If we had to single out the most complicated—and emotionally loaded—part of planning a wedding, it would probably be the guest list. With so many pre-wedding events, each with their own protocol for who gets an invite, there’s so much more to it than simply deciding who will and won’t be invited to your wedding. And no pre-wedding event throws a wrench into things quite like the very first one: Your engagement party. As you’re figuring out who you’ll invite to celebrate the fact that your partner #putaringonit, there’s one big question that comes to mind: Do all of your engagement party guests need to be on the wedding guest list? Thankfully, our experts are here with the answers.
The short answer is yes, anyone invited to your engagement party should also be invited to your wedding. Similar to sending a save-the-date, your engagement party is a precursor to your wedding, and guests who join you there should be included in the celebration from start to finish. If you’re having an engagement party before you’ve started formally planning your wedding (as many couples do!), you’ll be better off erring on the side of caution and keeping the group small. Create a short list of VIPs who will get wedding invites no matter what you plan, and build your engagement party guest list from there. If you’ve already ironed out your wedding guest list, make sure anyone who is invited to your engagement party is also on the guest list. There are, of course, a few exceptions.
The first is if your wedding will be particularly small (we’re talking 30 or fewer guests). Even with plans for a very small wedding, you’ve probably got plenty of family members and friends you’ll want to celebrate with in advance—and possibly even again after you’ve gotten back from your family-only wedding—so go ahead and invite them to your engagement party. As the event approaches, encourage your parents to spread the word that your actual wedding will be family-only, and your guests shouldn’t be offended when their engagement party invitation isn’t followed by one to your wedding. Your engagement party may end up feeling more like a pre-wedding reception, but hey, is that really a bad thing?
The second exception is if your engagement party is being hosted by someone other than the two of you or your parents. If they aren’t intimately involved in your wedding’s guest list, there’s no way for the host or hostess to know who will and won’t be included, and therefore guests should not take the invitation as a guarantee that they’ll be invited to your wedding. Of course, if someone is hosting an engagement party on your behalf, it’s a good idea to at least get involved with the guest list, which will allow you to try and narrow it down to only those who will get a wedding invitation. You could put together a list of who you’d like to have invited (along with addresses!) so the host or hostess can easily send invites, or you can ask to review the list they make before anything goes in the mail.
Planning to follow your proposal with a surprise engagement party for your new fiancée? Think long and hard about the guest list. Your best bet is to keep this celebration super intimate, inviting only immediate family and the very closest of friends who you know will be at your wedding. Considering a larger crowd to mark the occasion? The more certain you are of each person’s attendance at your wedding, the better of you’ll be—and the fewer feelings you’ll hurt.