For couples who plan to say “I do,” an engagement party might be the first of the celebrations leading up to the big day. It also gives you the opportunity to practice your party planning skills before jumping headfirst into booking venues, caterers and florists for your wedding day. Much like a wedding, an engagement party will require you to stick to a budget, pick a venue, create a guest list and send out invitations.
What is an engagement party?
An engagement party is a way to celebrate your new relationship status. It's where you'll get to tell everyone the story of your proposal, introduce your family to your future in-laws, and kick off your wedding festivities.
When do you have an engagement party?
So, when do you have an engagement party? That's a personal choice, but it's typically held before the bridal shower or bachelor and bachelorette parties. Some people may have an engagement party the same day they get engaged if the proposing partner plans it ahead of time, or you may wish to enjoy your engagement privately for a few weeks before you start thinking about celebrating with others.
What do you do at an engagement party?
Engagement parties tend to be a bit more intimate than other wedding celebrations, with usually just close friends and families attending — so no need to worry about putting that second aunt twice-removed or your childhood dentist on the guest list.
When it comes to what you do at an engagement party, the options are endless. There's no right or wrong way to celebrate your engagement. You can choose a venue and a theme that feels right for you as a couple and build from there. If you're a laid-back couple, you may wish to just have everyone over for yard games and a barbecue. If you like getting gussied up and enjoying a drink or two, consider hosting it at a local restaurant, winery or brewery. Engagement parties are really just about celebrating you and your partner as a couple with the people who are important to you.
Planning an engagement party
Planning an engagement party gives you the chance to flex your planning skills and make sure they're nice and strong before the wedding planning begins. Below is an engagement party checklist that will help you figure out how to plan an engagement party.
Setting a budget should be one of the first things you do. You don't want to blow your whole wedding budget on the engagement party, so before you start booking venues and ordering décor, make sure you know what you (or your hosts) are willing to spend. Knowing your budget will also help you narrow down your list of venues, menu and guest list.
Who should host
There's no right or wrong answer to who hosts your engagement party. If you want to throw your own engagement party, go for it! Traditionally the duties fell to the bride's mother, but these days it's not uncommon for both sets of parents, friends, or other family members to get in on the planning. Anyone who wants to celebrate with you may be interested in hosting your engagement party.
Before booking a venue, it may be a good idea to sit down and make a guest list so you know how many people your space will have to accommodate. You can invite whomever you want to celebrate your engagement with, though these parties are generally more intimate than a bridal shower, where traditionally every girl and woman (including daughters and spouses of friends) on the wedding guest list will be invited.
It is also a good idea to consider your wedding guest list before planning your engagement party— you wouldn't want to invite 100 people to your engagement party if you know you're only going to have room to invite 60 of them to the wedding.
When choosing a venue, think about the type of party that would be true to you and your partner and make sure the venue matches the formality you envision. For instance, if you're hoping for a more formal engagement party, a bowling alley might not be the best choice. A restaurant or someone's home are classic choices, but don't feel limited to those options. If you're beach bums, consider a pavilion at your local beach, or if you love your city's skyline, try a rooftop bar.
Theme and decorations
Engagement parties don't need a specific theme per se, as celebrating your engagement is theme enough. However, you may want to choose a theme that complements but doesn't upstage your big day. If you know you want to get married in a picturesque botanical garden or greenhouse, consider a local park for your party to kick off that greenery theme.
As far as decorations are concerned, you may want to get floral centerpieces in your anticipated wedding colors or hang collages of you and your partner for people to look at. Your décor doesn't need to be extensive — just in line with your venue and formality.
You'll want to give people plenty of time to put your party on their calendars, so be sure to send out invitations well in advance. You'll likely want to send out invites at least a month in advance, if not six weeks.
Your invitations should also match the formality of your event. If you're planning a more casual affair, a simple e-vite may be fine. However, if your engagement party is on the swanky side, you'll likely want to send out printed invitations.
Gifts are not generally expected at engagement parties, but you should note your preference on the invitation either way to avoid any confusion.
It's unlikely your guests will be expecting a multi-course meal at your engagement party, but you'll still want to provide at least hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Depending on your venue and formality, a sit-down dinner may be appropriate, especially if the party is planned during a mealtime. Your menu is a judgment call based on the other elements you choose for your party.
Getting ready for the engagement party
Once all the big details are planned, you'll want to focus on the final details of planning an engagement party. You may wish to go out and buy a new outfit for your party — probably in white if you're a bride. Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in but do keep in mind the theme when choosing your outfit.
For the party, you may want to assign day-of duties to a trusted friend or family member. You can create an engagement party checklist ahead of time to give them. It may include things like ensuring your centerpieces arrive, fielding emails and texts from guests who have questions, putting up décor and just making sure things run smoothly.
Having an engagement party can be a fun way to kick off an exciting chapter in your life while celebrating with your loved ones. Engagements tend to be relatively short periods of time, so be sure to enjoy every moment.