Here’s the cardinal rule of engagement party planning 101: an engagement party isn’t, in any sense of the word, necessary. But like many things in life that aren’t necessary but do serve a greater purpose, an engagement party can be a ton of fun—whether or not you even like parties in the first place.
If you’re the type of person who loves celebrating and being celebrated, then an engagement party is exactly where that can happen. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to be the center of attention and would truly prefer if everyone attending your wedding could politely close their eyes and not stare at you as you commit to your partner… well, think of the engagement party as practice for those twenty minutes the day of the wedding. (Or you know, skip it.)
Before we break down engagement party ideas (and boy, do I have some), here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Traditionally, parents host the engagement party. But hey, who said you have to stick to tradition? There’s no reason someone else—including the two of you—can’t host instead.
- It doesn’t have to be one party. You can absolutely opt for a backyard shindig surrounded by those you love, or you could meet friends at a bar, or you could have two, three, or four engagement parties (especially if you have friends and family spread out over a country or continent).
- it’s usually right after you get engaged. Because the engagement party is about “Hey yay! You’re engaged!” you probably want to have it closer to the day you got engaged… because otherwise, a big party celebrating your love that happens eight to twelve months after the day you got engaged is called your wedding.
- make sure you like everyone you invite. Like, a lot. FYI, if you invite someone to your engagement party but not to the wedding, they will be confused at best, and hella pissed at worse. So, keep the invite list to people you absolutely know you want at the wedding, and resist the urge to invite everyone on Facebook just because. (There are exceptions to this rule, but they’re generally the, “We’re eloping with two people, and inviting five hundred to our engagement party,” variety. Not, “I know I invited 90 percent of my engagement party to my wedding, but you didn’t quite make the cut.”)
- you can have a tiny registry. You don’t want to send out a link or make it public, but traditionally, guests have brought small gifts to the engagement party. If you think some of your guests (like parents or longtime family friends) might be of the gift-giving persuasion, supplying your mom or dad with a link to gift suggestions isn’t a bad thing.
- Invitations can be digital. Or you know, just a phone call or an email. But if you’re looking for cute and free digital invites, Minted has a whole engagement party section. But if you’re like, NAW, I’m going to get all the cute wedding stationery I can as long as it’s cheap, we found you some inexpensive options.
- People will probably get mushy. About you, I mean. Engagement party toasts happen, but they’re spontaneous—not something you ask someone to do, or assign beforehand. Roll with the love!
Floral from Minted, 25 for $64
how to plan a low-key engagement party
The key to planning an engagement party you’ll want to be at is figuring out what kind of party you actually like. Most people won’t be expecting the party of the year, and an engagement party can absolutely be as chill and mellow as you want it to be. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting your engagement party off the ground:
Come up with your guest list: Like I said above, be thoughtful when choosing who you invite. As tempting as it might be to tell Facebook that the two of you will be at your favorite pub at 8pm on Friday to celebrate getting engaged, this is risky. First, what if no one shows up? Second, what if lots of people show up, but they’re that guy you worked with at Ruby Tuesday, or the girl who sat next to you and shared notes in a math class, or the person you lived down the street from in high school but haven’t seen in years? Do you want those people at your wedding? By all means, a private FB event might be a great way to communicate the time, date, and structure of the event, but thought… is everything.
go easy on decor: If you’re going to have a simple backyard fete, a few twinkle lights and food and drink all you need. If you’re celebrating at a bar… well… you’re decorating the town with cocktails right? That said, if decorating for parties is your thing, totally go all out (our friends at Oh Happy Day Party Shop have super cute affordable stuff)—but trust that an engagement party is by design infinitely mellower than a wedding, and the decor can be, too.
food and beverages: You will most likely need to feed people and provide them with something to drink. But unless someone in your life wants to go really formal, think pizza or potluck, not plated dinner. Having said that, make sure you’re planning the party for a time of day that your budget can handle. If the engagement party is around a mealtime, you’ll need more food. If it’s after dinner drinks, you’ll need… more drinks.
MODERN BOWS from minted, 25 FOR $64
6 engagement party ideas
board game night: You don’t need games at an engagement party, but it’s possible that not everyone will know each other and be down for chatting all night. Board games are a great go-to for many group scenarios, and especially nice for a smaller, mellower event. Think Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity, Ticket to Ride, and so on—and maybe Uno if kids will be around.
Wine tasting night: Assuming everyone is okay with drinking, a wine tasting engagement party kills it in two ways—you have something for your guests to drink, and you can also test different wines to decide what to serve at the wedding. Plus, this almost guarantees your crowd will be plenty social and chatty.
backyard party: Depending on the time of the year and where the party is hosted, this could be so many things: BBQ, pool party, s’mores and fire party, stargazing party, and so on. If you or someone you know has a great yard and loves to host, a backyard party is ideal for small groups of people who know one another well.
brunch engagement party: Of course, your engagement party doesn’t have to be at night—and a brunch party allows for a totally different experience. Have the party on a Saturday or Sunday, include a bunch of coffee and mimosas, offer some fruit-filled crepes, and enjoy.
rooftop engagement party: If you live in a city with its fair share of downtown venues, and especially if your engagement party will take place in late spring or early summer, consider scoping out a space and hosting the party where you can enjoy the breeze, a view, and everyone around you. Maybe you find a rooftop bar, maybe you just hang out on your friend’s roof. As we said, with engagement parties, formality level varies.
Head To The Bar: Look. Just because it’s wedding related doesn’t mean it has to be fancy and over planned. Tell your nearest and dearest that you’re celebrating putting a ring on it at your favorite bar, Saturday at 9pm. Let the festivities begin!
did you have an engagement party? What worked—and what didn’t?