Engagement parties can be a fun way to announce and celebrate your engagement, but not everyone has one. Traditions and etiquette surrounding engagement parties vary across the country. Some are very fancy parties with lots of fancy gifts, others are more low-key (think pizza, beer, and bowling).
Should you have an engagement party?
Engagement parties allow you to announce your engagement to your nearest and dearest friends and family in a fun way.
They're a great way for your families and friends to get to know each other.
It's an excuse to have a party with people you love.
Having an engagement party forces you to have a sense of your wedding guest list early, as you shouldn't invite anyone who won't be invited to the wedding.
It is an extra event to plan for and pay for or to have someone else plan and pay for.
If you don't have a particularly long engagement (6 months or less), it may seem awkward to have another party so close to your wedding.
Who should host your engagement party?
Traditionally, the parents of the bride host, but today there aren't hard and fast rules. The bride and groom can host it themselves, or a friend or other family member can undertake the hosting duties.
If someone does not offer to throw an engagement party in your honor, and you are eager to have one, you should take it upon yourself to host the event.
It would be in poor taste to ask (or order!), someone to plan a party for you.
What kind of event should it be?
This depends on your budget and personal style. It can be a formal affair with printed invitations and reply cards, a casual backyard barbecue, or anything in between. A cocktail party with hors-d'oeuvres is always a safe bet.
Who should be invited to your engagement party?
You'll definitely want to invite your two families so they can get to know one another. It's bad etiquette to invite anyone other than those who will definitely be invited to the wedding, so it's probably best to limit the guest list to those very close to you. Typically, guests who would have to travel are not invited, as you will already be asking them to travel for the wedding. The exception to this rule would be the parents of the bride or groom.
When should you hold your engagement party?
For those with especially long engagements, engagement parties are held one to three months after the engagement, and/or about a year before the wedding. For others, it can be held any time more than six months before the wedding.
Can you have more than one engagement party?
If multiple people offer to host your engagement party, you may want to have multiple parties. If the guest list would be the same for both events, two engagement parties are not necessary. You may choose to celebrate with close friends at one event and family members at another.
Should you expect gifts and register for them?
You shouldn't expect gifts, as etiquette does not dictate that guests should bring them.
The announcement of an engagement inevitably gets some guests thinking about gifts, and this is a time that they might start asking your family where you are registered. Some of your guests will bring presents to the party. Therefore, it's a good idea to have registered for a few things before sending the invitations. As not everyone will bring something, don't make the gifts a central part of the party. Put them aside, and open them after the guests have left. Don't forget to send thank you notes!