Engagement Parties 101
Congrats! You’re engaged!
It’s time to celebrate with an engagement party.
Engagement parties can feel like a confusing offshoot of the relatively straightforward process of wedding planning . Most engagement party traditions are local at best, downright mystical at worst.
And although this might feel daunting, all it really means is that you just get to have the kind of party that reflects and celebrates your love. What kind of celebration do you enjoy the most? You get to have that.
It’s a good idea to know why you’re throwing an engagement party – generally, the reason for engagement parties is to announce the great news, introduce families and share toasts for the engaged couple.
Although introducing families is part of the tradition, it’s a good idea to make sure your parents have met in private before the party – no need to add that kind of pressure on to an already loaded event.
Engagement parties can be hosted by either family or friends. Traditionally brides and grooms do not throw their own party. But that depends on the traditions in your circle of people.
If you do decide to throw your own engagement party, consider throwing a regular party and surprising the guests with your big news. As well, you can throw a house-warming/engagement party if you’ve recently cohabitated.
Traditionally, engagement parties are intimate and tiny for the people closest to the bride and groom. Another reason to keep engagement party guest lists small is that outside of toasts, there aren’t a lot of scheduled activities. Add to that too many people and you’re inviting party drama.
If parents are hosting a more traditional engagement party, both families would be invited. Invite the whole expected bridal party as well as immediate family members, family you’re close to and planning to invite to the wedding as well as your best chums.
Save the eventual terrible feelings by only inviting people that are on the wedding guest list. Try to invite the same number of people from both sides of the couples’ lives.
There aren’t generally a lot of scheduled activities in a bridal party. Keep the party moving by including:
Did you document your engagement? Is there video or photos? Let your guests be a part of your moment by sharing those details with your guests.
The Party Itself
The typical evening cocktail party isn’t the only option. Consider throwing a celebratory brunch, afternoon picnic or recreational event.
Toasts are a big part of this party. If something fizzy jibes with your lifestyle, consider having sparkling wine at the ready and glassware to fit.
As soon as you’re ready – engagement parties are usually thrown within months of the engagement happening. It’s usually a good idea to throw that engagement party before you get in the thick of wedding planning – one set of to dos is enough.
If families are hosting the party, let your opinion be known, but know that they get the last word in where to host. But a good rule is to plan for the vibe of the party. Are you a relaxed couple? One whose tastes run more traditional? In the end, the celebration’s location depends on the guest list and the hosts.
Another idea – if you or friends are hosting, is to choose a location that’s special to your relationship – consider the spot where you were engaged, where you met or a particularly epic date.
Paper invitations are still the most expected for an engagement party. Consider it a great practice run for gathering all those home addresses for the wedding invitations.
Although it’s tempting to want your engagement party to be Wedding Part 1, this isn’t the time. Keep your décor straightforward. Consider a theme or style that’s not related in any way to your wedding day. Flowers, food and drink are all that’s expected. Choosing a theme that both you and your love are thrilled about can make the process even more fun.
More functionally, make sure that there is a place for the happy couple and their families to make sure they can greet guests – that’s why they’re there!
Don’t overspend – this is a small celebration of your big news, not a time to blow half your wedding budget. Save your efforts for the wedding.
Since this may be the only activity at the party, the general order of toasts at a party hosted by the parents is the following:
First, the bride’s father proposes a toast to the bride and her fiancé.
Then, the fiancé rises and toasts his bride-to-be and her parents, and then his own parents.
Some toast guidelines:
- Keep it simple and short (no monologues).
- Stand up to give the toast.
- Tell the guests what to do, “Now raise your glasses…”
- No insults. Period. No matter how funny you think they are.
- Sit down when you’re done.
At more informal or themed events hosted by friends all bets are off — but you might not want to forget a toast for the host by the engaged couple.
Historically, gifts were not expected at the engagement party. People still want to celebrate your love. Engagement gifts tend to be more gestural – they don’t need to be expensive or complicated.
If the couple is worried about friends’ budgets, it’s a good idea to let the hosts know to let guests know that gifts aren’t expected. Guests can always ask the host what’s expected. For couples, it can be a good idea to do a little preliminary registering just in case the guests are eager to gift.
The host of the party should get a thank you gift that means something. It’s a special thing to throw a party for a couple and a memorable gesture to say thanks.
Are you planning an engagement party? Have you attended any fantastic ones? Let us know in the comments!