If you’re throwing an engagement party for a newly engaged couple, you might feel a tad overwhelmed by the pressure to pull off a perfect soirée. After all, this might be the very first event that the pair has attended as an engaged couple, and the first in a series of celebrations leading up to their actual wedding. And since this party is being held in their honor, the couple might have high expectations as they ride the giddy high of being newly engaged.
But if you’ve hosted other parties in the past, then never fear: putting together an engagement party is a lot like planning a typical luncheon or mixer. If you need help with themes or inspiration, check out these engagement party ideas. Follow these step-by-step instructions on engagement party planning to achieve guaranteed hosting success.
Before jumping into planning, let’s cover the basics. Namely, what an engagement party is and the purpose it serves. Just as the name implies, an engagement party is a party thrown to celebrate and congratulate a couple on getting engaged. It usually takes place soon after an engagement and can also serve to introduce loved ones that may be seeing a lot more of each-other between now and the wedding (say, at a bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, and on the big day). Think workplace friends and family members that haven’t met before.
Engagement parties are traditionally thrown by the bride’s family, but modern couples can choose to host theirs themselves, as well as a variety of loved ones.
If you happen to be hosting, follow the below steps to ensure the engagement party runs smoothly and is an all-around success.
Your first step is to decide who will host. Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the engagement party, but nowadays anyone who feels compelled may throw this pre-wedding kickoff event. The couple themselves can even host their own engagement party, if they so choose.
If someone other than the bride’s parents plan to host, it’s a good idea to check in with them at the outset to make sure there are no stepped-on toes, and to confirm they are not also planning an engagement party.
That being said, having more than one engagement party is perfectly acceptable so long as the guest lists do not overlap beyond immediate family. Members of the wedding party can also be invited to both parties.
As the party host, you are doing an act of kindness by throwing the pair an engagement party, and as such you have control over what kind of event you’d like to plan. However, getting the input of the couple ahead of time is always a good idea to make sure they will have a good time at the celebration in their honor. Do they want a daytime or an evening affair? Would they prefer something very casual, like a backyard BBQ, or something a tad fancier like a cocktail party? How large or small a party would they prefer? Ask them about their preferred engagement party themes, locations, and times before setting anything in stone.
Consult with the bride/groom to nail down a date that works for everyone’s schedules, including any VIP guests that the couple would like to attend (such as parents and siblings). An ideal engagement party date should be anywhere from a few weeks to a month or two after the proposal. Engagement parties should occur before any other pre-wedding celebrations, however.
The location of an engagement party can really vary based upon preference. Decide if you would like the party to be at a private home or in a public space: the house or yard of the couple, one of their families, or a standalone host are all good options, as are private rooms or sections of local restaurants and bars.
Having a financial total in mind will help inform the rest of your decisions and keep expectations in line. If you have more money to spend, you could consider hosting an intimate group at a sit-down restaurant or splurging on catering services that include servers and bartenders. If your budget is tight, everyone will still have a blast toasting the happy couple in a backyard or living room over burgers and beers.
Your next step is to create an engagement party guest list. Have the couple give you a list of people they’d like to invite—or, if you’re hosting your own party, sit down with your fiancé(e) and make this list together. Include names, emails, phone numbers, and mailing addresses for all guests, as this will make sending out engagement party invitations much easier.
Remember that everyone invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding. If you’re not yet sure who will make the cut for your wedding guest list, err on the side of safety and invite only those people you’re absolutely sure will receive a wedding invitation, such as:
If the engagement party will be smaller and/or on the formal side, paper invitations are a classy way to share the news about the party with invited guests. To be safe, order custom paper invitations at least six weeks before the party date so you’ll have plenty of time to receive them and mail them out. For less formal engagement parties, or those with larger guest lists, digital invitations work perfectly fine.
Send invitations through the post or by email at least three weeks from the party date. Be sure to include the following information on the invitation:
Be sure the couple has set up a Zola Wedding Registry by the time the invitations are sent out. Although not required, it’s customary for guests to bring a gift for the happy pair. Registering early—before the engagement party–will ensure that guests can shop for, and the couple will receive, gifts that they truly want.
Come up with a plan for what type of food will be served. If you’re throwing the engagement party at a restaurant, work with the event staff to create a menu that fits your budget. If you’re partying at a home, decide whether you are up to the challenge of cooking the party food yourself or whether you’ll need to hire a caterer, based upon the extravagance and size of the menu.
If you opt to have the party catered, research and hire a local caterer that can execute your menu ideas within your budget. Be sure to get a price quote and confirm delivery, setup, and service details so there are no surprises.
If the hosts are handling the food themselves, map out a timeline for when to shop for ingredients and supplies, when to prep, when to cook, and when to plate and serve the food.
The kind of drinks you serve at an engagement party vary depending on the party’s location, theme, mood, and menu. It’s a great idea to find out what kinds of beverages the couple enjoys so you can be sure to choose a bar menu that reflects their tastes. Here are a few tips when it comes to drinks for an engagement party:
As we’ve said before, pretty much anything goes when it comes to the theme and formality of engagement parties. Come up with a few, key decorative elements to match the party vibe you’re going for, and shop for them now. This may include fresh flowers in pretty vessels, candles, garlands, balloons, framed photos of the couple, or anything else that coordinates with the look and mood you’ve got in mind.
Of course, if the engagement party is located at an event space, restaurant, or bar, some or all of these items might be covered by the venue.
With the steps of planning an engagement party covered, let’s walk through some etiquette. While putting the event together is one thing, there are a few courtesies worthy of reminders. Whether you’re unsure of who pays for what or who all gets invited, read on.
Typically, engagement parties take place fairly soon after an engagement, allowing everyone to celebrate in a timely matter. That being said, if you’re having a longer engagement or can’t gather everyone that soon, a small push back usually isn’t a problem.
As mentioned previously, anyone who’s invited to your engagement party should also be someone you plan on inviting to your wedding. This goes for all pre-wedding events, such as bach bashes, bridal brunches, and showers. If you aren’t sure of your full guest list yet, keep it to your family and closest friends.
In short, yes. In fact, this is fairly common for couples with different hometowns and/or groups of friends who might also want to throw you something a bit more informal (e.g. after-work drinks or a smaller weekend get-together).
While it’s a good idea to have a registry with a decent amount of items prepared, it isn’t in good etiquette to suggest that a gift is require (e.g. putting the link on the party invitations). Rather, if you’ve already created your wedding website, connect it to that. Otherwise, rely on word of mouth.
One good reason to throw an engagement party is to allow people who will be seeing more of each other leading up to the wedding to meet. That being said, this isn’t the time or place for everyone to meet for the first time. Both sets of parents—as well as any close siblings—should meet prior, in a more intimate setting that allows them to comfortably talk at length.
Wedding planning often consists of putting together several celebratory events leading up to the big day. Keep this to-do list top-of-mind to ensure you pull of a fun and successful engagement party. And if you find yourself in need of some help in other stags of wedding planning, we’ve got you covered.