for a couple to become engaged before one of them goes abroad for work, study, or service in the armed forces.
Budget – Anything is acceptable, depending on the size and style of the party that you intend to have. A formal dinner party is more expensive than a backyard barbecue, but both are equally acceptable—and equally fun. Set a budget from the start, taking all aspects of the party into account—including invitations, food and drink, entertainment, décor and engagement party favors.
Customary – It is not required to throw an engagement party before a wedding— especially since the party is rarely used for the couple to formally announce their engagement. Still, it's a wonderful opportunity for the bride and groom-to-be to introduce their friends and family to one another. An engagement party is typically a less formal event, but you may want to match the tone of the party with that of the upcoming wedding.
Date – When setting the date, the general rule on engagement parties is “sooner rather than later.” If the couple has plans for a long engagement, a party within the first three months of their announcement is common, but anytime that is more than six months before the wedding is generally acceptable.
Entertainment – Other than music, very little entertainment is expected at an engagement party. The purpose of the party is for the bride and groom-to-be to mix and mingle with their guests and for their two families to get to know one another.
Favors – Everyone loves to take a piece of the party home after the festivities are over. Popular ideas include photo mint tins, Save-the-Date magnets, personalized lollipops, and cookie cutters. For more great ideas, check out the rest of our selection of engagement party favors.
Guests – Engagement parties are usually intimate affairs, since it is generally considered inappropriate to invite anyone who will not be invited to the wedding. Thus, it is not necessary to include acquaintances or work colleagues on the guest list. If this creates some guilt, consider hosting one party for family and another for friends.
Hosts – Traditionally, the bride's parents host the engagement party, but there aren't any hard-and-fast rules. Anyone can host the party, including the couple themselves. However, it is more common for a couple to host the event when they are announcing their engagement for the first time. Generally, it is not considered good etiquette to ask the best man or maid of honor to serve as hosts since they will likely be responsible for other parties leading up to the wedding.
Invitations – Consider the location and theme of the event when choosing your invitation. Almost anything works—just remember that your invitation often sets the tone for the party. An Evite or phone call is perfectly acceptable. But if it's a formal event, you may want to select an invitation with a reply card.
Jewelry – The bride-to-be is sure to show-off her lovely ring at the engagement party—and she may want to consider giving her fiancé a gift in return. A long-lasting memento like a watch engraved with the date and a message is sure to be worn well.
Kibash – Be prepared to put the “kibash” on any uncomfortable or negative remarks, or long-winded speeches that may make the bride, groom, or their families feel uncomfortable. Know when to jump into the conversation and have topic-changers at the ready.
Location – As with the budget and formality, anything goes with the location, too. There is no single “right” place to hold an engagement party. The home of the host serves as an obvious choice, but restaurants, beaches, parks, and even boats are also a great option. Match the location to your theme (if you have one).
Menu – Planning the menu for the party is important. Depending on your budget, you may choose to have a catered event or a potluck. If dinner is simply not in your budget, consider drinks and dessert only.
Names – Always introduce your guests to one another at the party, and let each one know how the other is affiliated with the couple. And try to provide a couple of sentences that will keep the conversation going after you step away. If you forget someone's name, just ask. Don't let a memory lapse prevent you from making a proper introduction. According to proper etiquette, women and older guests should be named first when making an introduction.
Open Bar – The party's host is typically responsible of all costs at an engagement party. Guests should not be expected to pay for drinks at the event. A self-serve bar is fine if you are serving wine and beer only, but if you plan on having mixed drinks, it's best to hire a bartender for the occasion.
Presents – Gifts are not traditionally given at an engagement party. If a few nicely wrapped boxes happen to appear, the couple should wait until the party is over to open them (and be sure to send thank you notes). Those guests who did not bring a gift may feel uncomfortable if the couple opens presents during the party.
Quantity – Order enough food and ensure that you stock up on everything else you need—including ice, logs (if you have a fireplace), condiments, and paper products (even toilet paper)!
Registration – It is generally considered inappropriate for a couple to register with stores before the engagement party, as this may signal that they expect guests to bring gifts. The bride and groom to-be should not expect gifts at their engagement party.
Space – When setting up for the party, leave plenty of space for the couple and their parents to greet guests as they arrive. Everyone will want to have a few minutes with the honored couple, so offer room for an informal receiving line near the entrance.
Toasts – Traditionally, the father-of-the-bride is the first to raise his glass in a toast to the couple. The guests drink at this time, but the engaged couple does not. The future groom should offer a few gracious words to his bride-to-be and her family, as well as to their guests. Others may then follow with their own toasts to the couple and the host.
Umbrellas – Consider how weather may impact your party well in advance. If you are planning to host the party in an outdoor location, have a rain-plan in place. This may mean reserving a tent, or having umbrellas at the ready.
Vehicles – Remember that your guests will need a place to park their cars when coming to the party. Do your best to prevent parking problems, and consider hiring a valet.
Wedding – The bride and groom should be prepared to answer questions about their upcoming nuptials. It helps to have a date and location in mind, as they will be asked about the big event throughout the course of the engagement party.
(E)Xes – Unless there are special circumstances involved, it's generally a good idea to leave the couple's ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends off of the guest list. Ditto goes for mentioning them during toasts to the bride and groom. The past should be left behind.
You – As the host, you must remember to enjoy the party, too! If you are feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask others for help or delegate simple tasks.
Zzzzz's – Make sure that you get your rest before and after the engagement party. Planning and hosting a party can be exhausting, but it's also fun! Hopefully, you will have sweet dreams of the bride and groom-to-be living happily ever after.