By Riley & Grey|Wedding Planning|November 03, 2016

Practical Engagement Party Advice from Industry Experts

Photo: Hugh Forte via Bespoke Only

So, you’re engaged. This means that congratulations are in order (let us be the first: congrats!!!) and that it’s time to start thinking about how you want to share and celebrate the news with your community via your engagement party. While we don’t want to interrupt your post-proposal bliss, we do want to help you set the tone for your journey to the altar. Your engagement party is the perfect opportunity to start putting the groundwork in place for the kind of engagement and wedding planning experience that you want. If you’re like us, we’re guessing you’re opting for an all-round experience that’s heavy on beauty and meaning, but light on drama and chaos.

The wedding industry can be a bit of a jungle to navigate, but there are definitely ways to find your way through while having fun in the process. To help you kick things off on the right note, we’ve teamed up with some of the best wedding planners in the biz to gather advice, insights and best practices for throwing your engagement party.

"Simply treat it as an opportunity to share your happiness with everyone who you believe would be happy about the news."

Melissa Lee, Creative Director of Bespoke Only, likes to set the tone by reminding couples that the point of the engagement party is, “to share the happy news and celebrate without worrying too much about the cost and other nitty-gritty details.” This is the opportune time to be inclusive with your community at large, before you get into the real deal of your Big Day. After all, says Lee, “the engagement party should feel so free and easy! Invite anybody in town that you both like and care about. An engagement party has less etiquette attached; less financial and family obligations - do what pleases you and simply treat it as an opportunity to share your happiness with everyone who you believe would be happy about the news.” .”

When it comes to sorting out the guest list and pondering the number of engagement party invitations that should go out, Ashley Smith from BuzzWorthy Events has some helpful advice. “25-50 guests is perfect for an engagement party, but not more than 100 guests. This event is usually reserved for very close friends and family.” Because the topic of invitations and guest lists can easily becomes sensitive Smith says that the key to avoiding any confusion or hurt is to, “be clear with the person throwing the event for you and check out the guest list.”

Photo: GLDN events engagement party for Hannah Bronfman & Brendan Fallis, BFA.
"Use the engagement party almost as a stalling tactic...”

Meredith Falk, Founder and CEO of GLDN Events , is, admittedly a lover of the engagement party and while she loves the celebration and the declaration of love, she also notes that the engagement party provides some truly practical value: it’s the first time you and your honey will be planning a wedding related event together. Falk often encourages couples who are unsure of how they want to tie the knot to begin ideating around their engagement party as an isolated event. “See how that goes and then address the wedding. Using the engagement party almost as a stalling tactic,” suggests Falk.

While it may be tradition for the bride’s family to host, we’re always up for high-fiving those who want to take tradition and add their own twist. Which means, you can appease your family by letting them coordinate a more formal gathering AND opt for a second engagement party that places the emphasis more squarely on your personal friends. The personal party can be especially meaningful if you’ve been in a long-term relationship. “If you have been together or dating forever, engagement parties can take on a whole new meaning. Make it an epic celebration of all the people who have meant something special to your relationship,” says Falk.

"It’s an opportune time for the bride and groom to officially ask the people closest to them to be part of their wedding party...”

Regardless of the number of pre-nuptial events you plan to throw, you’ll want to stay cognizant of the point of each party. According to trusted wedding industry expert, Alison Rinderknecht of Alison Events, “the goal of the engagement party is to bring family and friends together who may not, yet, know each other and it’s an opportune time for the bride and groom to officially ask the people closest to them to be part of their wedding party on their special day.”

Once you have your guest list in place, your focus should shift to minimizing any anxiety around budget. Rinderknecht encourages her couples to start enlisting support right from the get-go, “If budget is a concern, ask a friend or family member with a cool pad if you can use it for the day. If you decide to have your celebration at a family member or friend’s house, ask the homeowner how many guests they feel comfortable hosting - that’s just good engagement party etiquette. Ask a few friends to come early and or stay late to help set-up and clean up at the end of the party and make sure to bring a gift to the host, or send a nice gift after the event.”

On that gift-giving note, you’ll want to consider whether you want to receive gifts at your engagement party. As with all things wedding, there are points of etiquette to be pondered and your engagement party is no exception. The general rule of thumb is this: it is common for guests to bring a small gift to the engagement party of their own volition (meaning your engagement party should be gift registry free). This is an opportunity for sweet tokens of sentimental value.

There is no formal obligation to insist that the same crew is present when you tie the knot.

And, if engagement party etiquette has you wondering whether or not you have to use the same guest list for your Big Day; the answer is no. You, of course, have the option to do so, but there is no formal obligation to insist that the same crew is present when you tie the knot.

Here’s what you need to remember: the engagement party is the first of many events and planning details coming your way in that precious space of time between saying “yes” and saying “I do.” To maintain your sanity and to preserve your sense of self, you need to do what feels best to you; you feeling good is critical for the adventure you’re embarking on. Our advice? Keep your self-care as due North on your wedding planning compass and, we promise, everything will come together in a way that reflects you and your love.