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Traditionally, the bride’s parents have first dibs at hosting the engagement party. But we know plenty of couples whose engagement parties were thrown by the groom's parents, or whose parents teamed up and threw the fete together. The hosts of the party don’t have to be your parents either. Your favorite aunt, sibling, or even a close friend can throw the party for you.
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Engagement Parties: How to Plan an Engagement Party

From setting a date to compiling the guest list, read up on engagement party planning basics.

Photo: Andrew McCaul

Setting the Engagement Party Date

An engagement party usually takes place within a couple months of the proposal. That said, if you're planning to have a longer engagement, feel free to wait several months. Just make sure that your engagement party takes place closer to the time of your engagement than it does to your wedding date.


Compiling the Engagement Party Guest List

Anyone invited to your engagement party should ultimately be invited to your wedding, so the size of your engagement party guest list is really dependent upon your actual wedding day guest list. You might have as few as 10 or as many as upward of 100. When the host asks you to come up with a guest list, set it up so your closest family is first, followed by your best of friends, then go from there.


Engagement Party Invites

Your invites can be as simple or formal as you like, and really depend on the style and vibe you're going for. Word of mouth or an Evite is totally appropriate for a small, casual gathering at home. Then again, if your parents are throwing an elegant dinner at the country club, you may want to look into sending out formal paper invites. Get those invites out about a month in advance to give guests a good heads-up, or within four to six weeks if guests are from out of town.


Engagement Party Menu and Cocktail Ideas

You certainly don't have to serve a five-course sit-down dinner. Passed hors d'oeuvres, tasting menu stations, and family-style buffets are all great ways to go. Another idea: Theme your food. If you had your first date over Asian food, order up dumplings and sake-tinis for your guests.


Engagement Party Decor

Choose a style and theme that are completely different from your wedding day. So if you're planning a formal ballroom wedding, go for a laid-back beach-themed engagement party with vibrant tropical colors and a casual outdoor setting. The real trick here is that you don't want to upstage the wedding day. So if you're planning to have simple decor at your wedding reception, it would be odd to order over-the-top floral centerpieces for the tables. That said, a few small arrangements from your local florist will instantly perk up any space. Look beyond flowers too. Get colorful fabric for the tables and food areas and work with your theme.


Engagement Party Timeline

It's tradition for the father of the bride to make the first toast of the party, officially announcing the engagement. But your mother, your fiance's parents, or the host of the party could also step in to do this. After the first toast, you and your fiance might want to take a moment to thank everyone before opening up the floor to other friends and family who may want to speak. Other than the toasts, you'll want to have a little music. Hire a DJ, a local band, or keep it simple and ask a friend to man your iPod.

-- Elizabeth Narins

See More: Engagement/Engagement Parties