Congratulations, you just got engaged! There’s much to be excited about at this time—including your engagement celebration. Having an engagement party is by no means required of you, but it is a fun way for you, your partner, and your loved ones to get together and celebrate this joyous news. Typically, this the first of many pre-wedding party celebrations, with possible bridal showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, a rehearsal dinner, and, of course, your nuptials coming further down the line.
Between all of the wedding planning and aforementioned wedding celebrations, it can be hard to keep track of good etiquette. Each event seems to have its own recommended tips, which can get confusing. With that in mind, we’ve put together the following guide. Not only will we answer any engagement party etiquette questions you may have, but help you have the best engagement party for you. Read on for all of the need-to-knows.
Traditionally, the engagement party is hosted by the bride’s parents. This tradition started centuries ago; given today’s larger views about gender, this can be viewed as a little dated. Back then, many people thought they were attending a regular party. Then, at the end, the father of the bride would make the big engagement announcement.
Today, a lot of things have shifted in terms of how people view the traditions associated with weddings and the engagement party etiquette around it. Namely, hosting has become more relaxed. Nowadays, when trying to determine who’s supposed to host the engagement party, it's not uncommon for close friends of the engaged couple, or even the couple, to host the engagement party themselves. And, in some instances, there may even be multiple engagement parties thrown by multiple people (the parents of the bride, the groom’s parents, close friends, siblings, etc.).
That said, usually both friends and family attend the party, since it’s a great way for everyone to meet one another. The main takeaway is that there is no one right way to decide who hosts an engagement party. Every couple has to decide what works for them, whether that be the bride’s parents, friends of the couple, or the couple themselves choosing to host.
One major factor to keep in mind is that, whoever ends up hosting the event—whether it be the engaged couple, their friends, or family members—is generally expected to pick up the bill for it. This is part of being a good host/hostess. However, there are a variety of ways to handle this.
Perhaps the event is hosted by a few of your close friends and they choose to divvy up the tasks. For example, one person could have the event held at their house, while another close friend could provide the beverages, and someone else could offer to cover the cost of food. Or, another option might be to have the party at an event space, then divide the cost by all individuals who offered to have it. The same process could be applied to family or groups of any kind.
A key logistic—and one of the first—that needs to be decided is the date of your engagement party. This will largely effect your venue options and time available planning, as well as guests’ availability. Most often, a couple’s engagement party will take place within the first few months of engagement, while everyone is still caught up in the excitement and newness of it all. We recommend anything between a week and three months after the proposal. If most of your loved ones are local (or, perhaps you want to announce your engagement at the party), one to four weeks is ideal. On the other hand, if you’d like to plan something a bit more involved, you can definitely take a few more weeks to plan or gather everyone.
Like every other detail of your celebration, the dress code is entirely decided on by you. Meaning, it definitely varies, depending on a couple’s personal taste and choice of engagement party. For example, if you’re hosting a backyard BBQ, you can encourage casual, comfortable attire. If, instead, you’re throwing a cocktail party, you may want to ask your guests to dress appropriately in cocktail attire. A helpful tip in deciding on your dress code is to consider your venue. What someone assumes they should wear to a country club is going to differ from what they think they should wear to a night-out bash.
In any case, be sure to include this piece of information on your engagement party invitation. Depending on what you think is best, your description can be general (‘casual,’ ‘cocktail attire’) or a little more descriptive.
Now to tackle what might be the most challenging aspect of your party: The guest list. No fear—while this can initially come off as an intimidating task, there are a few pieces of etiquette that can make the process smooth sailing.
To start, engagement party etiquette generally says that every person you invite—from relatives to close friends—should also be a wedding guest of yours down the line. Keeping your engagement celebration to these people helps avoid any uncomfortable situations once wedding invitations go out. You want to avoid confusion and blind-sidedness from those close to you who expected an invitation, but didn’t get one.
However, there are a couple exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re planning a destination wedding not many people will be able to attend. Similarly, times have changed and it’s no longer seen as bad etiquette to host a small, intimate wedding and a larger, more inclusive engagement party. Just remember to be honest and tactful with guests.
With the details and guests list all set, all there’s left for you to do is create and send out invitations. (Note that these differ from engagement announcements.) Since engagement parties typically take place rather quickly, it’s ideal that you get them sent out as soon as possible. This will allow your guests to adequately prepare, from taking off work, to travel logistics, to purchasing an engagement party gift. If you’re planning something fairly impromptu, you can speed up the process by sending out evites to your guest list. Just make sure you have an RSVP system in place (like text confirmations or Zola’s wedding website RSVP tracker). Otherwise, if your celebration isn’t for a few weeks, you can mail out or hand-deliver paper invitations.
A final aspect to consider is the toast. Usually, the party might start off with a toast by the hosts of the event, followed by the parents of the engaged couple, family members, and close friends. Perhaps some co-workers or acquaintances might add a few words as well. If you choose to go the more traditional route, the couple will toast one another. Also, the couple will conclude the event by thanking their hosts and company for coming to celebrate with them as well.
There are no hard-and-fast rules as to who should host and how to go about having an engagement party. For couples who decide to host it themselves, this can free you up to plan things as you see fit and to scale the party up or down as you choose. In some instances where the engaged couple hosts the party, they can even use it as a chance to announce their big news to their family, loved ones, or friends.
Having an engagement party is entirely optional and should be a no-stress event. At the end of the day, you have to decide what works for you. However you choose to have your engagement party, the focus of it should be on the couple’s impending big day and how they are building a new life together.