Weddings, in all their celebratory splendor, are often the culmination of a year's worth of planning and smaller lead-up events. The engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette all compound the excitement of the grand finale and strengthen the bond between the couple and their loved ones prior to the big day. If you are particularly close with the couple getting married, then there is a good chance you will be invited to all of the events above. The engagement party is usually first up on the itinerary and deciding what to wear is a task worth being mindful of.
"If there isn’t a dress code listed on the invite, there are other cues you can use to gauge the level of formality," Birdy Grey CEO and Founder Grace Lee tells Brides. She suggests taking location, venue, and time of day as indicators of how dressed up (or down) your outfit should be. "For example, if it is an afternoon garden party at someone’s house, a floral day dress is a safe bet. If it is being hosted at a trendy hotel on a Saturday night, you can’t go wrong with cocktail attire," she says.
Meet the Expert
Grace Lee is the CEO and Founder of Birdy Grey, a direct-to-consumer bridal brand that focuses on affordable, on-trend bridesmaid dresses, gifts, and accessories. She has over 13 years of experience working for top female brands in fashion and beauty and is based in Los Angeles.
If all else fails, Lee adds you can just shoot the couple a quick text message. They'll be early on in their planning stages so asking that sort of question shouldn't be a burden. Alternatively, you can reach out to someone close to the couple, like a family member, to get the scoop on what to expect when it comes to the dress code.
Once you've deciphered the level of formality you're going with for dressing, the next step is to build out your look, including accessories, footwear, and jewelry.
Engagement Party Outfits for Women
“You can’t go wrong with a dress,” Lee says. For a daytime event, she recommends opting for casual florals and cute sneakers or a printed maxi with flat sandals. “If it’s an evening soiree, reach for your favorite LBD or festive cocktail dress and finish with a chic clutch.”
If your personal style doesn’t jive with the above, there are plenty of other ways to still feel dressed up and polished. “Swap your skirt for tailored shorts and pair with a silk cami, chunky heels, and fun accessories to switch it up,” Lee adds. Other options include a jumpsuit with low heels or a chic matching set in a fun color or pattern.
Engagement Party Outfits for Men
For men, Lee nods toward a reliably stylish combination. “A classic button-up, clean jeans, and a sport coat with a fun pocket square [are all a safe bet],” Lee says. For footwear, she adds that sneakers are alright as long as they’re not your running shoes.
The only items men should steer clear of are shorts or sandals (“unless it’s a summer daytime barbecue or beach party,” Lee adds).
If your personal style deviates from the more traditional shirt and pants combination, you can also get playful with your look. Consider a matching top and bottom in a fun pattern with oxfords or even an unexpected short suit. In other words, an engagement party is a great time to express your personality and have some fun.
Engagement Party Dressing Etiquette
In general, it’s best to err on the side of caution. “Out of respect for the couple, it’s better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed, so best to opt for a dress instead of jeans,” Lee says. “On the flip side, though, try not to steal the spotlight from the couple by showing up in an outfit that’s flashy & over-the-top—it’s their moment!”
If there is a dress code indicated on the invitation, do your best to align your outfit to that aesthetic. “If the invite calls for daytime casual, do not show up in a spotlight-stealing sequined mini,” Lee says. "If the event is formal, leave your athleisure at home.”