What is an engagement party? An engagement party is meant to be a fun and celebratory event. But generally speaking they do have a few practical functions as well. It's where you can share the big news with everyone in your life, plus it can also be the place where the couples’ families and friends meet for the first time.
Historically the bride's parents host the engagement party—the first in a series of wedding-related events—but things have evolved. Now, more than ever, couples are bucking tradition and doing what works best for them. “It's best to keep it simple and allow your personalities to shine through. Be yourself, and don't try to make it an 'event,'” says Mina Soliman, owner and proprietor of Red Bird Catering, and a 20-year veteran of the events management industry in New York City.
There are plenty of ways to make this party an extension of you and not have to worry about overdoing it in the process. While you can make your engagement party as small or large as you would like, there are a few things to keep in when it comes to the party, guests, and overall etiquette.
Who should you invite to an engagement party? When it comes to throwing your engagement party, a big thing to keep in mind is that whoever you choose to invite should also receive a wedding invitation. If someone’s invited to one and not the other, it might be confusing for your engagement party guests—and possibly even insulting.
To avoid this kind of situation, try to curate your wedding guest list with this in mind. Alternately, if you choose to have a huge engagement party and a small actual wedding, make this explicitly clear to your guests. That way no one's feelings will be hurt and guests can focus on sharing in this happy time. Also, generally speaking, people don't tend to bring gifts to an engagement party. If you're concerned your guests might want to bring a little something, just include a small note in the invitation asking them not to bring a gift. That way everyone's on the same page and guests know you just want their company as the engagement present, not material items. When it comes to your guest list, Soliman also recommends giving people enough time to RSVP to your party.
Because engagement parties tend to be the place where the happy couple’s families meet for the first time, keeping your in-laws’ level of comfort in mind is a good way to guide the party planning. If your future in-laws are very family-oriented, it might be a good idea to include as much of the extended family as you can within your guest count. If they’re on the more formal side, having a casual at-home dinner party might not be the way to go.
As you make arrangements for your engagement party, another thing to keep in mind is that whoever hosts the engagement party generally pays the bill. That's why having a budget—and sticking to it—is really important. “Budgeting is the number one most challenging aspect of event planning. Because many things change or unexpectedly come up during the event planning process, it's essential to have a budget before planning an event,” says Soliman. One of the biggest factors to consider is the size of the party and also if you're planning to have more of a formal affair or informal party. This will dictate what your expectations will be, says Soliman. “The little details have a way of adding up. It's about what’s essential to the couple and how to capture their style effectively,” she said. Soliman recommends trying to stay on track with your budget, because as she notes, the little things can end up being what cost the most. Try to get creative and focus on the bigger picture––the fact that you're celebrating this exciting moment in your life and sharing it with your loved ones.
Everyone wants to be a great host and have a celebration that people will remember. But as you plan your engagement party, remember: This is just the first in several wedding events that will take place over the next few months. Engagement parties are generally held within the first three months of the announcement being made.
Do something that encapsulates you and your partner's personalities, but don't feel pressured to break the bank or host a really lavish formal affair. Do what feels right for you, with the focus being on you and your partner, your engagement party guests, great food and drinks, and having a wonderful time.
There's any number of ways to do it, but at the end of the day, it's all about balance. If you're opting to have a very formal wedding with a large guest count, a smaller, simpler engagement party, like a dinner party at home or a backyard barbecue, may be for you. If you’re choosing to have a smaller and more understated wedding, pulling out all the stops with a cocktail party and a catered sit-down dinner may make more sense.