Engagement Party Basics

engagement-party-champagneWhat It’s For

People will want to congratulate you, and, well, a party’s  a lot more fun than a phone call. It’s also a great time to introduce key people  from your lives who are going to be seeing a lot of each other (and possibly  working together) over the next nine months or so. “It’s really the first time  before the wedding when you have different groups of friends and generations  really getting to know each other in a much more intimate way,” says celebrity  wedding planner Jung Lee of Fete NY.

Who Hosts

Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the first official  celebration. Then, the groom’s parents can throw their own party, or maybe both  sets of parents will come together to cohost an event. But these days, more and  more couples are throwing the engagement party themselves (just keep in mind  that if you’re doing the inviting, it’s your responsibility to foot the bill).  Friends can also host (and may even volunteer to!), but before you ask, be  conscious of the financial implications.

When to Have It

The engagement party should fall within a few months of  the proposal, right in the sweet spot between carefree, just-engaged life and  the start of serious wedding planning. You’ll want to give guests about a  month’s notice, so about 9 to 11 months before the wedding is the ideal time  frame.

Whose Turf to Have It On

Say you live in New York, but most of your  family and friends live in Chicago: You may decide to have your party in your  hometown (and enlist someone local to help you plan), host it in your current  locale or even throw two parties. Just beware of tiring out your guests and  bridal party with too many invitations before the wedding day is even close!  Also, when picking the party location, consider where you plan to have your  wedding — you may not want to ask guests to travel twice. “More and more of my  clients are having multiple engagement celebrations because their friends and  family are spread all around the country, but everybody wants to honor them  nonetheless,” says Lee.

Where to Have It

Depending on how many people you want to invite, you  can make an engagement party work almost anywhere. It’s really up to the hosts.  To choose the venue, think about the atmosphere you want: If you like the idea  of having everyone in the same room, you might want to rent out a private room  at a restaurant or a bar. For something more low-key, a house, backyard or beach  club might be a better choice.

Who to Invite

It used to be that you weren’t supposed to invite anyone  to the engagement party whom you weren’t inviting to your wedding — case  closed. But now that so many couples live and/or host their nuptials far away  from their families and friends, and the formality of engagement parties is  evolving, expectations have changed and engagement parties now often include  people who aren’t invited to the wedding. If your friends want to plan an  informal bar party and just email the invites a few weeks before, it’s totally  fine to include people you aren’t sure will end up making the wedding guest list  (coworkers, newer friends, college roommates). And if your parents’ good friends  want to host a cocktail party at their home in your honor, let your parents  invite mutual friends and business associates you might not have room for at  your wedding.

If, on the other hand, either you two or your parents are hosting, the old  rule sticks. When the wedding hosts send the engagement party invitation, it’s  considered part of the official wedding parties and guests assume they’re  invited to the wedding too. To avoid a sticky situation later, start working on  your wedding guest list now. Then trim the engagement party list down to your  bridal party, immediate family and closest friends.

How to Invite

Feel free to keep the invitations simple. Make them  yourselves, or even send out an email. If you’ve chosen your invitation designer  already, see if they’ll give you a special rate. Don’t worry if you haven’t  settled on a color palette or don’t have a wedding date in mind yet — your  engagement party invitations don’t have to match the rest of your stationery.

What to Serve

There’s no need to plan a five-course meal with a  four-hour open bar. Anything from passed appetizers or tasting menu stations to  a family-style buffet or an eat-when-you-want cookout will work. Or get creative  and serve up dishes that share something about you. “I had a bride and groom  known for having Sunday Mexican dinners, so of course they brought it back with  margaritas, mini fish tacos and great guacamole — it just made sense and was a  genuine touch,” says Lee. As for dessert, serve it if you’d like, but it doesn’t  have to be cake. Consider gourmet ice cream sandwiches, assorted baked goods or  seasonal treats like candy apples or cotton candy.

How to Set the Scene

While of course it’s fine for the decor and details  to reflect your wedding colors and theme, like your invites, don’t feel like you  have to rush to choose them just so your engagement party can match. The real  trick here is that you don’t want to upstage the wedding. So if you’re  envisioning a casual beach wedding with simple decor, a fancy cocktail party at  a swanky hotel with over-the-top centerpieces might make that beach bash feel  like a bit of a, well, letdown. Consider choosing a style and theme that are  completely different from your wedding day to mix things up. So if you’re  planning a formal ballroom wedding, go for a laid-back beach theme for your  engagement party, with vibrant tropical colors and a casual outdoor setting.  Even just a few small arrangements from your local florist can perk up any space  (and it’s a great way to try out a potential florist for the wedding). Even if  you want to keep the engagement party low-key, a theme and coordinating color  palette are an easy way to tie things together.

What to Wear

Your wardrobe will depend on the setting of the party.  Aside from the obvious (don’t wear a long, beaded evening gown to a casual  backyard bash), keep it simple enough that you don’t outdo your wedding day  look, but special enough that you’ll still stand out. A sundress will work for  an outdoor affair, or for a fancier fete, a cocktail dress is a safe bet. And  what should your freshly minted fiance wear? While he doesn’t have to wear a  suit and tie (and certainly not a tux) — unless the venue calls for it — he  should get as dressed up as you do.
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One response

  1. Reblogged this on Yvonne Dobbs – Celebrant.

    March 20, 2013 at 6:40 AM

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