Engagement Parties vs. Wedding ShowersWhile wedding showers are often parties for the bride, her friends, and the female members of the couple’s family, focused almost completely on the giving of gifts, engagement parties are for men and women and are much less gift-oriented. Engagement parties serve to publicly announce a couple's intention to marry and allow the couple to celebrate, usually informally, with friends and family. If some important people have not met one half of the couple (if most of the groom's family or the bride's best friend lives in another state, for example) the engagement party can also serve as an important introduction. Generally, however, guests are not expected to travel for an engagement party.
Engagement Party BasicsWho throws it? Traditionally, engagement parties are hosted by the bride’s parents. If you’re not the traditional type, though, the groom’s parents or other friends or family can host the party. Why not pick the best host or hostess, someone who’s excited to celebrate your upcoming union, or just throw the party yourself?
When should I hold the engagement party? You should hold your engagement party soon after announcing your engagement. If you love surprises, you could even invite friends and family for a gathering without telling them the reason and announce your engagement at the party. Whatever your plan, you should hold your engagement party within three months of your engagement.
Where should I hold the engagement party? The number of people involved and the facilities required can limit the places wedding ceremonies can be held, but engagement parties, smaller and more informal, have more location options. Hold your party in your home or that of a relative or friend, a park or garden, a restaurant, or even someplace unconventional like a movie theater or a pottery studio.
Who should I invite? Your guest list can include family members only or family and close friends. Make sure that everyone on the list is also invited to the wedding!
Themed Engagement PartiesIf you’re planning a themed wedding, you could incorporate your chosen theme into your engagement party too. Or, if you have a great theme in mind but are a bit too traditional to hold a themed wedding, use the theme at your engagement party! The smaller scale of the party will make the theme easier and less expensive to realize.
Some ideas for themed engagement parties to get you started:
Decade theme: Plan a party around your favorite decade or the decade when you and your partner were born. If you were both born in the ‘80s, for example, you could encourage your guests to dig out their legwarmers and parachute pants, put on standard songs of the decade, and play ‘80s trivia.
Beach theme: If you love the beach but don’t necessarily think a beach wedding is feasible, hold a beachy engagement party! Serve tropical cocktails, put the Beach Boys on the stereo, and use decorative shells as centerpieces.
Personal theme: For a truly romantic and unforgettable engagement party, base your party theme around something that symbolizes your relationship. If you went to a movie on your first date, hold a showing of that movie. If you met at a bar, invite all your friends to that bar and share the story.
Engagement Party IdeasIf you’re not a fan of themed parties, you still have myriad options for your party. Engagement parties can range from a simple potluck at home to a sit-down dinner at your favorite restaurant. Here are a few other ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Reserve a few lanes at a bowling alley and celebrate with a strike or two.
- Hold a wine-tasting party— schedule a private tasting at a local cooking school or winery if you have the money, or find a friend who knows about wine to host it.
- If you have a favorite sports team, rent a Skybox during a big game and invite family and friends.
- Throw an afternoon tea: serving a formal tea with finger sandwiches, scones, and tiny pastries will make you and your guests feel like royalty.
Engagement Party DecorationsHave fun with your engagement party decorations; décor that might be tacky at your wedding, like holdovers from Valentine’s day: huge pink heart-shaped balloons, heart confetti, and streamers in all colors.
A few other decoration ideas:
- Display baby or childhood photos and courtship photos of the engaged couple.
- If you have any mementos of your time dating (love letters, ticket stubs, presents, etc.) that you don’t mind displaying, put them out for your guests to see with notes of explanation.
- If you’ve already taken engagement photographs, display them prominently.
- Set out your newly conjoined family trees.
Engagement Party ActivitiesYou don’t necessarily need to plan any structured activities, but there are a few activities which are traditional:
- Announce your engagement officially.
- Take engagement photos if you have not already done so.
- Formally ask your friends to be part of your wedding party.
- Toast the couple and the couples’ families.
- Update your guests on the wedding planning so far; date, location, colors, theme, etc.
- Share stories of the day you met, your courtship, and your proposal.
- Watch cheerful wedding movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or Wedding Crashers.
- Play games! One idea is couple trivia; let guests quiz the couple on each other to see how well each person knows the other.
- Sing karaoke, especially your favorite love songs.
- Buy a blank book and invite your guests to share thoughts and advice.