9 Steps to Planning the Perfect Engagement Party

Here's everything you need to know about throwing your first wedding-related bash!

Updated 01/02/18

 Photo by Mike Larson 

Welcome to engagement season! If you’ve got a brand new sparkler on your hand, it’s time to kick off the wedding festivities with an engagement party. This first celebration comes with way fewer etiquette rules than many other wedding-related events—meaning you and your S.O. can get involved without anyone raising an eyebrow. Ready to start planning? Here are nine easy steps to help you start your wedding countdown.

1. Decide who’s hosting.

Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the engagement party—but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. 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. Of course, the bride’s parents should still have the first right of refusal, so if someone is offering to throw an engagement party for you, run it by Mom and Dad first. And remember: You don’t have to have an engagement party at all, or you can have a few (which is quite common if you and your S.O. are from different places or live far from home and want to have a party with friends too).

2. Pick a date.

Engagement parties are usually held shortly after someone gets down on one knee—and your engagement might even be announced at the party! But if you’re having a longer engagement or don’t have time to travel home right away, a slight delay is no problem, as long as none of your other pre-wedding events have taken place yet.

3. Create the guest list.

As with all of your pre-wedding parties, anyone who makes the guest list for your engagement party must also be invited to the wedding—which means you and your partner should sit down and make a preliminary list! If you’re hosting yourselves, stick to it while deciding who to invite. If someone else is throwing the party on your behalf, ask them to consult with you before they order invitations. Not sure how big your wedding will end up being? Your best bet is to keep the engagement party more intimate and invite only those you know will be at your wedding as well.

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 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. Or you can host a cocktail party instead, and invite people to join you at their leisure your favorite bar for a cocktail. Reserve a few tables (or rent out the entire space!) depending on your guest count.

5. Register for gifts.

It seems early, but it’s a good idea to have a preliminary registry set up before your engagement party. Gifts aren’t expected, but some guests will want to bring one and your registry is a great way to ensure they pick something you’ll love. 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.

The type of invitations you choose will depend on the type of event you’re throwing. 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 if you’re on a budget, you can definitely choose a formal design and email invitations to a fancier engagement party, too. (Just don’t email your wedding invitations and you’re golden!) And good news: 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. If you’re hosting in a restaurant or a space that’s already decorated, don’t worry about adding your own touch. Instead, embrace the existing ambiance!

9. Decide what to wear.

You might as well start wearing white! Choose attire that's appropriate for the party’s setting: a sundress for an outdoor celebration, a cocktail dress for a more formal evening, or a seersucker or light gray suit for the groom. 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, but it’s a great way to let guests know that you’re the woman of the hour! Your partner’s attire should complement yours in formality (so no tux to a garden party), as well as fit the type of celebration.

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