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. Follow these step-by-step instructions for how to plan an engagement party to achieve guaranteed hosting success.
1. Decide Who Should Host The Engagement Party
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.
2. Talk With The Couple About What Kind of Party They Want
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?
3. Set The Date and Location for The Engagement Party
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.
4. Assign a Rough Engagement Party Budget
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.
5. Make an Engagement Party Guest List
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.
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:
- The bride/groom’s parents
- The bride/groom’s siblings
- Members of the wedding party
- Very close friends of the bride/groom who live in proximity to the party location
- Close relatives of the bride/groom who live in proximity to the party location
6. Order Invitations (or Create Digital Invites)
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:
- The occasion, including the names of the bride/groom
- The date, time, and location of the party
- Suggested attire and/or an indication of formality
- An RSVP method (either phone, email, or digitally for online invitations)
- An RSVP deadline
- Information about the couple’s wedding registry, or an indication of their wishes surrounding gifts
7. Register for Gifts
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.
8. Create The Menu and Order Catering, if Necessary.
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.
9. Choose a List of Beverages and/or Specialty Drinks to Serve
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:
- Be sure to stock up on plenty of bubbly! Engagement parties are prime occasions for lots of toasting and champagne-sipping.
- Decide on one or two specialty cocktails that can be prepared in bulk in advance. This will cut down on the amount of time you or another host will need to spend making drinks for guests throughout the night. It’s a cute touch to include the couple’s favorite drink(s), either individually or together.
- Buy bottles of wine, liquor, beer, mixers, sparkling water, mineral water, and/or juice at bulk retailers for better discounts.
- Don’t forget bar accessories like festive straws, cocktail napkins, bottle openers, and cut lemons and limes.
10. Decide Upon The Party Décor, and Shop for Any Needed Supplies
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.
11. Stock Up on Partyware Essentials, such as:
- Disposable plates, cups, and utensils
- Napkins and table linens
- Trash bags
- Paper towels and stain remover, in case of spills
- Ice & ice cooler
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.
12. One Day Before, Set up as much as Possible (Based on the Location), Including:
- The bar table/area
- The gifts table/area
- Make-ahead food & drink items
13. On The Day of The Party:
- Prep all the final details
- Get dressed in your finest party clothes
- Get to the party location a few hours early to finish setting everything up
- Raise a glass to the happy couple and enjoy a wonderful engagement party!