Engagement Party 101: This Is Everything You Need to Know

It’ll be fun, promise

by Stephanie Kaloi

group celebrating at a bar

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!

flora engagement party invite from mintedFloral 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 engagement party inviteMODERN 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?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • idkmybffjill

    “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.”

    VERY VERY IMPORTANT. Our friends threw us a great party, but due to some conflicts in the schedules of the planners, it happened 4 months after we got engaged. It was a great party but kind of anticlimactic. A commenter the other day mentioned that they had a “Suprise we’re engaged” party and I think that sounds like a really A plus idea!

    • Bethany

      Agree about the timing! We didn’t have an engagement party but one of my good friends wanted to throw us a party just a few weeks before the wedding. It was very thoughtful and I appreciated the idea, but a “hooray you’re getting married party!” seemed pointless 4 weeks before the wedding… we politely declined. I would definitely have been down for a backyard BBQ right after we got engaged though!

      • idkmybffjill

        Totally! We actually did the same re: a pre-wedding party.
        We had an impromptu brunch thrown for us the weekend we got engaged by the same friend group who later threw us a party, and in retrospect we should’ve just said “this was perfect, we don’t need anything more!”. They were super pumped and we were so grateful we said “Sure, that would be amazing!” but maybe should’ve thought it through when we find out the date.

    • Eh

      My sister and BIL live far away. They came home around my sister’s birthday a few years ago and had a birthday party for her. The birthday party was just an excuse to get everyone in one place to announce that they were engaged.

    • sofar

      Yeah, my in-laws really REALLY REALLY wanted to throw us one, but we don’t live near them. And the first weekend we could go up to them was … six months after we got engaged. We begged and pleaded with them to just skip the thing, but they were like, “NO! You will NOT take this away from us.”

      It was actually pretty great because we hadn’t met many of their huge circle of friends (they’re immigrants, and their local community is like 500 people). So the engagement party was an opportunity for all those people to meet me for the first time, bless me, etc.

      They actually threw their own daughter an engagement party one MONTH before her wedding because that’s the only time her Dr. schedule would allow. Nobody robs these people of a chance to throw an engagement party, timing be damned.

      • idkmybffjill

        Ha! I think guest list is key in terms of timing. The rule doesn’t really have to be “RIGHT AFTER”, but what will make it a better party will be if you haven’t already celebrated with everyone. For us, it was honestly a little awkward to be celebrated again with people who’d already celebrated us… and people just weren’t that pscyhed because… again, they’d already celebrated with us. There wasn’t that same happy excitement of OMG OMG!! It was just like, “Still yay! How’s wedding planning?” which is weird party vibe.

        • sofar

          Ah yes. “So, have you chosen a menu yet?” “No [cries inside].”

          • idkmybffjill

            Yes! Ours was also with friends and it just ended up being like… sort of a weirdly formal vibe. Whatever! We’re married now. Lol

    • Kaitlyn

      My BFF tried to throw us an engagement party the weekend after we got engaged since I was going to be back in my hometown, but obvs you can’t pull off something like that that quickly haha So we had a big pizza party with my mom’s side of the family (which was the original plan) and my mom was quick to be like, “This isn’t your engagement party, promise!” Buuut it’s three months later and obviously it’s the holiday season so something couldn’t realistically happen till the New Year. And I agree – four months later seems kinda anticlimatic haha So my BFF suggested (and I really liked this) a low-key fete with our immediate families, grandparents, and bridal party at a vineyard in my hometown. My future in-laws haven’t met all my brothers (and good luck when they do hahaha) and I love the idea of the bridal party meeting since we’re gonna spend like a whole weekend together haha

      • idkmybffjill

        That sounds super fun!

  • Amy March

    The registry thing is so interesting. I usually go with the same engagement gift, whether or not there is a party. If I really like you, you’re getting champagne or a ring holder. If I like you but not enough to spend money on you right now, you get a card. Never a big registry gift. But one of my friends not only finished her entire registry within weeks of getting engaged, she has gotten significant $50-$200 gifts from most of her family, parents friends, and her own friends, and she routinely buys similarly sized gifts for friends.

    • idkmybffjill

      Ring holder is a brilliant engagement gift and I will be stealing it promptly, thank you.
      I had no idea gifts for engagement parties were a thing and was really surprised that we got some. They were all more along the lines of “bottle of wine” than registry gift, tbh I think I would’ve been really started if we’d gotten anything bigger. Also we DEF didn’t have our registry done until like… 6 months before the wedding (a year after we got engaged).

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        A pretty little ring dish is my go-to wedding gift. (I have never been to an engagement party.) I find one that matches their style and wedding colors — if in doubt, see what color kitchen or bathroom stuff they’re registering for, because that’s where people tend to take their rings off — and pair it with a gift card to the store where they registered. Boom, something thoughtful and tangible, plus something practical, and it blurs just a smidge the hardline amount you spent on their gift. Etsy is a great place to find them.

        • idkmybffjill

          Brilliant. I made my bridesmaids little jewelry dishes with embossing powder and vintage plates, I’m gonna start making little ring holders for the newly engaged/borrow your idea for weddings!

      • rg223

        Just watch out – I started giving out ring holders JUST at the point when it started to become a trend in my circle, so each time someone else gave the bride one too!! I’ve given up on it, sadly!

        • idkmybffjill

          Oh I’d love that though! We have three – one for my nightstand, one for his, one for the sink when we do dishes. I take my rings off a fair bit to do certain things, would not hate more ring holders :).

          • rg223

            Oh yeah, that’s a good point! I’m in the “take them off when I’m at home” camp (or never wear them, since having a baby (oops)). Also, I live in NYC, where everyone has a small apartment, and even though I was gifted two ring holders, I really only ever used the one in the bedroom. But I’m reconsidering!

          • idkmybffjill

            Totally! The one by the sink and by the bed are definitely my go tos.
            I’m a newlywed so still may definitely become a “take them off at home” person once I get over being like, “So sparkly!”.

          • Ashlah

            FWIW, I’ve been married two years and only take mine off when I’m doing something dirty that would be annoying to clean out of my rings (e.g. when my hands will be covered with vegetable oil, mud, dough, hair product, etc). Otherwise, they’re pretty much always on. Different strokes!

    • Brynna

      I’ve given this champagne candle to some close friends – it’s pretty and lasts longer than a bottle of champagne. But these are close friends.. I wouldn’t consider giving anything pricier!


  • Joann

    Related question: are engagement presents a common thing if there’s no engagement party? I gave engagement presents to my friends before even knowing about an engagement party or knowing engagement parties were common. I only got one engagement present which was surprisingly from my dad’s boss from 10 years ago whom I’ve only met twice. Slightly perpelexed I didn’t even get a card from anyone else and it’s been 7 months since we got engaged.

    • idkmybffjill

      I think it’s a really mixed bag. I’ve only gotten them before for VERY close friends who I didn’t think would want me to host them a party. I would feel weird about getting them for anyone other than besties or family, mostly because I wouldn’t want them to think I was assuming I’d be invited to the wedding.

    • NolaJael

      We didn’t receive any engagement presents or cards. Many rounds of drinks on various nights out, yes, but nothing as formal as a present.

    • stephanie

      I think it for sure varies, and generally, the people who are giving you presents at an engagement party are likely to be close, close family and maybe friends. We didn’t get anything after we got engaged, either, but I know people who did!

    • Jess

      We got engagement presents from a few close family friends/family. It comes down to people – some circles do this, some don’t. It’s not really talked about, so it’s hard to tell what your circles do. It seems like a slightly more formal approach?

      Not at our (super casual, friends only, no gifts) engagement potluck BBQ, but through mail and at a family Thanksgiving after our engagement. We gave R’s sister an engagement gift through the mail as well, though she had an engagement party we couldn’t attend.

    • Cdn icecube

      We didn’t technically do presents. But when Manfriend’s bro and sister got engaged (to separate people) we each gave them $100 towards their engagement celebrations. Ie. Bro said he was going to propose at a restaurant so we gave him $100 towards a really nice bottle of champagne for after. I wouldn’t do that for everyone, but we agreed that we wanted to do it for immediate family.

  • NolaJael

    Also, along with the idea that engagement parties are totally optional – the etiquette surrounding them is pretty vague and may not be known by your guests, so be generous of spirit! Personally, I’ve never been to an engagement party (they’re not really a thing in my circles, I guess?) but if I were it wouldn’t trip my social radar as a *mandatory wedding function* that requires gifts, formal RSVPs, dressing up, etc. I’d just assume it was a backyard BBQ with a theme and would come or not depending up on the dictates of scheduling (rather than moving heaven and earth to be there).

    • Amy March

      I don’t think they do require gifts, ever, and nothing requires that you move heaven and earth to be there. But if an invitation requests that you RSVP please for the love of all that is good in the world, wedding or not, just do it!

      • NolaJael

        LOL, of course.

  • sage

    I’m a little torn about the “IT’S USUALLY RIGHT AFTER YOU GET ENGAGED” bit, since my mom and aunt are throwing us an engagement party a whole 7 months after we got engaged. That’s honestly the earliest we could get it on the calendar. I think it will work out OK in our situation, though, for a few reasons. It’s in my hometown, which I don’t visit very often except for holidays. Our engagement is going to be 18 months so it’s still almost a year before the wedding. And we have not formally announced our engagement (on facebook, in the newspaper, etc.) so some people who would be invited to the engagement party may only know through word of mouth from my parents anyway. It’s going to be a backyard affair at my aunt’s house with twinkle lights, BBQ, and sangria! We’re excited!!

    • idkmybffjill

      I think it’s more likely not to be a problem with the guest list is made up of folks with whom you haven’t already celebrated in some way – which seems to be your case! BBQ & Sangria sound delicious. Congratulations!

      • sage

        OK, yeah that’s exactly who would be attending! Thanks!

        • idkmybffjill

          You bet! I think the idea is just you want to see your guests and be like, “Yay! We’re engaged!” I commented below, ours was 4 months after we got engaged, but we’d already seen all the guests and had that initial excitement. So it was just a really nice party but a little less exciting.

    • Amy March

      I think that’s just the difference between proactive and reactive advice. I’d definitely tell anyone who asked to have an engagement party sooner rather than later, but I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone who has already scheduled one later “omg cancel.”

      • stephanie

        Same. :)

    • NolaJael

      If you don’t see these people often, then it’s still the first time they would see you in person to congratulate you, so that works.

    • Katharine Parker

      I think with an 18 month engagement, an engagement party 7 months later is fine. Having an engagement party right before the wedding seems unnecessary, but over a year out is reasonable.

    • sofar

      Ours was 6 months after engagement. My husband’s parents REALLY REALLY wanted to throw one and that was the soonest we could spend a weekend in their city.

      • sage

        Yeah, ours is a similar situation. My mom and aunt really want to throw a party, but my mom didn’t tell us this until October… we had to push it to next year due to complicated holiday and vacation schedules.

    • Staria

      I worried about mine being too late – 3 months after engagement – in an engagement that would be 10 months and 3 weeks. But I made it small, with just immediate family and a couple of family friends on each side (adding up to 14 guests total), and we went out to dinner, and it was nice to celebrate with everyone like that, with a chance for parents and siblings to meet on both sides. Backyard engagement with people who haven’t officially heard with a year still to go sounds totally fine to me :)

    • Sarah

      I am in sticky timing situation as well. My parents are hosting our engagement party but it is 9 months after our engagement and only 6 months before our wedding. This was the soonest they were willing to host it because they wanted to do a BBQ and use their outdoor space but it would be too cold until then.

      I feel like it violates social etiquette to call it an engagement party so late but my parents are set in their decision and I am not the actual host. I also do really want to see my friends and family that might not make it to our wedding that is across the country.

      Not much I can do at this point… oh well!

  • Fawn

    This is timely because I’ve been contemplating an engagement party etiquette question…what’s the protocol around thank you cards for e-party gifts? We received several generous gift cards at our engagement party. I figured I’d keep track of who gave them, then include a mention on how they were used in the wedding thank-you. Does this seek okay, or should I send separate thank you cards for each occasion?

    • idkmybffjill

      Team seperate thank yous. Especially if you didn’t open them in front of folks. A thank you serves two functions 1) To express gratitude 2) To let the giver know you received the gift. If, say, your BFF brought over a gift after you got engaged and you thanked her really graciously in person while opening it in front of her, I think it would be okay to skip the note. But I think it’s usually better to err on the side of more thank yous.

    • Amy March

      Definitely separate thank you’s. For engagement, shower, and wedding. People need to be promptly thanked for gifts.

      • idkmybffjill

        BONUS: Following etiquette here and writing notes basically as soon as humanly possible makes it a much easier task in the end becuase they end up more spaced out.

        • sofar

          Totally. The worst was right after the engagement party because we received a bolus of gifts all at once and I went insane the following weekend writing 60 thank-you notes in a row.

          But for the wedding, most people mailed us stuff from our registry and the trickle was totally manageable. Get gift in mail. Open gift. Dash of thank-you note. Easy.

          • idkmybffjill

            Yep! Same. We stopped writing them the week of the wedding and then picked back up after the honeymoon, and we just did like 4 a day til we were done. It only took a month and everyone was like “Omg you’re so on top of things!” but it was not particularly difficult.

          • idkmybffjill

            Adding: It was really emotionally important to me to finish the notes before we moved into Married Life. I loved our wedding but was grateful for the chapter to be closed and finishing the notes definitely helped me be like. “Awesome, now we are a married couple and no longer a couple getting married/who just got married.” I much prefer just being a married couple, personally.

          • sofar

            Oh, same! Being a married couple is fantastic, and being DONE with the thank-you notes was a big part of that.

    • NolaJael

      I think any gift that is more than someone would bring to a dinner party (flowers, wine, side dish) deserves a thank you note. But it’s just something they brought to share, don’t worry about it.

    • sofar

      Etiquette and most people’s expectations dictates separate thank-yous. Yes, it’s a ton of work. My in-laws had 150 people at our engagement party (who nearly all brought gifts), we had a hometown wedding with 200 and then my in-laws kindly threw us a reception in their city with 400 people. And then my husband’s sis got married and all the people who forgot to give us a gift gave us one at that wedding. So I’ve been climbing Thank-you-note mountain since April.

      I wrote separate thank-yous as I opened the gifts. And there’s been a huge unintended pay-off — every time my MIL goes to a party, everyone tells her how awesome I am for promptly writing TY notes. And that makes my MIL like me more.

      • idkmybffjill

        Yesssss same re: MIL feedback. So many MIL points.

  • Ooh, this is interesting for me right now, because J suggested we have an engagement party after Christmas. Not at all a formal thing – no invites, no gifts, just a house party that happens to be taking place now because we’ve got engaged. I was thinking of inviting work people, because a lot of them were going to come to our housewarming and missed out because I screwed up the date, but they’d probably be evening guests at our actual wedding. And on the flip side, the only day guests we’d be inviting are mostly potential wedding party people; the rest are family, who we wouldn’t be invite to the engagement party because it’s not the sort of event we’d have family at normally (most of whom live at the opposite end of the country anyway).

    Etiquette wise, engagement parties aren’t really a thing here, and having day/evening guests is seen as normal, not a faux pas – the only weddings I’ve been to where there weren’t evening guests were ones where there wasn’t an evening do, everyone went home after the cake cutting. Any UK brides want to weigh in on whether having evening guests to a house party with an engagement excuse would create friction, or do they think people would be cool with it?

    • Amy March

      Do you need the engagement excuse? I’m not UK based but wouldn’t just having a party at which you are also existing as engaged people solve this problem?

      • I guess it feels a bit disingenuous, since we wouldn’t be holding a party otherwise? Especially since it specifically wouldn’t be a Christmas or New Year’s party (but probably would before Jan 6, so the decs are still up at home)

  • Arie

    Is anyone else still confused at the differences between an engagement party and a bridal shower? Because I am.

    • Amy March

      How so?

    • idkmybffjill

      Engagement party: (In my experience) ALWAYS coed, happens right after the engagement. Gifts highly optional.
      Bridal Shower: Happens much closer to the wedding, is often seperated by gender (although, of course, doesn’t have to be), basically always includes gifts.

      • Arie

        ah, okay. got it.

    • S

      In Australia an engagement party is usually at night (unless it’s an afternoon backyard BBQ thing), men and women, lots of drinking and revelry, an actual bonafide party. A bridal shower (which aren’t as common and I can’t say I’m speaking from much experience here) I think are in a similar vein to a baby shower – usually an afternoon do, usually just women, think more mimosas and cupcakes and girl talk and present-opening. I’m not sure if that’s the same in the U.S or U.K.

  • Elizabeth

    I didn’t have an engagement party because it took a long time for us to get the word out to everybody, but we did have a “-1 year anniversary” party at the bar where we would have our reception a year later. Our friends were like “this is weird but ok I love you.” It was a fun way to anticipate the joy of our wedding day with a small handful of people who have been like family.

    • idkmybffjill

      I like that! We had a little date night for our “-1” at a fancy restaurant and it was a really special way to reconnect/remember to celebrate our love (and not just plan) during a longish engagement.

  • Cleo

    “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.”

    YES. I have been invited to an engagement party, was told by the bride when the wedding was at said engagement party, and then never received an invitation (and the bride was radio silent to me when I reached out about it later). Then, I saw pictures of her wedding on Facebook and mutual friends of ours – people who weren’t invited to the engagement party – were there. No idea what happened to make her suddenly cut me out, but it’s incredibly hurtful and confusing.

    • idkmybffjill

      Oh god and she didn’t even get back to you??? Terrible.

    • Sarah

      Just wondering as to what part of the world you live? In Australia it’s pretty standard to invite people to the engagement party who won’t be invited to the wedding- I wouldn’t expect a wedding invitation after attending someone’s engagement.
      (Not trying to minimise your hurt here – if that is the common etiquette where you live then it really sucks that you weren’t invited to the wedding. I’m just interested in the potential cultural difference)

      • Cleo

        I’m in California, and it is common etiquette in my circles (plus it was a small, backyard bbq and the bride told me the wedding date and watched as I put it in my calendar).

  • Alyssa

    We did an impromptu lunch with both families at a Mexican restaurant… though maybe we went too casual and nonchalant, because my brother and his (now) wife didn’t show. But it was easy peasy, and with bomb margaritas!

    • idkmybffjill

      Sounds IDEAL. #margsforever.

  • Sarah

    Just curious, how common engagement parties are in North America/US? I have only seen them mentioned on APW only a handful of times, which has made me wonder if they are not a big part of the culture. Here in Australia they are a very common tradition after the engagement (whereas bridal showers are not a thing at all, or at least I’ve never heard of anyone having one). We had our engagement party about three months afterwards, which was about as soon as we could organise it and was hosted by us.
    Here I think engagement parties are seen as a larger and more casual celebration, compared to the the wedding which may be smaller and more formal and intimate. Ie, it’s common practice to invite more people to the engagement party than to the wedding, and I definitely wouldn’t expect that I would automatically be invited to the wedding after receiving a wedding invitation.
    For our engagement party we hired a function room in a bar that didn’t require a minimum spend. The event was in the evening and we had a small bar tab and ordered some platters of finger food. The bar was really great – the staff were great and the room was upstairs and had a fantastic view of the Melbourne skyline, and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. My fiancé and I gave some very brief speeches, and my parents gave a toast, and then we cut a cake (chocolate mud slab ordered from the local bakery). We also used free invitations using Paperless Post, which seemed to go over great with our guests and allowed people to RSVP straight away! (Very fun to watch!)

    • Hayley

      I am in america and it think it maybe be regional? I have had 6 friends get engaged and none of them had an engagement party. So maybe in my area, they aren’t really a thing. I’ve seen them on tv though. lol.

    • Rebecca

      Woohoo another Melbourne lady!
      We invited everyone to the local pub the week after we got engaged, and people dropped by when they could. In hindsight, it would have been good to give a quick speech thanking everyone for coming to kind of set the mood, but it was still loads of fun to do.
      And I invited everyone I ran into that week, including people that weren’t going to get an invite to the wedding – so my experience mirrors yours on the Aus wedding thing.
      I do know one couple who had an engagement party months and months after they got engaged. It had formal invitations, required travel, had a registry, a cake, speeches, professional makeup and hair for the bride and her sister… it actually wasn’t clear that it wasn’t a wedding. And going in I thought it was a wedding. Turns out they’re eloping later this year. This was somewhat of a surprise, and while I kind of get why they did it – they get wedding benefits (giant party, people who love them etc) + elopement benefits (private ceremony, time to themselves etc), there is definitely something to be said for managing expectations a bit better.

    • Leah

      Another Aussie here! All the engaged people we know have had cocktail-style or formal sit-down engagement parties. In our family, the parents have hosted them and venues have varied from function centers to hiring out restaurants as my sister and I did.

      Ours was three months after we were engaged because it’s the first date that worked! Like you, that was the soonest it could be organised. We had parent speeches and we both spoke but I imagine it will be more formal at our wedding. We had 120 people at our engagement party and will have 150 at the wedding because there will be more extended family and friends of parents etc. We had a registry because my mum insisted it would be a good idea, and it was. We didn’t tell people about it unless they asked and as a lot of our guests were Croatian and Italian we received a lot of cash presents (totally unnecessary and unexpected).

      I think engagement parties are pretty common in a lot of circles in Australia. I know for a lot of people in Sydney – and likely other capital cities – it’s incredibly difficult to organise a large wedding in a year or less so perhaps people have longer engagements and the engagement party lets them celebrate with everyone but isn’t so close to the wedding that it puts a strain on guests within a short timeframe.

      • Kari

        Also australian here. Everyone I know who is married had an engagement party.

    • S

      Another Aussie here and I agree with you RE: the larger and casual thing. I’ve only been to one, and I’m not sure if they’re as common in my extended circles as yours (not everyone I know who’s gotten married has had an engagement party) but the vibe of the one I’ve been to was very “super casual backyard BBQ at the bride’s parents’ place (where she was still living, I think?) for mates of the couple”. We were all very young, some people brought presents, and some didn’t, and we all just ate potato chips and drank cheap booze and hung out all night like a regular early-20s party. Maybe that’s why I think of them similarly to the way I think of 21sts here – some people do a super casual backyard hangout and some people do a more formalised things in a function room with a speech or two and cake, and some people can’t be bothered.

  • Carlotta

    What should I do if i want to have an engagement party so both families can meet, but our families live too far apart to drive? Do i expect one of our families to all fly? We both have huge families, so I’m worried about the costs.

    • Amy March

      Ask your families if this is something they would be interested in doing. I can’t imagine a huge extended family flying in for this but maybe they’d love to. More realistically, maybe just your parents would be interested?