If the wedding is the grand finale, the engagement party is a sneak preview. Planning an engagement party is not as complicated as planning a wedding, but it still requires planning and strategy to be a successful shindig. Our engagement party checklist will show you some hip ways to debut the two (soon-to-be-joined-at-the-hip) lovebirds to their closest friends and loved ones.
Set the Stage to be Engaged
An engagement is a happy time as it means that two people have beat the odds and managed to find lasting love. These two lucky people will stare into one another’s eyes while making a commitment to honor and cherish one another in the union of marriage for the rest of their lives.
A wedding also means that two separate families will now be uniting. Sometimes an engagement party is the first time the two families will be meeting. If possible, it isn’t a bad idea to have a dinner party to introduce parents who haven’t met, so they can get to know each other prior to the engagement party.
The engagement party typically occurs within a few months of the proposal but before the wedding planning gets underway to steal the attention of the bride and groom. The engagement party is an opportunity to announce and celebrate the engagement.
Traditionally, the bride’s parents were responsible for throwing this party, but these days, the party can be thrown by anyone willing to take on the responsibility. The party can now be thrown by friends or relatives of the bride and groom or even the bride and groom themselves. Etiquette generally dictates that the person throwing the engagement party is responsible for paying for it, even if the engaged couple are the ones throwing the party.
Historically, the engagement party was just like a regular party except the father of the bride-to-be made a surprise announcement about the engagement to family and friends. Modern engagement parties can be hosted by anyone and often celebrate an engagement that is not necessarily a surprise.
If the couple happens to have friends and family spread out over great distances, it may be a good idea to plan multiple engagement parties to allow for celebrations with people in different places. If this is the case, these smaller scale engagement parties can be simple and informal, like after-work drinks with friends and coworkers or small gatherings with friends at someone’s home and can include a lot of people.
No matter what kind of engagement party you are planning, we have ideas and suggestions to get the party started and keep the party going.
Let’s Get This Party Started
Once the host has been decided, it is time to set the date and pick a venue. Before picking the venue, decide what type of vibe or theme you want. Since the engagement party vibe does not have to match the wedding, it may be fun to go for the opposite tone. For instance, if the wedding is likely going to be formal, plan a low-key backyard engagement party. If the wedding is going to be chill, plan a formal sit-down at a country club for the engagement party.
The theme or vibe of the party should reflect the interests or hobbies of the couple and will influence the venue. Once the theme and venue are selected, it is easier to plan the décor, figure out food and beverages and any music or activities.
For the date, choose a date after the proposal but before the first wedding plans, generally within the first three months of the engagement. Pick a date the couple is comfortable with making the news public and give special consideration to picking a date and time that is convenient for those who will be attending.
When it comes to food, consider whether you want a formal sit-down meal because this will likely need to be catered or take place at a restaurant. Strategic seating arrangements can encourage mingling at a sit-down dinner.
For a more laid-back atmosphere, an open bar, appetizers or a display of cheeses, meats and other small bites can nurture a relaxed vibe. Remember to introduce any guests who are unfamiliar with one another at this sort of gathering. Provide a variety of drinks and consider offering a signature cocktail. Dessert can consist of a miniature version of the planned wedding cake or even personalized treats with monograms.
For the engagement party, it is important that the couple’s story be part of the design. Every romance has a story all its own and little details make the story come to life.
To add dimension to the story, toasts and speeches from guests should be encouraged.
The décor need not be elaborate, but a few thoughtfully placed centerpieces and floral arrangements can add beauty and depth to the surroundings. Consider choosing a bouquet that matches the couple’s favorite colors and flowers. Our florists at Conroy's Flowers in Cypress, CA would love to assist you in creating the perfect atmosphere for the engagement party.
Some options for venues include - someone’s home, a favorite restaurant, a wine cellar or brewery, the beach, a museum or art gallery, a pool, a casino, a roller rink or even a boat. Remember to keep the comfort of older guests in mind when planning events at outdoor venues. Provide comfortable chairs and cover from the elements. If possible, have your party at a venue that provides indoor and outdoor areas.
No matter where or when you have the party, keep the celebration carefree and fun instead of stiff and uptight.
The venue should coincide with whatever vibe you have in mind. There are plenty of interesting ideas that can make your party unique. For instance, if the couple is into movies, an Old Hollywood Engagement Party can really capture their style.
For an Old Hollywood Engagement Party, the venue can be an old movie theater or even someone’s home. Guests can dress up like vintage stars. Decorate the scene with a red carpet and old movie posters. Food can be movie theater treats like M&Ms and popcorn or food inspired from old films. You can even rent a projector and edit a montage to create a movie about the couple.
The Art of the Engagement
If the couple admires art, a museum, local art gallery or even an artsy cafe are all great places for the engagement party. Décor will not be a problem as everyone will already be surrounded by intriguing pieces of art.
The couple can even paint portraits of one another prior to the event and bring their works of art with them to be unveiled at the party. Guests can dress like famous artists. If the venue allows outside food and drink, guests can eat and drink like famous artists. Pablo Picasso favored a Mediterranean diet, and Georgia O’Keefe prepared fresh vegetable juices, so the menu can be interesting.
Recreate the Date
A great way to personalize an engagement party is to use it as an opportunity to recreate the couple’s first date. If the couple’s first date was at a restaurant, coffee shop, bar or other establishment, have the party at the same venue. You could have the party wherever the proposal took place. That way, the closest friends and relatives get to stroll down memory lane with the happy couple while enjoying whatever food and drink recaptures what the couple had together the first time.
Retro Roller Derby
Ah, who doesn’t love fun dates and roller skates? Even though some of us weren’t around when roller skates were all the rage, we can all appreciate the idea and fun of a retro roller derby engagement party. Rent out a roller rink and rock that 70’s look while enjoying some pizza and disco.
Enchanted Garden Engagement
For nature-lovers or outdoor enthusiasts, a garden party can be a beautiful way to let all your besties know you are now engaged. This type of party can be hosted in a backyard or even in a community garden.
The scene should include cascading foliage, flowers and terrariums of delicate air plants. Dress in your favorite floral attire. Wearable florals are now created with both men and women in mind, so no one will feel left out of the fun. Ladies can decorate their hair with flower crowns, and men can wear floral bowties. The air will be perfumed with the fresh blooms. Food can be plant-based to keep with the theme.
For couples who love spooky films, consider dark décor, Halloween and gothic music and attire. A gothic engagement party can be a way to celebrate the unearthly and mysterious part of their union. For this type of party, you can project a silent horror film and decorate with skulls, dark flowers and candles.
Attire should be Victorian-themed, and some vampire makeup can make for some fun photos to share later. Florals like black velvet petunias and black hollyhock are gothic without having to try. Avoid having a Victorian-themed meal as the people in Victorian times ate some strange things that will ruin the appetites of your guests.
Who You Gonna Call… or Send an Invitation to?
First things first, who are you going to invite? Unless the couple plans to have multiple engagement parties that will be very informal, the engagement party guest list typically consists of only people invited to the wedding.
In fact, there are several reasons why it’s a good idea to keep the guest list small. First, a small guest list can help you avoid anyone getting hurt feelings. When someone wonders why he or she wasn’t invited but learns it was a very small party of few guests, the person will be less likely to take it personally.
A small engagement party makes for a more intimate gathering, and it should be. An engagement is a very personal moment. Also, keeping the guest list small will give you more freedom to really enjoy going all out with food, drinks, decorations and other fun details.
The question of how to properly invite your guests is easily answered by examining what type of party you are planning. If you are planning a formal event like a plated, sit-down dinner, you will want to send formal invitations.
Stationary can match the theme and décor of your party and should include the necessary details like what the party is for, the date, location and dress code. If your wedding has a website, you can include the website address.
For restaurants, bar events or any other informal gathering, Evites are great, and the RSVP options can give you a head count for reservations.
The couple can register for gifts with a wedding registry that will offer guests guidance if they want to buy gifts. When it comes to etiquette for engagement parties, gifts aren’t mandatory, so don’t include the registry info with the engagement party invitations.
Getting It Done with No Frills, Spills or Unexpected Bills
Planning an engagement party is very similar to planning any other event. Determine who is hosting, and if there is only one host. That person should seek assistance to avoid getting overwhelmed with the process of planning.
Split up the workload into the three main parts which consist of planning, set up and clean up. Once you choose the venue, check with them to see what is allowed with food, drink and decorations before you proceed.
Work on the planning by finalizing the date, the venue and the guestlist. Remember that the menu should coincide with the theme and mood of the party. Decide who will be assisting with the set up and clean up long before the party.
Part of planning should be brainstorming how to keep your guests entertained. This will be determined by the venue. Make sure that when the party starts, guests are properly introduced and given a beverage. Encourage them to get loose, especially if you have music playing.
It is always a good idea to have specific guests who will dance and who will encourage others to have fun. Every crowd needs a “life of the party” type to keep things interesting, and it never hurts to have some activities planned.
The ideas here are all different but have one thing in common. They are all ideas for celebrating the engagement in a way that is unique and personal to the engaged couple. No matter how you choose to celebrate, keep it fun. You are essentially celebrating love, the story of it and the glory of it.