Whether you're recently engaged & just beginning to consider the engagement party; or a guest who is invited to one or the poor soul tasked with arranging the party itself…we have no doubt you have questions and lots of them! Thankfully, you've come to the right place.
No matter what stage you're at or what your involvement is, we've got all the information you need. From establishing whether to have one at all & picking a date, through to deciding on gifts & decor – we'll tell you everything you need to know.
So sit back, relax, and let us walk you through everything you need to know about the engagement party.
What is an engagement party?
A good first question! An engagement party is a party thrown to celebrate a couple's engagement. It can be as simple as a barbecue or as elaborate as a black-tie affair. It typically includes food, drinks, games or activities but it's entirely up to the planner (bearing in mind what the couple's tastes and preferences are!)
Friends and family members attend to congratulate the couple and to celebrate the upcoming nuptials. Occasionally, the engagement party is a surprise engagement party! No not a surprise to the engaged couple(!) but to friends and family who aren't made aware of the news until the engagement party itself.
Why have an engagement party?
There are a few solid reasons to have an engagement party:
- To announce the engagement
As mentioned above, some couples keep the engagement a secret until the event itself. Others have already shared the news but like the idea of an event to officially mark the event publicly.
- To celebrate your love for each other with family and friends
The engagement party is the perfect way to celebrate with friends & family without the typical formalities of a wedding.
- To ‘propose' to your wedding party
Use this opportunity to ask your loved ones to be your bridesmaids, best man, maid of honour or groomsmen, or why not pop the question to the littlest members of your wedding party? Your ring bearers and flower girls will be thrilled! It's also a lovely time to ask your parents or family members to do the honour of walking you down the aisle.
- To have a fun party before the wedding planning begins
Whether the intention is to have a small wedding or a large one, wedding planning can be stressful. The engagement party is often thought of as one big relaxed celebration before the couple get into the wedding planning rigmarole.
- It's an opportunity for both sides of your families and friends to connect before the wedding
Perhaps this is the first time both sets of parents are meeting or a chance for your oldest friends and work friends to get acquainted. This is especially helpful if you're having an intimate or destination wedding where they'll likely be spending lots of time together. But also a good opportunity for your groomsmen or bridesmaids to meet in a relaxed setting before planning your bachelor / bachelorette parties and / or helping out on the wedding day itself.
- To raise money for your wedding fund
Some sharp couples use the engagement party as a way to collect funds to put towards the wedding itself.
- To show off the bling!
One or both of the engaged couple have been given a priceless bit of jewelry and it's resting on their hand. The engagement party is the perfect time to unashamedly show it off!
- If nothing else, it's an excuse to eat cake, drink some bubbly and catch up with friends and family
Do you have to have an engagement party?
“Absolutely not” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert. You don't have to have an engagement party if you don't want one. If the thought of planning a party and having all eyes on you fills you with dread then don't put yourself through that – planning a wedding can be stressful enough!
Or why not reframe it as less of a party and more of a casual get-together by simply hosting a ‘Yay! We're Engaged' brunch or dinner, or don't host at all and head to a restaurant or have a relaxed picnic in your local park. Alternatively, just raise a glass to each other as you sit on the sofa watching TV and eating a takeaway. We all have our own ways of celebrating!
If you do decide to have an engagement party, think about who you really want to invite, more on that in a moment.
When do you have an engagement party?
Gottsman recommends having the engagement party three to six months after the engagement and we agree. This will give you enough time to plan a great party, but not so much time that you'll be too busy with other wedding planning tasks. Plus, it'll give your guests plenty of notice!
Who throws the engagement party?
According to Gottsman, in an ideal scenario, it's the parents of the bride, parents of the groom or friends that should arrange the engagement party. We say, you shouldn't feel uncomfortable throwing it yourselves as the couple. That way you can invite who you want and have the party exactly as you would want it.
Who pays for the engagement party?
Traditionally, the bride's parents would pay for the entire engagement party. But like everything else related to weddings, times have changed! Nowadays, it's much more common for couples to cover their own expenses or split the cost with their families. If you do decide to have your families help pay for the engagement party, make sure you set a budget beforehand so that no one gets stuck with an unexpectedly large bill at the end of the night.
What to wear to the engagement party as the bride-to-be?
There are no definitive rules when it comes to what to wear to your engagement party, but traditionally, brides-to-be have worn something fancy and/or white. If you're not sure what to wear, it's always a safe bet to go with a dress. How about donning a LWD (little white dress) or a white pant suit? Or really stand out from the crowd in a gold sequinned jumpsuit. And don't forget about accessories – a bright clutch or some statement earrings can really dress up an outfit. As for shoes, choose something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
What to wear to the engagement party as the groom-to-be?
Same here, there are no clear rules on this and it can be tricky because it's not quite a wedding, but you don't want to show up in jeans either.
Generally, you can't go wrong with a nice khaki or linen pant with a dress shirt and blazer. If it's a more casual party, you could also wear chinos with a polo or button-up shirt. Be sure to avoid anything too flashy or too formal.
What to wear to the engagement party as a guest?
Check the invite for any mentions of a dress code and consider the location. If it's a formal event, black tie is the standard. However, if it's more casual – like a BBQ or pool party – then shorts and a nice shirt or a sun dress would be appropriate. As for shoes, most people would go with dress shoes or sandals, but again it depends on the location. If you're not sure what to wear, always ask the host or hostess! They'll be happy to give you some advice.
What do you do at an engagement party?
The engaged couple is the focus of the party! Typically there's games and activities geared towards the couple. But essentially, it's just a way for the engaged couple to enjoy themselves with people they care about!
Who do you invite to an engagement party?
The best people to invite to the engagement party are the people who matter most to the engaged couple.
Some couples choose to have a more intimate gathering with just their closest family and friends, while others prefer a larger celebration. It's entirely up to the couple.
The golden rule is to make sure anyone invited to the engagement party is also going to be invited to the wedding.
How do you decorate an engagement party?
When planning an engagement party, it's important to consider the couple's style and taste. You may also want to choose a theme that reflects the couple's relationship or interests.
Some ‘go to' ideas for engagement party decor include using balloons, flowers, and fairy lights to create pretty displays; hanging photos or a collage of the couple's favorite memories; or setting up a sweet treat or candy buffet. If you're looking for more inspiration, be sure to check out our 50 Outstanding Engagement Decorations post.
How to plan an engagement party?
Helpfully, we have a post dedicated to exactly this, but in a nutshell:
- Establish who is hosting the event – you or friend or friends/family?
- Once that is sorted, establish a budget and who is paying
- Book a venue and planner (if necessary)
- Decide on your gifts policy. Do you want gifts, if so, cash or wedding registry or a free-for-all?
- Send out invitations
- Put together a decor mood board
- Plan the menu
- Hire a photographer
- Choose florals
- Shop for the perfect outfit
What is an appropriate gift for an engagement party?
Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman notes that engagement party gifts are not mandatory, but generally an engagement party gift is “something small, a bottle of wine, a frame, a box of chocolates.” Some couples prepare lower priced items on their gift registry before-hand and include a link to it on the engagement party invitation or wedding website. Others include links to services like Honeyfund that let you collect cash rather than gifts.
Hopefully that's clarified things for you. Engagement parties are a wonderful way to celebrate upcoming nuptials with close friends and family. If the plan is to have one, there's no better place to start than our guide on how to plan an engagement party.