Welcome to engagement season! It's time to kick off the wedding celebrations with a bang. An engagement party is a great way to share the exciting news and get family and friends together to celebrate the forthcoming union.
If this is your first time throwing an engagement party, etiquette questions are probably swirling around your brain. We consulted with party planner Heather Lowenthal to share her insider tips and answer key questions about the guest list, invitations, gifts, and everything in between.
Meet the Expert
Heather Lowenthal is the founder of Posh Parties, a full-service luxury event planning company specializing in destination weddings in Palm Beach, FL.
Ready to start planning? Read on for everything you need to know about pulling off the perfect engagement party.
Engagement Party Etiquette
Who Throws the Engagement Party?
Traditionally, engagement parties are hosted by the bride's parents, but nowadays really anyone can throw the engagement party. Some couples even choose to throw their own celebration!
When Do You Throw an Engagement Party?
"Throw your engagement party soon after you get engaged," Lowenthal says. "There are going to be many other festivities in your honor along the way so it's great to spread them out." If you’re having a longer engagement or don’t have time to travel home right away, a slight delay is no problem.
Who Do You Invite to an Engagement Party?
As with all of your pre-wedding parties, anyone who makes the guestlist for your engagement party must also be invited to the wedding. This is particularly the case if the engagement party will be hosted by the two of you or by your parents.
Do You Need to Send Formal Invitations?
Deciding whether or not to send formal invitations to your engagement party depends on the type of event you’ll be having. If you have a little time and are hosting a seated dinner, paper invitations are an elegant option. Going more casual? Opt for an e-vite with a playful theme. The great thing about e-vites is that the design options are endless, so you can choose a formal design for a fancier engagement party.
Should You Include Registry Information With the Invitation?
While it's A-OK to complete a registry for guests that want to bring a gift to your engagement party, it's not appropriate to include registry information in your engagement party invitation. Instead, include registry links on your wedding website or rely on word of mouth. Just remember that giving gifts, while certainly customary, is not mandatory for engagement parties.
Can You Have More Than One Engagement Party?
Having more than one engagement party is quite common, especially if the bride and groom are from different places (or live far from home) and want to have a party with non-locals, too. If your friends or a coworker want to plan something informal, like after-work drinks, you can invite a larger group without worrying about an etiquette faux-pas.
Can You Combine the Engagement Party with a Holiday or Birthday?
Whether you got engaged over the holidays or any other time of year, you have the option of combining your engagement party with another celebration. Just try to avoid holidays for which people will have other plans and will be focused on family traditions, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, or a date like Valentine's Day when people will want to make plans with their special someone.
When Should the Parents Meet for the First Time?
At an engagement party, the atmosphere isn't going to be right. Your parents’ first meeting should give them a chance to really talk and get to know each other in an intimate setting.
Steps to Planning an Engagement Party
1. Decide Who’s Hosting
Whether it’s you and your fiancé, your siblings, your BFF, or your partner’s family, just about anyone can plan (and pay for) the celebration. You can call in the help of a professional if you're going all-out for your engagement party (some wedding planners even include it in their overall package).
2. Pick a Date
The best time is within the first few months of engagement. The excitement is still fresh, and any potential wedding planning stress has yet to kick in!
3. Create the Guest List
The best bet is to keep the engagement party more intimate and invite only those who will be at the wedding as well. If someone is throwing the party on your behalf, consult with them before ordering invitations.
4. Choose a Venue
Engagement parties can be as big or small and as formal or informal as you’d like, giving you lots of flexibility when it comes to the venue. A party at your parents’ home or in your aunt’s backyard is a lovely low-key option, while the private dining room at your favorite restaurant is a great choice for something a little more intimate and formal.
5. Register for Gifts
"Try to finish your registry before the party," Lowenthal advises. "Many people are going to want to buy you a gift once they know you are engaged."
Focus on low- to middle-priced items for now (remember, you’ll get wedding gifts later!). If you’d prefer not to get gifts, you can always put a line on the invitation kindly requesting that guests not bring gifts.
6. Send Invitations
"Send out invitations at least a month before and make sure to have an RSVP date on there as well," Lowenthal says. The type of invitations you choose will depend on the type of event you’re throwing. The good news is, there’s no need to match these invitations to the rest of your wedding stationery, so pick something festive that you love!
7. Plan the Menu
If you’re serving booze in any form, you’ll want some food available also. For an evening of cocktails, opt for passed appetizers or a display of cheeses, meats, and crudités. Gathering in the backyard? Your favorite cookout fare is a must. If the evening will be more formal, a plated meal is a nice touch but doesn’t have to be a drawn-out five-course meal with wine pairings.
8. Set the Scene
As with just about every other engagement party detail, the theme and decor can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like. The focus is on celebrating, so do whatever will help you enhance that vibe. Candlelight is always a good choice, and a few small floral arrangements will really perk up the space.
9. Decide What To Wear
Choose attire that's appropriate for the party’s setting. You don’t have to go all-white if you don’t want to (we love a white-based floral pattern or a soft pastel!), and, of course, you can wear another color if you’d prefer. Your partner’s attire should complement yours as well as fit the type of celebration.