2 to 3 Months Before
[ ] Pick the date
You'll want to give guests about a month's notice, so about 9 to 11 months before the wedding is ideal. If your parents or friends are planning the event, be sure to give them a few days to choose from within that time frame.
[ ] Settle the guest list
Engagement parties tend to be smaller, with just close family and friends of both sides in attendance. That said, since you're hosting, know that everyone who's invited should ultimately be invited to the wedding.
[ ] Find a venue for the party
Depending on how many people you want to invite, you can make the engagement party work almost anywhere -- the club (cocktails!), a restaurant (good friends and food!) or even your backyard (easy and casual). Think of it as the perfect opportunity for your two families to get to know one another in a fun, laid-back atmosphere.
[ ] Register!
It's smart to get the ball rolling on your registry as soon as possible -- you'll get more time to visit stores, look at china and patterns, and feel sheets of varying thread counts. Not to mention, you'll make it easier for the few guests who may want to bring gifts.
1 Month Before
[ ] Send out the invites
You can keep the invites simple, make them yourselves or even send them out via email. Don't worry if you haven't chosen your colors or don't have a wedding date set -- your engagement party invites don't have to match the rest of your wedding stationery.
[ ] Decide on the look
Brainstorm potential colors and decor ideas. Whether you opt for a theme (carnival, beach, fiesta) or specific style (retro, rustic, modern), think of ways to incorporate personal touches. This is also the time to think of fun games and activities, like a scavenger hunt or Trivial Pursuit (with questions related to the couple), to break the ice.
[ ] Finalize the menu
Decide how you want to approach food and drink. A few options to consider include small bites accompanied by cocktails, or sit-down or buffet dinners.
Up to 3 Weeks Before
[ ] Prepare your toasts
You don't need to rehearse anything. Just know that you should raise a glass to your hosts and guests, thanking them all for coming. Get used to it -- you'll be toasting them again at most prewedding events.
[ ] Go shopping
If you're throwing the party at home or bringing decor or supplies to the venue, stock up on food, drinks, party decorations and favors. Make sure you have enough furniture and cutlery to accommodate everyone.
After the party
[ ] Keep track of gifts
Create a guest list spreadsheet to keep tabs on who gave what. That way, you'll be able to send out thank-you notes right away (and keep sending them out as more gifts arrive). And if someone else hosted the party, don't forget to send them a thank-you note and a gift.
Get even more engagement party ideas
> How to plan your engagement party
> Engagement party ideas they'll love
Excerpted from The Knot Book of Wedding Lists, published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers