Engagement party guide

Love is in the air! If you're planning an engagement party for your friends or family, we've got tips for planning an engagement party everyone's sure to love.

Invitations

Send notice to family and friends with an Evite invitation, like the premium “Tying the Knot” invitation below, this premium “She Said Yes!” invitation or check out our engagement party invitation gallery for more designs.

Evite Engagement Party Invitation

Decorations

The point of this party is to celebrate the spouses-to-be, so start with photos of the couple—especially ones from the beginning of the relationship. For extra points, contact the couple’s parents and ask for pictures of the bride and groom growing up. Since these might not be digital, scan them and send the originals back that same day. If you don’t have a scanner yourself, you can get it done at a copy store like a FedEx Office.

You can blow up the photos at the copy store to hang around the party or create a photo display on heavy poster board celebrating the history of the couple that they can later show off at their rehearsal dinner or the wedding itself.

Flowers (especially the couple’s favorites), candles, balloons and streamers also set a festive mood.

Etiquette

The bride’s parents traditionally host the engagement party, but the groom’s parents, a friend or even the couple themselves can also throw one. There aren't hard "rules" these days! However, before you start writing the invitation, make sure one of the couple’s parents isn't already planning an engagement party of their own. Feel free to throw another one, especially if the parents live in another area or are only inviting family, but it should be after theirs.

An engagement party is usually held within four months of popping the question and at least six months before tying the knot. Although engagement gifts aren't mandatory, some guests will still want to offer a celebratory token, so it’s helpful if there are some inexpensive items on the couple's wedding registry. However, since putting registry info on the invitation suggests a present is required, you may want to let guests approach you for gift details on their own or make a note that gifts aren't necessary.

What kind of party should you have? It’s your decision—an engagement party can be anything from a fancy cocktail soiree to a laid-back backyard barbecue. However, if you’re hosting a party that both the bride and groom’s parents will be attending, take into account what kind of event will make both families most comfortable, since the engagement party is traditionally considered an opportunity to let the couple’s parents get to know each other.

As for the guest list, don’t invite anyone who won’t be invited to the wedding. And don’t invite anyone other than the couple’s parents who will have to travel far, since they’ll already be expected to travel for the ceremony itself.

Activities

The main event at an engagement party? Toasts with the most. Custom dictates that the father of the bride goes first, then the groom and then whoever else wants to say a few congratulatory words.

A note on surprise engagements parties, which can go two ways: 1) the surprise is for the couple (mostly the bride or the person who has been proposed to) or 2) the couple plans it to surprise everyone with the news. If the former, make sure you work closely with the person planning the proposal, since these surprise engagement parties usually happen soon after (and sometimes right after) the proposal.

If it's the latter and the couple wants to surprise their guests with the news of their engagement, we recommend letting close family and friends know well before the party about the engagement. the couple’s nearest and dearest may feel hurt if they don’t get to hear the big news personally.

One activity you should not plan on is opening gifts. Gifts should not be expected for an engagement party, particularly since guests will already be buying presents for the wedding and in many cases a shower. Some guests will still bring them, but they should be put aside (no gift table, please) for later or opened privately to avoid making empty-handed guests feel remiss.

Food

Food will depend largely on the type of party you’re having, but a cake would be right at any of them. Go white with vanilla cake and buttercream frosting or coconut cupcakes decorated to spell out “congrats.”

You might also play off the nuptial theme for the rest of your party food. Could we interest you in a celebratory toast point topped with crème fraîche and caviar, for example? You can even give a nod to the rice throwing tradition by serving rice pudding in glasses.

Drinks

Since toasts are typically a centerpiece of the party, make sure you have plenty of cheers-ready beverages on hand, including sparkling grape juice for those who don’t drink alcohol. Champagne is the obvious drink of choice, but for a surprising twist that originally rose to sparkling popularity in the 1800s, try the classic champagne cocktail instead:

Champagne Cocktail

  • 1 sugar cube
  • Dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 ounce brandy (optional)
  • 4 ounces champagne

Drop the sugar cube into a champagne flute, add the bitters and brandy (if desired), and fill the glass with Champagne.

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