Everything You Need to Know About Engagement Party Etiquette

engaged couple

You're engaged -- congrats! Next step? Sharing your good news with the world. And if you think a party is the best way to do so, then you better keep reading. Because just like with your wedding, there's a whole lot of etiquette surrounding this happy pre-event.


Historically, most engagement parties are thrown by the bride's parents, explains Sue Fox, author of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies and founder of EtiquetteSurvival.com.

"The family makes an excuse to host a party for relatives and friends; then, during the party, they may announce the engagement or drop subtle hints of an announcement to come," says Fox.

But this trend is no longer the norm. Now, informally announcing an engagement on Facebook, personal wedding websites, or some other form of social media is totally okay. "And it's the couple themselves throwing the event," Fox notes.

Here's what you should know in order to do it "right":

DO keep your guest list small. Inviting too many people is the most common engagement party mistake, says Fox. "Usually it's more of your core circle, and not the entire guest list for your wedding." Stick to close family and friends, but don't expect all out-of-towners to attend, especially if they'll need to also make a trip for your wedding.

DON'T go overboard. Planning your wedding is complicated and time-consuming enough, Fox notes, "so you should try to make the pre-wedding parties and showers relaxing and fun." That said, "normally, the engagement party venue should match the formality of your wedding -- and a realistic budget," says Fox.

The style, of course, can vary. Think cocktail party with appetizers, a garden party brunch, even a casual backyard BBQ. Just make sure, Fox adds, "that the engagement party won't upstage your wedding reception."

DO envision the members of your bridal party before you throw your bash. Your invitation list should include immediate family, as well your and your fiancé's closest friends. While it's not necessary that you've already finalized every last detail of your bridal party, says Fox, be sure to invite those friends you're considering to walk down the aisle with you.

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DON'T ask for gifts. "Gifts are not expected and you shouldn't even mention gifts on the engagement party invitation," Fox advises.

If a gift is brought anyway, "discreetly set it aside and open at another time," says Fox. "You want to avoid making those who didn't bring a gift feel uncomfortable."

DO let the party host give a toast first. At a traditional engagement party, the bride-to-be's parents propose a toast to the couple's future happiness, explains Fox. The groom then responds with a speech of his own, thanking them for the party and expressing his happiness at becoming part of their family.

If you and your spouse-to-be have thrown yourselves the party, go ahead and raise your glass, thanking everyone for coming and sharing in your happy news. But if other family members or friends have thrown the bash for you, ensure they're the ones to speak first.

DON'T throw a party when the timing is off. Of course you're excited and want to celebrate your engagement ASAP, but some situations may make that a bad idea. For instance, "if you're going to get married at city hall, you don't want to throw a big bash," says Fox.

Other reasons to forego an engagement soiree: if you're having a destination wedding and not everyone is on the invite list; if you or your fiancé have had a recent death in the family; or if you have a close relative with a pending divorce. "It might not be the right time or make a party inappropriate," says Fox.

And while we're on the subject, you might think twice about sending an invitation to someone whom you know is against the idea of you two walking down the aisle. "Not being sensitive or diplomatic to someone that may object to the announcement is a mistake," Fox says. "Consider setting up a time for a private discussion."

Or, depending on how close you are to this person, think about foregoing the engagement party altogether and simply having a small, intimate dinner with those closest to you.

Think of it this way: How gracefully you and your fiancé handle these early obstacles could set the tone not only for your wedding, but also for your marriage.


Image via iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

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