Wedding Planning and Logistics

Evan RBride Online Columnist

10 Great Ideas for your Engagement Party

Aside from nailing your proposal story, one of the bigger concerns for a newly-engaged couple is how to throw a brilliant party that truly stands out in everyone's memory. We've come up with ten excellent ideas for throwing one such perfect party. Read on and get inspired!

1. Borrow From a Time Period, With a Twist

Great Gatsby dance scene

(Courtesy qz.com)

How many parties have you been to that are a ‘1920s’ theme, where every single person shows up dressed in a sharp suit and cigar, or a dropped waist flapper dress, complete with a feather boa and bejewelled headband? What about what was happening everywhere else in the world at this time in terms of fashion, culture and history? For example, communism was on the rise in Russia, colonialism throughout Africa was at an all- time high, and the last Iranian dynasty was being formed. Ask your guests to pop on their thinking fedoras, forego conventionality, and explore the world at the time you suggest. The effort they put into doing a little research will not only be interesting and fun to chat about at the party itself, but will make them differentiate your party from others and look forward to it that much more. I guarantee that you’ll see some seriously interesting outfits, at the very least!

 

2.Borrow From a Culture

Bollywood dancing

(Courtesy all-about-india.com)

The key to this idea is to go big or go home. If you’d like to hold an ‘Indian’ themed party, for example, hire a mehndi artist (where women have intricate henna designs drawn on their hands and feet), organise a Bollywood dance lesson or performance, serve any authentic Indian food you can get your hands on, organise Hindi music, and make sure that everyone dresses as authentically as possible. The point here is to represent the culture- that mix of religions and backgrounds, and emphasise the importance of the celebration bringing you together. 

 

3.Use Your Favourite Time of Day to Inform Your Decision

Night picnic

(Courtesy  ink361.com)

Too often we assume that a party means that it must be held in the evening, and in doing so forfeit some fantastic original party ideas! We’ve created a timeline with corresponding food and theme options, depending on the specific hour.

10am. Breakfast.

The most delicious meal of the day! Organise sets of small- medium sized tables in an outdoor setting, or simply move several picnic tables and chairs together, end to end, to encourage a lively, intimate and fun atmosphere. Consider asking your guests to come in their  pyjamas- they’ll absolutely jump at the chance! Organise a buffet, menu, or simply serve the food family-style, down the middle of the tables for the guests to help themselves. Alongside classics that are easy to prepare for the masses, such as bacon, scrambled eggs, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, toast with spreads, crumpets, bagels, cereals, cooked tomato and mushroom, fritters, kippers, etc., organise fresh juices, mocktails, and for the adults, champagne, bloody Marys, bellinis and mimosas. The advantage to holding a party at this hour is that the food is the main attraction. Put on some easy- listening music, such as Sinatra, Streisand, Tony Bennet, and Dionne Warwick to keep the mood casual, yet cultured. You could of course incorporate games into the party, but the food and company should be plenty to entertain everyone.

11am- 12.30pm. Brunch/ morning tea.

Very similar to breakfast, with a few essential details changed. Generally speaking, the food should be the focus, but your guests will probably be more partial to more physical activities, even if that simply consists of walking from the food table to the drinks table. Here, you can mix heartier breakfast foods with canape- style dishes, and include both sweet and savoury foods (who in this world doesn’t love a mini bagel followed by a donut?). Provide real, substantial cutlery and crockery to give the event a refined edge. If you’re holding the event outside, consider either having some seats and proper tables, some chairs along the edge of the garden, to make room for those who want to walk, stand, or dance, or simply set out some picnic blankets. Your music can afford to be a little more intense, and probably a little more in line with your preferred musical tastes. If kids will be attending your event, this is the perfect time and place to set up some games for them. If in doubt, stick to classics, like ‘pin the tail on the donkey’, hitting a pinata, twister, etc that kids of all ages will be able to enjoy.

1pm. Lunch.

This can be as upper-crust or salt-of-the-earth as you’d like. If you’re taking the former road, hold an indoor, 3 (or 4 or 5) course meal, complete with crystal glassware and bespoke floral centerpieces. If you’re more comfortable with the latter, why not throw an Aussie-as-they-come Barbeque? The great thing about lunch is that it’s the most versatile meal of the day- you can serve just about anything you like and suit it to your theme. A lazy lunch can also run into the afternoon, where you can serve coffee, bite sized desserts, sit around with your guests and have a chat, or get active with some dancing and games.

2-5pm. Afternoon tea.

An excellent way to while away those boring afternoons, without committing to providing an entire meal. Provide little nibblees, which can be as fancy as a choux creampuff, or as simple as a cut up jam doughnut (equally delcious, in my opinion), as well as petite sandwiches and tea, coffee,  milkshakes, punch and cocktails. Though this is the perfect opportunity for a high tea, many prefer a lower- key setting. In order to achieve this, set the food out, and encourage people to walk around and mingle by providing minimal chairs. Encourage a whimsical air by hiring a tea- leaf reader, beginning a friendly match of afternoon cricket, or even hiring a trampoline for the event. No one will be able to resist (even if they’re wearing skirts).

5-7 pm. Dusk

Is there a time more magical than dusk? Gather your friends together as the afternoon begins to fade away, serve drinks (and canapes, possibly), and set up some chairs faced towards the sunset. Have everyone sit to watch the sun set (when was the last time you remember doing that?), to the dulcet tones of Nat King Cole, Henry Mancini, Elton John, or whomever else tickles your fancy. When the sun sets, bring the tempo up and let the more spirited partying being! Set up fairy lights, and create a dance floor for your friends to get their boogie on.

7- 8.30pm. Dinner.

If you’re holding an event at dinner time, you’ll be expected to serve dinner. If you don’t specify that you’re not, people are prone to getting grumbly and it will likely be the feature they best remember in years to come. In addition to the meal you serve, ensure there’s ample space for everyone to stand up, socialise and dance. People tend to hold dinner up to the highest scrutiny, so if you choose this time of day to celebrate, make sure absolutely everything is in perfect working order. Don’t even think about trying to cater the event yourself- the last thing you want to be is looking over people’s shoulder, making sure the right food is coming out at the right time, and unable to enjoy the night. Generally speaking though, if there’s alcohol, most will have a fine time. Consider hiring a barman for the occassion (even if it is your little brother’s friend) to add a little class to the event. Make sure your music list has a mix of fun songs with great beats to dance to, as well as slower songs for some more romantic moments. Wind the night down with some lighthearted speeches, possibly a projected slideshow or video of the two of you, and sparklers.

8.30pm onwards. The indulging hours.

Here, food takes a backseat. Set your party for a night after which no one has to work, and tell your guests to bring their dancing shoes! Canapes will be plenty to serve throughout (your guests will have to keep their energy up, after all), and simply keep the drinks flowing. Again, it might be a good idea to hire a bartender and deejay/ band for the evening. If dancing isn't your thing, consider holding an early ‘midnight snack’ party, and let your imagination run wild when it comes to your menu. This is the traditional hour for those indulgent snacks we used to enjoy at sleepovers- only now with an adult twist. Serve crisps, wedges, nachos with whatever dips you most love, along with doughnuts, churros, chocolate, flavoured popcorn, marshmallows, lolly- kebabs and any other decadent bites you manage to dream up. If you and your partner happen to to be film- buffs, why not set up some outdoor seats or plain blankets, hang a white sheet, set up some killer sound- speakers, and project a classic movie? This takes minimal planning and is a sure people- pleaser.

 

4.Discover Your Own Backyard.

Australian river

(Courtesy media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com)

If you’re the adventurous kind looking to celebrate in a truly memorable way, look no further than our own great outdoors. Australia offers some of the best outdoor experiences in the world, so this is a perfect opportunity to make use of it in a truly unique and meaningful way. Generally, this is better suited to smaller groups, but there are absolutely some activities than can be enjoyed by bigger parties. They include:

- camel trekking

- caving and climbing

- diving and snorkelling

- cycling

- golf

- fishing

- hiking

- hot air ballooning (some companies have baskets that hold up to 16 people)

- aquarium or zoo visits (private function rooms are generally available to rent)

This’ll both be a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that your guests will always remember wistfully, and will make for some incredible photos. Remember to inform your guests of what activities they’ll be doing, so they can wear appropriate gear. After you finish the activity, surprise them with a picnic, complete with celebratory cake and champagne!

5. Use Location as Inspiration

France pictures on a laundry line

(Courtesy www.pepperdesignblog.com)

Whether you want to use your or your partner’s hometown, your wedding location, or simply a place you love, creating a theme around your favourite place is an incredibly popular and fail- safe way to ensure a fantastic engagement party. If you live near the coast, for example, why not hold beach cocktails and games? Or perhaps somewhere more private, with a beautiful view of the beach, such as a cliff edge (only if you’re not having children present!)? Or if you live on or near a farm, consider holding the party inside a barn, which are famously easy to decorate, and instantly achieve a warm, home-like vibe. Throw in some personalised details, such as signposts directing the guests to the specific venue along a path, banners announcing your engagement, or some personalised biscuits, and you’re in business!

6. Why Not Go Wine-y?

Grapes

(Courtesy living.msn.com)

Boasting some of the most incredible wineries on the planet in our own countryside, a natural and unforgettable choice is to host your engagement party at one of these gems. Organise a party bus to pick you and your guests up, pass out single- serve bottles as they hop on, and make a day of it. Usually canapes are included, as well as a tour guide or speaker. If you prefer to indulge without leaving the comfort of your home, organise for a wine aficionado to visit wherever you prefer to hold the party, along with some of their choicest wares. Plus, your friends will love being able to show off their swirling and sniffing abilities in the future!

 

7. Red Carpet it Up

Red carpet petals

(Courtesy flickr.com)

Who hasn’t got at least one beautiful dress hanging in their cupboard, with the tags still attached, simply because we haven't had an occasion to wear it? Give all those hundreds of dresses a purpose by setting an unbelievably glamorous theme. Set up a red carpet outside your venue, have your photographer(s) snap your guests as they get out of the car, and serve champagne and the finest canapes inside, as you swan about feeling gorgeous. For some extra interest, you could encourage your guests to dress up as famous lovers throughout history. Bonus: seeing your partner all dressed up will likely remind of how plain gorgeous they are, which means that you’re most probably in for a memorable night.

 

8. Hobby Happy

Book folded you and me

(Courtesy tressugar.com)

Are you a book worm? Adventure junkie? Club hopper? Sports fanatic? If so, either do the thing you love at your party, or use it as inspiration around which you’ll shape all of the party’s other elements.

For example, if you’re particularly into clubs and music, recreate your own private Studio 54. Rent out a local club, get dressed up in your most happening disco outfit (how often do you get to wear glitter short- shorts in public?), and feel the funk. Hire out some deejays who understand exactly what kind of music and vibe you want for the night, have waiters dress up and weave in and out with canapes, a signature drink for the night, organise some disco, strobe and laser lights, and let loose for a night your and your guests will never forget!

If you’re a bit of a bookworm or film buff, on the other hand, why not encourage your guests to dress up according to your or their favourite piece? It’ll not only encourage a bit of creativity when it comes to creating costumes, but they’ll have fun revisiting their favourite books and films, and will ensure great conversation throughout the party.

Take sporting enthusiasm to a new level by renting out a plush hotel room to watch an overseas game you’ve both been looking forward to. Get a room with as beautiful a view as possible, organise catering, and make sure your waiters look sharp whilst passing out champagne, canapes, and popcorn. Those who aren’t particularly interested in the game can simply enjoy the incredible view and company. Bonus: hiring out the plushest of plush hotel rooms won’t come close in price to renting out a more conventional venue. But if a slick hotel isnt your ideal place to kick back and enjoy a game, consider going ‘courtside’. Although this could, of course apply to basketball (many venues have private rooms to rent out that overlook the game), this could be applied to any conceivable sport. For a creme-de-la-creme feel, organise a private marquee alongside a polo game, or horse racing. For a more down-to-earth vibe, Meet, party and get revved up prior to a footy game, and have everyone join you at the game, potentially followed by celebratory or commiseration drinks at your local pub.

9.Use Your Favourite Outing as Inspiration

Carnival kiss

(Courtesy bridalguide.com)

Do you and your fiance have a favourite bar, restaurant, or fun activity you think of as ‘yours’? Why not let your nearest and dearest in on this slice of entertainment heaven, whilst getting a better feel for your personality as a couple?

Some ideas include:

- bar

- restaurant

- theme park

- arcade

- bowling alley

- club

- park

- theatre

- lookout

- lakeside

-seaside

Holding your party at one of these venues will not only increase the ‘fun’ factor for everyone (including yourselves), but will add memories to an already cherished venue.

 

10. Revel in the Romance

Outdoor gazebo

(Courtesy elegantwedding.ca)

This only happens once, right? So why not bask in it, and have your theme be as simple as the very celebration of your engagement. Let the simple statement of romance be your theme, and bedeck your venue in all the love and engagement- related paraphernalia you can get your hands on. Draw inspiration from fairy tales, Shakespeare, your favourite pieces of romantic music and art, as well as anything else that happens to strike a chord with you. Everyone’s interpretation of ‘romance’ is completely individual, but some common themes and decorating tips include:

- flowers wherever possible (particularly roses)

- candles and soft lighting

- outdoor settings, such as gazebos within gardens

- poetry on display

- a fantastical amount of balloons

- fountains (of either the water or chocolate variety)

- Of course, plenty of engagement photos.

However you decide to celebrate your engagement, remember that the venue and all its consequent details are secondary to the real celebration itself. Wherever you are, whatever you do, the most important and memorable aspect will be having had your family and friends to share in this moment with you.

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