When your loved ones have decided to tie the knot, it's only natural that you'd want to celebrate them with a fabulous engagement party. Since this isn't just any old fete, so be sure you follow these simple rules and tips to make your engagement party a success.
- Keep it Simple
This might be the number one rule of entertaining. If you're stressed out and running around, your guests won't have a good time. So make sure that you plan a relaxed and easy event. Also, an engagement party shouldn't compete with the wedding. You don't want to throw an elaborate and lavish engagement party, only to have the couple decide to have a simple down-home wedding.
- Consult the Engaged Couple
First of all, you should make sure that the parents of the couple aren't planning on throwing an engagement party – you don't want to step on any toes. But even once they've accepted your offer to celebrate them, you naturally need to keep them central in your planning process. If they like getting dressed up, then a cocktail party is ideal. But if they're more casual, maybe it's time to throw an engagement softball game with a picnic afterwards, or even an engagement BBQ. Since there really aren't any rules about what an engagement party should be, you can expressly tailor the event to the couple.
- Be Careful with the Guest List
It's a faux pas to invite someone to a pre-wedding event who won't be receiving an invite to the big day itself. So make sure you ask the bride and groom for only those people who absolutely, definitely, will be at the wedding. If you want this to be a surprise, then keep the guest list only to intimate family and friends. The one exception to this rule is when a couple is planning to elope. Then you can state on the engagement party invite something to the effect of, "Mark and Cindy are running away to get hitched, but we're not going to let them escape without a celebration! Come raise your glass as we toast them at an engagement party."
- Raise a Toast
Speaking of toasts, you as the host should be prepared to give one. It doesn't have to be very long, but it should welcome everyone and express your love and happiness for the couple. Serve inexpensive champagne, a fun champagne punch, or a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage.
- Add Special Touches
Keeping it simple doesn't have to mean boring or devoid of creativity. A few special touches will be enough to keep things interesting. They can be as simple as getting monogrammed napkins made with the couple's wedding date, or as complicated as making a video from pictures of the couple. A few more ideas: use tablecloths in the wedding colors, serve foods from the couple's ethnic backgrounds, or serve foods related to the honeymoon destination. Decorate the walls with pictures of the couple or their favorite interests. Scatter cards around the room with little-known facts about the couple, which serve as conversation starters.
- Tell the Story
Everyone will want to know the marriage proposal story, and some will also not know (or perhaps not remember) the story of how the two of them met. So, if there are photos, why not put them up on the wall to help tell the story. You could also ask the couple to stand and tell the story near the beginning of the party so that everyone can share in the moment.
- Decide on Gifts
Gifts are certainly not required at an engagement party, although some guests may think so. To avoid tricky situations, you may want to write, "No gifts please" on the invitation. You could also ask guests to bring a donation for a charity, or a canned food for a soup kitchen in lieu of gifts. If a couple would like gifts, they should make sure they've registered for a variety of moderate gifts so that guests won't feel pressured to spend a lot of money. And, like any party, you shouldn't mention gifts on the invitation.
Other friends and family members will want to be involved, so help them while you help yourself by giving them jobs. You can ask someone to make sure champagne glasses are filled, while another person helps you pass hors d'oeuvres. If you're doing any crafts or special touches, it's easy to ask another person to help make it even more special.
- Plan Ahead
The more you can do in advance, the more you'll be able to relax on the day of. So set out platters, clean and decorate your house, and write out your toast well in advance of the party.
- Snap Some Photos
Perhaps the simplest tip, but it's also one of the more important ones! Make sure to take photographs, or delegate someone to do it for you. The couple will want to preserve the memories of this day, but likely they'll be too busy greeting friends and chatting to do it themselves. Plus you'll want to have evidence of what a fabulous engagement party you threw.