How to Plan a Surprise Engagement Party

Shh—it's a secret!

A group of women toast with champagne glasses at an engagement party celebration.

Vasyl Zabuga / Shutterstock

Before the wedding comes the engagement. And shouting a big "yes!" when two people in love decide to tie the knot is certainly worth celebrating.

Planning an engagement party can come in so many different forms, from hosting an elegant soirée to putting together a backyard BBQ. But what if you want to do something truly unique? Throwing a surprise engagement party is sure to make for a memorable occasion.

Meet the Expert

Rebecca Martens is the owner of Belle Events, a full-service event planning company based in Houston, Texas.

Whether you’re planning a surprise engagement party for your partner, or you’re hosting a party for your newly engaged friends or a family member and their partner, there are a few steps to consider. Below, find a wedding expert's tips for how to plan a surprise engagement party to celebrate your loved one's upcoming nuptials.

Create the Budget

Planning the budget for a surprise engagement party can be tricky as you’re trying to keep it a secret. If you’re planning a surprise for your partner, you may have a bit more leeway. For those planning and hosting a surprise engagement party for a couple, you may have a more restrictive budget.

According to Rebecca Martens, owner of Belle Events, the key is to start by doing plenty of market research. “There will be a venue at every price point but location, service, and parking are all factors that you need to determine if it is a good fit,” she says.

In addition to the venue and vendors you hire, you'll want to allocate for food, décor, entertainment, and invitations. “Evaluate if that budget makes sense for you—and if not, continue shopping to find what seems reasonable to you. The couple will be happy no matter what because you took the time and energy to put together a celebration in their honor!”

Plan the Guest List

The key to pulling off any surprise party is to make sure the guests are all on board, too. You want to be sure you’re developing a guest list of family and friends that have a great relationship with the couple or with you and your partner. After all, engagement parties are typically a bit more intimate.

“When thinking through who should attend, keep it simple,” says Martens. “What is the potential guest's relationship to the couple? Do they speak frequently and are they family? Getting engaged is a huge amount of emotions for a couple from the excitement of the proposal to the upcoming anxiety of planning the wedding. It is important to make sure your couple doesn't feel burdened at the party. Allow them to be engulfed in the close relationships with people that genuinely want to celebrate their love.”

Once the guest list has been finalized, be sure everyone who is invited knows that you’re planning a surprise. “You cannot over-communicate this to your guests enough,” adds Martens.

If you’re planning the party for a couple (rather than your own partner), be sure those on the guest list have fake plans to share in case the couple asks to get together. This will help to avoid any suspicions. If you’re planning for your partner, use the help of a close friend or family member to get them to the venue. To pull off the surprise, you’ll definitely need support from people who will vow to keep the celebration a secret.

Get Personal With the Venue and Décor

The theme and décor for a surprise engagement party should reflect you and your partner together, or the couple you’re planning it for. Choose a venue that matches their lifestyle. “Think outside of the box to reserve a coffee shop, bookstore, boutique, museum, bar, or a park,” suggests Martens. “These options are not common and might otherwise be closed, therefore, they may be open to a buyout at a great price for the evening. Restaurants have built-in tables, food, and servers so restaurants make planning easy. If you go this route, consider a private room so that the couple can be themselves with their guests and have privacy.”

Depending on your venue, it may not be necessary to do a lot of decorating. Consider simple touches that represent you and your partner or the couple you’re planning for to truly make for a special occasion. If you're planning to hand out favors, consider useful items that guests can take home, or snacks or drinks they can enjoy. Remember, there’s beauty in keeping things simple.

Hire a Photographer

Whether you’re surprising your partner, or planning for your favorite couple, a photographer is crucial to capturing the celebration. Be sure the photographer arrives with plenty of time to set up and capture the surprise entrance.  

Once the photos have been edited and the gallery has been sent, consider compiling the images to create a thoughtful gift. “At the beginning [of the engagement], the engaged couple is overwhelmed with questions about wedding and reception planning. Compiling and documenting the engagement party becomes a distant memory once the planning is in full swing,” says Martens. “An album would be a thoughtful gift to commemorate the kick-off to this special season of their lives!"

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