Really needing help with this one. We are wanting to throw our own engagement party. I have been reading that engagment parties are normally hosted by family or friends but no one has offered, so is it bad for us to host our own? We just really want to get all of our friends and family together in one room to celebrate!
We are thinking of having it at our favorite restaurant? Will it be expected that I pay for everyones food and drinks? I do not have the kind of money needed to do that so if it is expected that I pay, will it be bad if I ask the guests to pay for their own meal?
You can't throw yourself an engagement party. You can't expect people to pay for their own meals if you have invited them to a celebration in your honor. It would be like asking someone to pay for their meal at your wedding.
Not everyone has an engagement party. If someone throws you one, great. But you can't throw your own just because no one else threw it for you.
You have to tread lightly with this. I understand why you want to host a party to celebrate your engagement, but engagement parties are typically gift-giving occasions, so it's a little tacky to host your own. Think about the message that it would send: 'Hey everyone! I'm having a party so you can all give me presents! Wanna come?' Nor is it appropriate (etiquette-wise) to host your own party and say 'No gifts, please.' Yes, people do it all the time, but strictly speaking, it is rude to mention gifts at all without having been asked.
Here's a few options for you, so that you can still celebrate with friends and family, but avoid committing an etiquette felony in the process:
1) Have a party to announce or celebrate your engagement, but call it something else. If I was invited to your Engagement Party, I'd feel like I should bring a gift of some kind. If I was invited to your 4th of July Party or to a party at your house for no reason, I'd probably show up with a bowl of pasta salad or a bottle of wine.
2) Speak to someone very close to you (like your mom or a sibling) and see if he/she would be willing to be the official host of the Engagement Party. That way, you can issue invitations in his/her name so it won't look like you're inviting people to come give you gifts. You would still pay for the party and do all the work involved yourself, letting everyone believe that the official host is throwing the party for you.
3) You can say 'screw etiquette' a throw a small party for yourselves anyway. I would keep it to close friends and family - people who wouldn't care that you're throwing your own party. Etiquette is important for larger events when you're expanding your guest list outside of your normal circle, but oftentimes, it doesn't matter so much between families and very close friends. I wouldn't think twice if my sister or best friend invited me to an Engagement Party that she was hosting herself - I would simply be happy for her and glad of the opportunity to celebrate. I'd probably still feel obligated to bring a small gift, but it wouldn't bother me that she's invited me to a party to give her gifts. Heck, I have close friends who have thrown their own birthday parties and I've thought nothing of it. If, however, I was invited to an Engagement Party by someone outside of my closest group of friends and the couple was hosting it themselves, I might be a little annoyed that they were inviting me to a party to give them gifts. Note that this is strictly MY OPINION and incorrect etiquette - but it's my opinion and experience that etiquette isn't so strictly followed among family and close circles of friends. Of course, if you're unsure of how people will react (remember that you're inviting a family other than your own, after all), it's best to play it safe.
On the question of whether a party host needs to pay for everyone's food and drink, YES. If you're inviting people somewhere, you're the party host and need to host the party. If the party includes a meal and some drinks, you need to pick up the tab. Since you can't, you need to look at more affordable alternatives. This will also come in handy when planning your wedding itself, but before you make any plans, come up with the budget that you're willing to spend on this event. Then figure out how to plan a party with the money that you have. If it's not much, then either scrap the idea or get creative. I've thrown and been invited to many parties that didn't cost an arm and a leg.
You should probably get yourself an etiquette book and familiarize yourself with wedding etiquette. It'll come in handy in the months to come.
Vice President and Guardian of the Toilet Brush of POOP: People Offended by Offended People
I've gone to a couple of engagement parties, and I've never paid for my own meal. They were also hosted by the engaged couple, in their home. They ordered some food, invited people over, and that was that.
Put it this way -- if you were having a party at your home (like a superbowl or a housewarming), you'd pay for the food. An engagement party is no different. It doesn't have to be fancy (like a Superbowl party doesn't have to be fancy) -- it's just an excuse to invite people over and enjoy themselves.
I've never heard that it's rude to host your own engagement party -- it makes perfect sense to me, actually.
"I'd hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, or insanity, but they've always worked for me." Hunter S. Thompson