The engagement party

Published date: 21st June 2019

It may not be anywhere near as exhausting as planning a wedding (you’ll see), but organising an engagement party still takes some thought, and there is the same potential to please or annoy your nearest and dearest.

One tip from the outset is to think about two parties, or one party and one get-together. The former for a very few of your closest family and friends; the latter (and it should be second) something for colleagues you like and your wider circle of friends arranged along the lines of ‘We’re going for a few drinks with friends to celebrate our engagement, would you like to come along?’

But first things first: when should the party be held? If you are getting married within a few months, probably not at all, you and anyone helping to finance the big day will need your energy and cash for that. So if you have started on serious wedding organisation, maybe forget it.

Time was that people would hold a family party and make a surprise announcement. As we’ve had phones for a century and the internet for a while ‘surprises’ are less common. The ideal is probably within a couple of months of actually getting engaged, and a year away from your wedding.

Who hosts the engagement party? Traditionally it’s the bride’s parents, but as we are a civilisation of luggage with families than can spread several continents it can be you. Friends sometimes offer, but we’d say keep control yourself. Depending on the parental home or yours they can make a good venue, but if they are unsuitable keep it pretty informal with a private room at a restaurant, or a function room hired specially.

The big question is who’s invited? A warning: if someone is invited to the engagement party they expect to be invited to the wedding, and that’s the protocol. So keep it small and intimate, closest family and friends only, and start thinking about your wedding guest-list now. Another bit of etiquette is that your (adult) bridesmaids and best man should be there, so check in advance they can make it.

Not etiquette but common sense and courtesy: if your respective parents haven’t met before this day then let them chat away from the public gaze to break the ice.

What style of event will it be? Rule number one is don’t outdo your wedding. Again, keep your powder dry (and cash in your pocket) for that later date. Generally they are evening dos, though a really informal BBQ (if you trust the weather) on a weekend afternoon works too. Getting it catered on a small scale can help all concerned, but a simple buffet, that BBQ, or just snacks and drinks, is fine. Just remember that someone needs to buy fizz for the toast, which is really the only must-do of the event: father of the future bride may want to make a short speech here, or if he is absent or unwilling then the future groom is next in line.

If you decide to send formal invites – though email or social media can work too – keep them simple, forget colour-schemes and themes. We’d also suggest along with your names, announcement and the time, date and venue you add those crucial words ‘No gifts!’ It saves people wondering if they should or shouldn’t. Best to keep present-giving for your wedding.

Last but not least – what to wear? To state the obvious, it needs to fit the occasion – BBQs and ball-gowns don’t mix, especially for the groom. And you need to ensure that you look like a couple, so if you buy a dress for the occasion, he can’t arrive in torn jeans and t-shirt, unless he’s an ageing rocker. Or if he’s in a dinner jacket you can’t do jeggings. There is one thing that you need to be wearing because everyone will want to see it – the engagement ring. If that’s not sorted yet, get a move on.

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