What to Wear to an Engagement Party: Dress Codes and Outfit Ideas

Don’t know what to wear to an engagement party? Our experts can help. Read on to find out now.

By Anni Irish

Wedding Engagement Party
Photo by Unsplash

Whether it's you or someone you love getting married, between the engagement party, bachelorette and/or bachelor party, and, finally, the wedding, there’s also a lot of time and consideration that goes into planning your outfits.

But what, exactly, should you wear to an engagement party—whether you're the bride, the groom, or a loved one there to celebrate the happy couple?

Let's take a look at everything you need to know about engagement party attire—including what to wear, what not to wear, and how to choose the perfect look for any engagement celebration.

What Happens at an Engagement Party?

First things first. Before we jump into what to wear to an engagement party, let's cover what exactly happens at an engagement party.

An engagement party is a celebration that brings together close friends, family, and loved ones to celebrate the happy couple and their upcoming nuptials. Guests come together to mingle, have fun, share food and drinks (depending on the party, this could range from casual appetizers in the backyard to more formal dinners at a high-end restaurant or wedding venue), and—let's be real—admire the engagement ring.

Generally, the engagement party happens closer to the proposal than the wedding day—and is usually the first of any planned events related to the wedding.

What to Wear to an Engagement Party As the Host

If you’re hosting or about to attend an engagement party, you’ll want to pick out something special. And, typically, with these kinds of parties, there is a dress code. Nowadays, people host a range of parties that can be as casual as a backyard barbecue or a bar crawl, or something more refined and elegant as a coursed meal at a fine dining restaurant.

Depending on the circumstances of the party, there are certain factors that you should consider when planning your engagement party outfit. You want to look and feel your best, but also consider what type of event you are attending. Whether you’re a couple of the moment, in the bridal party, or a guest, you’ll want to pick out something that you look and feel your best wearing.

Sticking to the Dress Code

Knowing the dress code, as well as where the party is being held, are key details in having the right engagement outfit. Generally, the invitation to the party will indicate the kind of suggested attire, such as cocktail, business casual, etc., so remember to double-check any engagement party dress codes outlined on the invite. If you’re unsure of the proper attire, it's always a good idea to ask the host; that way, you'll be sure to pick an outfit that makes you feel comfortable—and not out of place—during the party.

You can also do a little research on the location of the party, as this can also influence your choice of clothes. Knowing the venue and where the event is an essential part of what to wear to the engagement party—as is the weather. (For example, if you're attending an engagement soiree at an upscale lounge in New York City in the dead of winter, a casual sundress probably wouldn't be the most appropriate outfit choice. On the flip side, if you're attending a casual summer engagement party on the beach, a long-sleeved turtleneck jumpsuit with high heels would probably feel out of place.)

Depending on the season and/or where the party venue is located, the event may be held outside. As a general rule, outside events and parties tend to have a less formal dress code. If you're headed to a beach or pool party, or if you'll be hanging out in the grass, wedges, sandals, and open-toed shoes are a great option. However, if the party is being held in an indoor space, you might want to hold off on those sandals for another party—and choose a dressier shoe. When it doubt, dress as you would for any special evening event or nighttime party.

Typically, most parties have a cocktail dress code—particularly if they take place in the evening. Cocktail party attire means that dresses will fall at or below the knee (or just a little above) and that high heels or flats are acceptable. For men, the cocktail attire dress code usually means a blazer with a button-down shirt and khakis (or nicer dress pants).

The invitation may also state semi-formal or dressy-casual. If you find yourself in one of those dress option categories, there's lots of room there to have fun with your outfit. If you're attending an event with one of these dress codes, look to the details of the event to determine the formality of your attire. For example, if it’s a relaxed atmosphere, such as someone's home or a low-key restaurant, you can go with a more casual look—and dress it up with accessories. If it’s at a more formal event space or fine dining establishment, you would want to err on the slightly more formal side of things—and go with a dressier look.

Dressing for the Occasion

What to Wear to an Engagement Party Photo Credit // Unsplash

Once you've confirmed the kind of attire, then the real fun can begin––planning your outfit. You want to dress confidently and comfortably—but choosing the perfect outfit can also feel like added pressure (particularly if you're the guest of honor). Whatever your style is, you want to look and feel great, pick out something that’s a reflection of your personality and personal style, and choose a look that's appropriate for the engagement party you're attending.

But what, exactly, does that look like in terms of outfits?

What to Wear to an Engagement Party

There are a ton of different outfit ideas for an engagement party to choose from, including:

  • A white showstopper. If you're the bride, you want to make a statement at your engagement party—and what better way to do so than a showstopper of a dress? As the bride, you can go with whatever type of dress you want. Have fun with it! Go for something eye-catching and unique that grabs people's attention (the party is in your honor, after all!). Whatever dress you choose, consider going with a white frock; because white is the traditional color for wedding dresses, it will immediately set you apart as the bride-to-be.
  • The perfect engagement party dress. If you're attending someone else's engagement party, a dress is still a solid choice for attire. The kind of dress you wear will depend on the event. Going to a black-tie affair? A long gown or formal midi dress would be appropriate. Going to a more laid-back backyard BBQ? A fun maxi dress would be a great option. Want a dress with major versatility? You can't go wrong with a classic wrap dress. Just make sure to avoid anything white; as mentioned, a white dress is typically reserved for the bride at all wedding events—and you don't want your dress to compete.
  • An eye-catching jumpsuit. If dresses aren't your style, a jumpsuit is a great alternative. For daytime or more laid-back engagement parties, you can keep it casual with a linen or cotton jumpsuit with some fun accessories (try layering a denim jacket!)—whereas for an evening or more formal engagement party, you'd want to go with a sleeker cut, fabric, and style.
  • A suit. When it comes to attending an even somewhat dressy engagement party, you can't go wrong with a well-tailored suit. If you're the groom, a suit is also the perfect look for your engagement party; as the guest of honor, you want to show up looking your sharpest!
  • A dress shirt and pants. A button-down shirt and dress pants is one of the most versatile engagement party looks for men, as it can work for both more casual and more dressy events.
  • A more laid-back, casual outfit. If you're going to a more casual, relaxed engagement party, feel free to dress in a more casual, relaxed way—for example, a short-sleeved collared shirt and jeans.

Regardless of what outfit you choose, pay attention to the fit of your garments! You want to feel confident and also be comfortable in what you’re wearing.

What should you not wear to an engagement party?

Now that you have some ideas of what to wear to an engagement party, let's talk about a few things you definitely shouldn't wear:

  • White. Again, white is typically reserved for the bride at any wedding-related events—so white dresses, jumpsuits, or other formal attire are a major no-no. You'll also want to avoid off-white and cream hues.
  • Clothes that are too casual. While you can dress down for more casual engagement party, you don't want to look sloppy. Avoid items that could read as too casual, like athleisure wear or ripped jeans.
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