He popped the question, you said yes, so now it's time to party! We hope you like parties, because now that you're engaged, you'll be going to a lot of them.
An engagement party is the first in a series of wedding-related celebrations. It's followed by bridal showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, the rehearsal dinner and (the grand finale) the actual wedding reception.
Not every couple has an engagement party, and it's completely optional. But many couples see it as an important occasion that marks the first time friends and family come together to celebrate your future marriage.
Sooner or Later?
Engagement parties are typically thrown within a few months of the proposal -- often a year or longer before the big day -- although couples planning on longer engagements may choose to hold off for a while.
Most engagement parties take place around six months before the wedding, usually after the engagement has been officially announced. Some traditional couples choose to reveal their engagement at the party, which was the original purpose of the event. But in our age of constant and obsessive communication, it's tough to keep an engagement a secret. And you try gathering all your friends and family together without clueing them in to what's really going on!
Luckily for the bride, that's not really your concern. While you're admiring the sparkle of your new diamond, someone else is worrying about flowers and catering. Find out who -- and how to get the kind of party you want on the next page.
Hostess with the Mostest
Like the wedding itself, the responsibility of financing and planning an engagement party traditionally falls on the parents of the bride.
If for some reason the bride's parents can't host the party (or simply choose not to), the groom's parents or any other family member or friend can step in.
So, what if no one is offering? Just make it known that you'd like to have an engagement party, and somebody will most likely step up. Of course, there's also nothing wrong with throwing your own celebratory shindig.
If you have multiple friends and family members proposing to host the bash, put them in contact with one another and ask them to co-host it. Remember, these people will be seeing each other again (and again) at wedding-related events, so you want make sure everyone remains amicable. Plus, the more the merrier -- at least in terms of the party's budget!
Glitz, Guests and Gifts
Engagement parties are typically causal affairs, and even couples planning formal nuptials usually prefer laid-back get-togethers leading up to the big event. Themes are optional, and they're often related to the proposal. If he popped the question on the seashore, beach décor and seafood hors d' oeuvres make the perfect party accent.
Be sure to supply your hostess with a guest list. Anyone you include in your engagement celebration will also expect an invite to the wedding. Your great aunt who lives out of state probably won't feel snubbed if she's excluded from your engagement party, but things could get nasty if you invite her to the opening celebration and not the actual wedding.
Some guests may want to bring gifts. You don't have to set up your bridal registry in advance of your engagement party, but you can at least pick out your china pattern, silver and glassware ahead of time. Let the hostess know, and she'll get the word out. If you're hosting your own celebration, don't advertise your registry unless someone asks.
The Gracious Couple
Regardless of who's organizing and paying for the party, be aware that planning any event takes a lot of time, effort and money.
Given the catering, invitations, booze and everything else, an engagement party adds up! If the hostess asks for your menu or beverage requests, offer preferences, but leave the final call up to her.
Unless you're determined to spare no expense and have the best of everything (see 10 Signs You're Turning into Bridezilla), remember that this is just the first of several soirées being thrown in your honor. Have fun, but save the caviar and Cristal for the reception.
One last word: Don't arrive empty-handed to the party. Bring a hostess gift or, at the very least, a thoughtfully written thank-you note. If you leave your hostess with a good impression, who knows? She may step up to throw your bridal shower, too!
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