You’re engaged! You’ve probably already shown off that shiny bling on Facebook, bought your wedding planning notebook, and almost decided on your colors - you planner, you.
Next on your to do list is to throw an engagement party - or maybe your parents have offered to host one for you. Your upcoming role as bride is also part event planner, so a small, informal engagement party is a perfect way to stretch those event planning skills.
Even though you may be a planner and keep your to do list forever clutched in your hands, planning can still be stressful. It’s easy to forget details; hurt feelings; or not follow through with etiquette.
So, if you’re already stressing about invitations, guest lists, and decor, I’ve got six simple steps to beat that overwhelm. Follow these steps and you’ll find your engagement party one of the funnest parts of being engaged.
Step 1: Keep it simple.
If you’re already stressing only a month or two into your engagement, then skip the fancy soiree and host an easy backyard BBQ. Even if you’re planning an elaborate wedding, the engagement party can still be a casual jeans-and-hamburgers get together. Most guests aren’t expecting anything elaborate.
Step 2: Set your date, time, and venue.
Most engagement parties are shortly after your proposal, at most 3-4 months afterwards. However, this may depend on how quickly you’re getting married. My husband and I had a three month (!!!) engagement, so an engagement party that late would have been pointless. Set a date that makes sense for you.
One of the goals with your party should be to not only celebrate you and your fiancee, but also make introductions of important people in your wedding. If your bridesmaids don’t know each other, now is a perfect time for them to all meet. If your mom’s friend is planning the wedding, now is ideal to introduce her to the maid of honor and best man. So, make sure to set a date soon enough after the proposal and long enough away from the wedding day that makes sense.
Since you’ve decided on something casual (go, you!), setting your venue will be easier. Host it at your home or a family member’s or friend’s back yard or huddled close in the living room. Because you want people to mingle, make sure you choose a venue ideal for these interactions.
The time you choose will also determine the food situation. If your budget is smaller and you just want to serve snacks, then shoot for a mid-afternoon Saturday or Sunday get together. If you’re hoping for burgers and beers in the backyard, choose a time around dinner.
Step 3: Send your invites
A casual, informal party doesn’t warrant a paper invite, unless you really want to. An e-vite is completely acceptable. You should give your guests about a month’s notice before the party so they have plenty of time to pencil it in.
Don’t stress over the guest list. If you don’t have your wedding list nailed down yet, then just invite your closest friends and family. This party is supposed to be a casual thing, so inviting your whole 200 person wedding guest list wouldn’t make much sense anyway. Just make sure that you only invite people who will also be invited to your wedding.
Step 4: Decide on your food and drinks.
Again, this will be decided on what time you choose. If you’re serving snacks, opt for a veggie tray, chips and dip, and a few sweets. You can also add some champagne if you’d like for a mid-afternoon event, but a full bar is unnecessary.
If you’re planning to serve dinner, fire up the grill and flip some burgers. Include some healthy or gluten-free options as well if you have friends with dietary restrictions.
Step 5: Decide on decor.
Your decor for your casual get together can be simple and easy. Don’t feel pressured to match your wedding colors or theme with your engagement party. If you’re meeting outdoors, string up a few big bulb lights, light up some citronella candles (if you’re in the south and have a serious mosquito problem like I do!), tie up this rose gold love balloon behind the food table, and throw up one of these free printable quotes in a picture frame.
Then you’re done! Don’t overcomplicate your party. You’ll have the opportunity to carry a specific theme and/or color scheme in your wedding. Don’t overexert yourself here and not have the creative energy for your big day!
Step 6: Decide on gifts.
Bringing a gift to an engagement party isn’t standard. Some might show up with nothing but a bear hug. However, you’ll still want a game plan just in case. Mention on your invite if you’d prefer no gifts, or have your registry link ready if your favorite aunt inquires. It’s uncommon to include your registry on your invite like it would for your shower.
Step 6: Ask for help
You’ll likely have to ask for it at some point during your wedding planning, so get used to it now. Ask your maid of honor to bring the chips or your mom to pull together a few small flower arrangements. And, of course, if your parents are hosting the party, make sure that you offer to help too!
Step 7: Send thank yous.
Even if no one brings you gifts, it's still a nice gesture to send a quick thank you to all of your guests for celebrating with you. This is the beginning of a several month or even year-long process, so it’s important to kick it off on a good note with a little bit of gratitude!