Darling House, Waterloo

How to plan an engagement party: your ultimate checklist

Your ultimate guide to planning an engagement party, from the budget to the guest list and what to do for entertainment and themes.

You’re engaged, congratulations! After posting an incredible engagement announcement it’s time to celebrate with your nearest and dearest. While an engagement party is by no means necessary, it’s a good excuse for couples who can’t wait for the wedding to have a good old knees up – especially if they have a long engagement.

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While it’s usually the bride’s parents who host the engagement party, these days it’s more normal for the couple or their friends to arrange it themselves (especially if it’s two grooms getting married!). Or rather than have one single event, some choose to host two: one for friends and another for family, or two for each other’s respective families. This is a particularly good idea if you and your partner are from different places and don’t want  relatives to travel too far.

Another great thing about engagement parties is that they’re not beholden to as many rules and formalities as other wedding-related events — so you can choose from booking an area in the pub to a full-blown affair with a hired DJ, venue and catering. It really is up to you what you both feel comfortable with. (For example if one of you wants a more sedate affair with some close friends, a bridal shower might be a good alternative.)

With that in mind, we spoke to expert wedding and party planners Katrina from Katrina Otter Weddings and Holly Poulter from Revelry Events, share their ultimate tips to plan the best engagement party ever.

When to throw an engagement party

“This is an incredibly exciting time in your life and of course you’re going to want to celebrate right away. But hold the phone. Or rather, put it down! Don’t rush to plan an engagement party right away. Enjoy being engaged and get stuck into planning after a few weeks. Most engagement parties are held between two and four months after the proposal, depending on how quickly you’re planning on getting married,” Holly says.

Photo by Dave Lastovskiy at Unsplash
Photo by Dave Lastovskiy at Unsplash

Who to invite to the engagement party

“Think carefully about your guest list as not only will this influence your choice of venue, date and how much you spend, traditional etiquette dictates that guests invited to your engagement party should also be invited to your wedding, so a blanket email to everyone you know isn’t advisable as it may cause headaches later down the line.  When you’re compiling your guest list, try to ensure that your key wedding party can attend and remember to invite family as well as your friends.” warns Katrina.

If you want to have a more intimate celebration with your closest friends, a bridal shower is a great idea.

Where to have the engagement party

“Your party venue will set the tone for your engagement party, and often for the wedding itself. Consider whether you want to hold your engagement party at home, or if you want to hire out a restaurant or maybe an art gallery for the evening. Once you have the venue, you’ll be able to determine the formality of the event (your dad will want to know if he has to dig out his old bowtie), the catering and even the style of the invites,” advises Holly.

Check out our edit of the best engagement party decorations to make sure your venue looks amazing.

Darling House, Waterloo
Darling House, Waterloo

How to send out the invitations

“Invitations can be as informal as you like, with something simple like an e-invite, private Facebook group or text message! If you’re sending out an e-invite or even a formal invitation, then you don’t need to worry about tying the invitation style into the rest of your wedding stationery.  Once sent, and if your numbers are limited and/or you’re providing food and drink, then keeping a list of acceptances and declines is also advisable,” says Katrina.

Setting a budget for your engagement party

“Like all parties, a budget is required (even if it’s just for the perfect engagement party dress!) but the good news is that there are no rules, requirements or expectations about how much you, or whoever else is hosting your engagement party (i.e. a parent), should spend.  So if you fancy a lavish affair with free flowing champagne and a five course meal or something more informal at your local pub, the choice is completely yours, with no expectations as to what or how much is provided,” confides Katrina.

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Photo by Hardini Lestari on Unsplash

How to spend your money

“If you’ve put aside or are saving money for your engagement party the most important areas to spend your savings on are the venue, food and drinks.  These will be the areas your friends and family will appreciate the most.  Whilst décor, such as a few small floral arrangements, giant confetti balloons or something to tie your party into who you are as a couple or the style of your wedding are a nice to have, they are by no means a priority on the expenditure list, especially if your budget is limited or you’d prefer to spend the money on the wedding itself.  After all, the whole point is to celebrate your engagement and not blow your budget in the process,” informs Katrina.

How to pick an engagement party theme

“When it comes to decor, pick a theme or design that works with your chosen venue, but most importantly make it all about the two of you. A nautical theme is nice, but if neither of you have ever stepped on a boat and your party is in a bar, maybe think again. Show off your personalities, theme it around a mutual hobby, or even the proposal itself. Did he propose in Paris? An evening of macarons and champagne! Down on one knee on a beach? This calls for barefoot, bohemian coastal glam,” says Holly.

Gay wedding ceremony celebration party

Do you serve food and drinks at engagement parties?

“When it comes to food and drink my advice is to keep it simple.  If your budget allows, then you could put a tab behind the bar, serve welcome drinks, hand out bubbles for speeches (yes, speeches – some simple thanks – should be incorporated into your engagement party!) along with a selection of canapés or sharing platters for those who get peckish and all rounded off with an engagement cake or dessert table,” Katrina tells us. For something extra fun, we adore the lightly sparkling Pinot Grigio in a can from Most Wanted Wines. This comes in both original and pink versions, and is particularly handy if you’re planning an outdoor celebration. Cheers!

Do you need entertainment at an engagement party?

“Beyond a little background music, very little entertainment is expected at an engagement bash, so don’t go mad. The main point of the party is for your collective family and friends, and various generations, to blend together for possibly the first time, and get to know one another over good food and wine. Like a trial run for the wedding! But if you do want to give guests something to do and you think your crowd will be up for it, consider low-key (voluntary!) games like ‘How Well Do You Know the Couple?’ or ‘Guess the Famous Mr and Mrs’,” says Holly.

Do you need a photographer at an engagement party?

Your engagement party could be a good time to get to know your photographer and ensure you feel comfortable with them, ahead of the big day – especially if you’re not having an engagement photo shoot.

Engagement house party
Darling House, Waterloo
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Obviously you won’t be rocking a white dress for your engagement party, but as bride-to-be you still deserve to look the belle of the ball! Here are some beautiful dresses to wear for the occasion.