Engagement Party Ideas
The point of the party is to celebrate the spouses-to-be, so start with photos of the delighted duo — especially ones from the beginning of their relationship and/or those they don't have copies of themselves.
For extra points, contact the couple's parents and ask for pictures of the bride and groom growing up. Since these won't be digital, vow that you'll immediately scan them — if you don't have a scanner yourself, you can get it done at a copy store like Kinko's — and send the originals back that same day. (And then actually do that.)
You can blow up the photos at the copy store to hang around the party or make a photo display on heavy poster board celebrating the history of the couple that they can later show off at their rehearsal dinner or the wedding itself.
Flowers (especially the couple's favorites), candles, balloons and streamers also set a festive mood.
The bride's parents traditionally host the engagement party, but the groom's parents, a friend or even the couple themselves can also throw one. However, before you start writing the invitation, make sure one of the couple's parents aren't already planning an engagement party of their own. Feel free to have another one, especially if they live in another area or are only inviting family, but it should be after theirs.
An engagement party is usually held within four months of the question-popping and at least six months before the knot-tying. That said, you'll probably want to give the couple at least a month to pull together the guest list for the wedding (since the engagement party guest list will be based on that), plus a little time to begin registering for gifts. Although engagement gifts should not be expected, some guests will still want to offer a celebratory token, so it's helpful if there are some inexpensive items on the registry for those so inclined. However, since putting registry info on the invitation would suggest a present is required, let guests who want those details just ask for them instead.
What kind of do should you have? It's your decision — an engagement party can be anything from a fancy cocktail soiree to a laid-back backyard barbecue. However, if you're hosting a party that the bride and groom's parents will be attending, take into account what kind of event will make both families most comfortable, since the engagement party is traditionally considered an opportunity to let the couple's parents get to know each other.
As for the guest list, don't invite anyone who won't be invited to the wedding. And don't invite anyone other than the couple's parents who will have to travel, since they'll already be expected to travel for the ceremony itself.
The main event at an engagement party? Toasts with the most. Custom dictates that the father of the bride goes first, then the groom, and then whoever else wants to say a few congratulatory words.
The couple may even want to throw a surprise engagement party — for the guests, that is — and announce they're engaged at what everyone will assume is just an ordinary get-together. However, close family and friends should always be told privately well before the party, since the couple's nearest and dearest may be hurt if they don't get to hear the big news personally.
One activity you should not plan on is opening gifts. Gifts should not be expected for an engagement party, particularly since guests will already be buying presents for the wedding and in many cases a shower. Some guests will still bring them, but they should be put aside (no gift table, please) for later or opened on the q.t. to avoid making empty-handed guests feel remiss.
The type of food to serve depends largely on the type of party you're having, but a cake would be right at any of them. Go white wedding with vanilla cake and buttercream frosting or coconut cupcakes decorated to spell out "congrats" to the blissed-out twosome.
You might also play off the nuptial theme for the rest of your party food. Could I interest you in a celebratory toast point topped with crème fraîche and caviar, for example? How about a Ring Pop® slipped over a ladyfinger? Rice pudding served in champagne glasses? Maybe even Rice Krispies Treats®? Let your imagination run away with you (elopement optional).
Since toasts are typically a centerpiece of the party, make sure you have plenty of cheers-ready beverages on hand, including sparkling grape juice for those who don't imbibe. Champers is the obvious libation choice, but for a surprising twist that originally rose to sparkling popularity in the 1800s, try the classic champagne cocktail instead:
- 1 sugar cube
- dash Angostura bitters
- 1 oz brandy (optional)
- 4 oz champagne
Drop the sugar cube into a champagne flute, add the bitters and brandy (if desired), and fill the glass with champagne.