Wedding Planning and Logistics
Evan RBride Online Columnist

Engagement Party Protocol Essentials


Engagement parties are one of the most fun, exciting parts of the wedding process. You're riding the high of just getting engaged, and want to share the moemnt with your nearest and dearest. From a quiet drink with just your best friends, to an enormous blowout where you and your fiance parade in atop an elephant- just about anything goes when it comes to your party! But a lack of hard-and-fast rules can make narrowing down your options even more difficult, so have a look at our list of aspects to organise in perparationg for the perfect engagement party. 

When to Celebrate

Though customarily, engagement parties are held on the same day as the engagement announcement, this depends on your own sense of traditionalism. Many brides, on the other hand prefer to take their time and hold engagement parties many months after the proposal. 

If you'd like simply to live in the moment with your friends and family, we suggest holding the event ASAP. These types of events tend to be the most relaxed and cheap. No formal invitation is necessary: call, text, speak in person or on any computery- chat thing, or even create a Facebook announcement!  This 'anything goes' sort of attitude also extends to every aspect of the night. You can gather your guests around some wine, cheese and caviar, or order in some pizza and beer. The overriding point here is to share in that once-in-a-lifetime, breathless moment that is the engagement. Leave behind  all the things that make parties an organisational nightmare and focus on the most important point of the night- sharing the joy with your loved ones!

An organised event, on the other hand, can conform to the usual mould of any big do.This generally falls short of a sit- down meal, but formal wear and canapes are a popular choice. If this sort of party is more your speed, you may additionally want to consider having some family and friends making some speeches. But again  because it's your party, you set the tone: you can have fun and play around with every aspect of the event imaginable. 

The Budget

The engagement party is usually thrown before it can be included in the overall wedding budget, so again, this is wholly dependent on how elaborate you want it to be. One thing to remember is that generally, people dont expect engagement parties to be fancy affairs- so you'll be impressing them with any 'extras' you include in your engagement party, rather than disappointing with a 'lack of' anything. Additionally, remember that the same services required at you wedding can be completely omitted here: there's often no need to hire out a venue, invest in caterers, flowers, or any other superflous paraphernalia that a wedding usually engenders. If you know that you'll be trying to save money throughout the wedding, now's the time to pull those pursestrings firmly closed. If you have the time and feel so inclined, feel free to incorporate the engagement party into your wedding budget. Check out our budget guide and adjust the numbers to suit your particular desires. After all, this is the beginning of what I like to think of as the 'amost- all- about-us' phase! 

Pick a Theme

Choosing a suitable theme will make planning the party a lot easier. You may want to choose a theme that will set the scene for the wedding itself. For example, if you are planning a beach wedding, then a beach theme for the engagement party would be fun and exciting. Other theme ideas could be the season that the wedding will take place in; or something reminiscent of how you met, or a specific interest that you share as a couple.

Your Guest List

Amongst all the more flexibile aspects of planning an engagement party, there is one piece of etiquette that is absolutley rigid: do not invite anyone to your engagement party that you will not be inviting to the wedding, most especially if you're having a more formal engagement affair. Not inviting these people to the wedding after they've attended your engagement can seem like forgetfulness, or even worse, and intentional snub. Later excluding these individuals can seem like you've pushed them to the sidelines, and are intentionally making them aware that they are missing out. Consider this effect in the long- run before you invite everybody you know and their mother to your engagement party. Rather pleasantly surprise those friends who weren't invited to the engagement with a wedding invitation, than not inviting and feeling uncomfortable with them for months to come. 

Additionally, if your wedding is going to be a 

Choose a Venue

Your personal budget and size of guest list will determine if you use a wedding venue or a home party. There are, or course,  pros and cons for both. Consider things like

  • the work involved in setting up and cleaning up
  • decorations
  • neighbours
  • time limits
  • facilites for food preparation and serving

If you have a member of the family or friend who has a suitable home where the party could be hosted, then this is an ideal option. It will make it more intimate, relaxed and save some money.

Food and Drink

The time of day and the style of the party will determine the amount of food and drink required. Anything around mealtimes will require substantial amounts of food. You can either organise a sit down meal or buffet- style food (though this can be implemented at any budget or stage of formality- a sausage sizzle is, after all, a kind of buffet itself!). If you're having a party at a time not requiring entire meals, use your imagination and have some fun with your food. Some great ideas include:

  • A 'bar' of any kind (think 'build your own' pizza, sundae, cupcake, etc)
  • Food trucks
  • Simple canapes

If you are having the party at a more formal venue, check the alcohol prices carefully. Some offer packages on a per head basis, others will charge per drink. It is quite common to set a limit on the bar tab and serve only beer and wine, as spirits are expensive. And don’t forget to cater for those who don’t drink alcohol.

Running Sheet

A great idea is to have a running sheet so that you can time and coordinate things like speeches, the serving of food, entertainment, etc. To ensure that you spend most of your time enjoying the party as opposed to organising it, worrying about it, and running after others, make sure that everyone who needs one has a running sheet, and understands what needs to be done by whom.


Your marriage is a memorable event and should be thoroughly recorded. Funds permitting, a wedding photographer is the way to go. That way you can rest assured that you will get some great documentation of the night's events. Another great idea is to get as many of your friends to bring their digital cameras and take pictures. After the event, get them to copy their pictures to a CD or DVD for you to keep or post on your wedding website or Facebook page. Disposable Cameras are still available and are also a fun way to get lots of impromptu shots of your guests having a fun time.


Entertainment at an engagement party is not strictly necessary, but can be a fun, lighthearted addition to liven up the event. Some great ideas include

  • Music: Band, quartet, or singer. A DJ is another alternative.
  • Fireworks
  • Caricaturist
  • Fire breathers
  • Sword swallowers
  • Dancers
  • Psychic
  • Temporary tattoo artists. These can include the old 'peel, stick and wet', airbrush, or henna tattoos. 
  • On- location watercoloour artist
  • A mixologist. These fancy bartenders emphasise showmanship, and often double as light entertainment at parties.
  • Ping- pong
  • A bouncy castle
  • Carnival rides (if your budget is really no concern)
  • A silent disco (where everybody listens to the same music with headphones- resulting in everyone dancing seemingly to silence. A great idea if your wedding venue has noise restrictions). 

Thank You Notes

Gifts at engagement parties have become more common nowadays. If so, 'thank you' notes are essential. If not, a 'thank you' note for attending is the correct etiquette. Include these with your invitation package so that you get the best possible deal as well as ensuring that the stationery that you use is consistent.

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