1 / 10
Should you splurge or save? It all depends on the bottom line. Are you paying for this party but parents are paying for the wedding? Perhaps you’re saving to split the wedding bill or paying for it all yourselves, in which case you want to determine what matters most so you can identify where and when to spend the money you have. One bonus of an engagement party is it can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Cake and champagne in your own home or a backyard BBQ at a relative’s house is a wonderful way to start the year of celebration ahead. Or you can host an event almost as formal as the wedding intends to be. Just keep in mind your engagement party shouldn’t one up your wedding day. Save the best for last!
2 / 10
After you have a budget and host or hosts identified, make your guest list. This will allow you to shop for a venue. Is your parents’ home large enough or do you want a public venue like a winery, brewery or restaurant? For smaller events, private rooms in a restaurant are often ideal.
3 / 10
Once the venue is set, send invitations the digital or snail mail way. There are no rules on how you invite loved ones to this event. While the invitation should reflect the formality of the party, remember that paper invitations cans be costly. Consider where you want to spend your budget and decide accordingly. And no matter what you spend, if you’re planning on using a social media hashtag for your wedding, you may want to include it here.
4 / 10
Register for Your Wedding Gifts
Don’t forget to register for your wedding gifts before the invitations go out, especially if someone other than yourselves hosts this party. Guests will want to bring a gift to your engagement party so the questions will start coming. Your hosts can help get the word out for you. Shop early and be prepared for the presents to arrive.
5 / 10
With the venue and date locked in, your style can start to come to life. Will you theme your celebration or design décor around a certain holiday, color palette, location or something personal? Holidays are a great time of year to celebrate when lots of public spaces are already dressed up and don’t need a lot of décor. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with candles. Dozens or even hundreds of candles can cut the need for fresh florals and set a very romantic mood in any setting. Just be sure to check fire and flame regulations in your venue to ensure a safe celebration and opt for flameless candles when in doubt.
6 / 10
Then, make it Instagrammable! This is one of the first opportunities you have to get guests using your wedding hashtag. Design a day or night that is not only festive face-to-face, but continues the party online with visual stations, backdrops or small vignettes and details that welcome and encourage social sharing. Don’t forget to include signage, custom cocktail napkins, or other details that remind guests to post with your hashtag if social sharing is encouraged.
7 / 10
Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
And make it personal. This may be the first time your friends or extended family meet your soon-to-be-spouse. Share personal details about each other, your relationship and your engagement story through photos (a slideshow, albums or framed photos), and mementos. You might even opt for a personalized game or two, depending on how big the gathering is. Bonding the families together can certainly start here.
Photo:Adam Szafranski for The Venue Report
8 / 10
When planning the meal, be thoughtful with your menu. Dinner doesn’t have to be a formal feast but it should be quality whatever you serve. If you’re hosting a cocktail party with appetizers, make them hearty and filling so guests don’t leave early out of hunger. Consider a few stations for items such as cheese and charcuterie. For dessert parties, give your audience choices and abundance. If the bar options are limited to signature cocktails or just beer and wine, choose premium brands and be thoughtful or creative in how you display those brands. Perhaps a champagne tower is in order for a formal party or buckets of beer at a barn or backyard event.
Theming your menu is a fun way to keep it casual (and keep costs down too). Consider a taco cart or mobile pizza oven, a donut bar or even the In-N-Out food truck to serve your guests fan-favorites without breaking the bank.
9 / 10
When it comes to entertainment, consider the setting. In a home, an acoustic guitarist might be a nice option or a DJ if the party is larger in size. Creating your own playlist through your speaker system is an option too. If in a hotel or larger setting, splurging for a band might be on the agenda. Just remember not to exceed the wedding expectations with any one element.
10 / 10
No matter where you celebrate, always say thanks. If a friend or family member has hosted this event for you, bring small gifts for them and a personal note to express your gratitude. While a party favor isn’t expected at a cocktail party, if you’ve opted for a seated dinner, leaving a gift at each place setting is a nice touch (and dresses up your tables too).