Rules of Engagement Party Etiquette: Your Top 10 Questions Answered

Planning an engagement party? Here's everything you need to know

Updated 06/22/17

©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

If this is your first time throwing an engagement party, etiquette questions are probably swirling around your brain. We've got answers to key questions about the guest list, invitations, gifts, and everything in between. Read on for a crash course in engagement party etiquette rules!

10 Engagement Party Etiquette Tips & Advice

1. Who Throws the Engagement Party?

Traditionally, engagement parties are hosted by the bride's parents, but nowadays really anyone can throw the engagement party. The groom's parents, other family members, and even close friends can plan and prep this exciting party. Some couples even choose to throw their own celebration!

2. When Do You Throw an Engagement Party?

If you're wondering when to throw an engagement party, 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. Do I 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. It will set the tone for the celebration. For something truly low-key, like a gathering at your home or a friend’s apartment, feel free to skip the invitations entirely. Send out a group text or email, or even create a Facebook event. Just be sure to let guests know when and where it will be, and if it’s more of an open house or something with a set start and end time.

If your engagement party will consist of having drinks at your favorite bar or booking a big table at a local restaurant, an Evite easily walks the line between official and casual. Again, include the when and where, and take advantage of the site’s RSVP options so you can get a better head-count for your reservation.

A more formal engagement party, however, requires a more formal invitation. You don’t need to go so far as creating a custom invitation like you would for your wedding (unless, of course, your engagement party will be that fancy). Look for a pretty design from an online stationery company, where you can order as large or as small a quantity as you need. Take advantage of the option to have your envelopes printed with your guests’ addresses to make for easy mailing, or print them yourselves at home—save the calligraphy for your wedding invite!

4. Who Do You Invite to an Engagement Party?

The guest list for your engagement party will depend, in part, on who is hosting. Ideally, the guest list should only include people who will also be invited to your wedding. This is particularly the case if the engagement party will be hosted by the two of you or by your parents. Think of it this way: The invitation is coming from the hosts of the wedding, so it should only go to people who will be included in the wedding, as well.

Even with a huge extended family who might not all make the cut for your wedding, you’re better off keeping the guest list for your engagement party smaller so as to avoid hurt feelings down the road. Having an intimate get-together with your friends? Again, keep the list to only those who will be invited to the wedding. The good thing is, if you’re planning to celebrate with a small group, narrowing it down should be easy!

5. Can I Have More than One Engagement Party?

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. Since you’re not hosting and the event isn’t a sit-down dinner, having work friends or business associates stop in for a cocktail even if they won’t make the wedding guest list is totally fine. This is especially true if you don’t live near your parents or relatives: Your extended social circle will want to celebrate with you and mark the occasion, so feel free to include them even if they won’t all be invited to your wedding later on.

6. Should I Have a Registry Complete Before My Engagement Party?

If you guys want to hit up stores like Target and Crate & Barrel the moment you get engaged (those scanner guns are majorly fun!), go for it; from the moment you announce that you are engaged, friends and family will want to send you gifts. Just remember that giving gifts, while certainly customary, is not mandatory for engagement parties. A wedding registry gives guests who would like to purchase a present for any pre-wedding parties—including engagement parties and bridal showers—some guidance as they are shopping.

But just because you are registered at a couple of stores does not mean your guests must buy a gift from your registry; it simply gives them options.

7. Should I 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 Web site or rely on word of mouth.

8. Is It Against Engagement Party Rules to Combine the Fete with a Holiday or Birthday?

With so many celebrations leading up to your wedding day, it can be hard to find the time to plan an engagement party in addition to your wedding. Whether you got engaged over the holidays or any other time of year, you have the creative option of combining your engagement party with another big celebration. Just make sure to pick a holiday or event that makes sense.

"It won't work for all holidays, but if you're having a holiday cocktail party or a 4th of July barbecue, you could definitely celebrate both together," says Amy Nichols, owner of Amy Nichols Special Events.

Do you or your fiancé have a birthday coming up? Perfect! A birthday-meets-engagement party is a great idea, since you'd be in the spotlight either way.

To make sure the dual celebration is clear, weave it into the invitation wording. "For a New Year's Eve engagement party, you can try something like 'Help us RING in the new year and celebrate Joan and Bob's engagement,' " says Nichols. Or for the 4th of July? Try "She said YES! Cue the fireworks!" You don't need to worry about weaving your engagement any further into the event's decor, since engagement parties are usually less themed than other wedding-related parties. Once everyone is together, make a toast to thank everyone for coming to celebrate with you.

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 alone with their special someone.

9. When Should the Parents Meet Each Other?

When it comes to your parents meeting for the first time, what do you do? 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. Consider throwing a dinner party with only your parents on the guest list to have your parents meet each other.

10. Do Wedding Planners Handle Engagement Parties?

Wedding planners do more than just weddings. You can call in the help of a professional if you're going all-out for your engagement party. Some wedding planners include an engagement shower in their overall package.

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