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Engagement Party

An engagement party offers the bride and groom an opportunity to celebrate in a less formal setting.

The bride's parents often host the engagement party.  [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The bride's parents often host the engagement party.

Engagement Party

An engagement party offers a great way for family and friends of the newly-engaged couple to celebrate their upcoming union. Traditionally, an engagement party is a means of bringing the two families together to get to know one another and begin forming a bond. The origins are steeped in signifying the joining of two families in addition to the love the couple has for one another. Whether formal, casual or somewhere in between, there are some expectations when it comes to using proper engagement party etiquette, though many guidelines have been relaxed through recent years.

Hosting the Engagement Party

Traditionally, engagement parties were hosted and paid for by the bride's parents. While this tradition is no longer required etiquette, the bride's parents should still be given the opportunity to throw the party before anyone else is considered. Next in line would be the groom's parents, or the two families could come together to host the party. Sometimes the future groom hosts the party, in order to propose to the woman he loves in front of all her friends and family. He should, of course, be certain that she will say yes.

When the parents or groom are not hosting, a friend of the couple is free to host the engagement party. Difficult family situations, or family members that are far away, may call for an engagement party hosted by friends. Also, there is no rule that says the couple can't have more than one engagement party. If the bride and groom have contact lists numbering in the hundreds, it may be a good idea to have one party for family and another for friends.

Engagement Party Timing

According to The Knot, hosts should avoid scheduling an engagement party during the first month of the engagement. The couple should be given time to let the fact that they are engaged soak in and celebrate together. The best time for an engagement party is between two and four months after the proposal.

Engagement parties are better suited for long engagements. Throwing an engagement party for a couple whose wedding is only six or fewer months away is probably unnecessary, as well as somewhat overwhelming. If the couple plans to have a long engagement (more than a year), the engagement party should be held a year prior to the wedding.

The Guest List

Everyone who is invited to the engagement party must also be invited to the wedding. According to Martha Stewart Weddings, the guest list for an engagement party is a more intimate group of wedding guests, such as the couple's closest friends and more immediate family members. It is also a great way to include family and friends that might not be able to make it to the wedding.

First on the guest list should be members of both the bride and grooms families. The host should keep in mind, however, that those who need to travel should probably not be invited to the engagement party, since they will have to travel for the wedding too (with the exception of the couple's parents).

Engagement Gifts

Traditionally, gifts are not a part of engagement parties. However, many guests will still bring gifts in celebration of the couples union. Due to this fact, hosts should suggest that the couple prepare their bridal registry before the party. However, that information should not be put on the invitation. Instead, hosts should provide it only to guests that ask for the couple's registration information. The host should make sure that the couple waits to open gifts after the party to keep guests without gifts from feeling awkward.

Engagement Theme and Food

The host should first sit down with the future bride and groom and ask for their engagement party ideas. The host should find out what theme they prefer, who they would like to invite and what sort of food they enjoy. From there, the host should take full responsibility for the planning and organizing so that the couple has one less thing to worry about.

The host should consider the style of both families when planning the engagement party theme, since the original purpose of the party is to bring the families of the bride and groom together. For example, a backyard barbeque would not be the best idea if the groom's family is more formal. Above all else, the host should remember that the engagement party should not eclipse the actual wedding.

Traditionally, engagement parties are held at someone's home, specifically a cocktail party at the bride's parents house. Depending on the engagement party theme, location and size, there are a variety of options for food, such as:

  • A home-cooked meal
  • Catered food
  • Cocktails with hors d'oeuvres and appetizers
  • Desserts only

If having a party at a residence is not an option or somewhere else is preferred, then the host should consider a location that has significance to the bride and groom or emulates their personalities and relationship. If a restaurant is chosen, it should be a buffet-style meal or have a diverse menu that everyone will enjoy.

Other Important Party Considerations

If the purpose of the engagement party is to introduce the bride and groom's families, then the host should organize an ice breaker, such as allowing attendees to share stories about the bride and groom throughout their lives. If such ice-breaking activities are not fitting to the engagement party theme or environment, then the host, or someone other than the couple who knows a majority of the guests, should welcome guests as they arrive and provide appropriate introductions.

The Wedding Channel engagement party suggests that toasts should start with the father of the bride, and then the groom should follow before anyone else has the opportunity to offer a toast. It is a good idea for the host to ask the bride and groom ahead of time whether they would like open toasts or would even like to give a toast to someone else in the group.

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