So you’ve found that perfect someone and the two of you have decided to tie the knot – congratulations – but now what? Once a wedding is in the works, the months leading up to it offer up a string of celebrations amidst all of the planning for the main event. Kicking everything off is the engagement party, the first official function designed to announce the couple’s upcoming union. Not everyone opts for an engagement party – not everyone really gets the point of them, actually – but opting out of this event is truly a missed opportunity.
Traditionally speaking, engagement parties have leaned more toward the formal side and have been hosted by the bride’s parents. Today, engagement parties – indeed all functions associated with the wedding – can be anything the couple wants them to be, whether formal or casual, hosted by the bride’s parents, themselves, or friends. Most couples today tend to host these functions themselves, something that has major benefits, as it lets the soon to be bride and groom have creative control over the event. Not sure what the point of the party is? It’s simple: this is a chance for family and friends from both sides to meet each other and get more personally acquainted, and for these valued people to congratulate and share in the couple’s bliss. To make the most of this opportunity, here are some creative and useful tips and advice for the party planner.
The Traveler – For couples that have spent a lot of time traveling and experiencing other cultures, both independently and together, this is a great theme to not only bring back cherished memories but to also emphasize the personal journey they’re about to embark on together. Decorate with maps of countries and cities visited and still to be visited; serve food indicative of the cuisine from these destinations; use vintage postcards as name cards, invitations, or thank you for coming cards.
Beach Bums – If you’re all about that laid-back coastal vibe, then throwing a beachside engagement party should be sheer perfection. Book at a resort or local beach club, or, if you have access to some great public beaches, take advantage of free space. Set up tents to act as cabanas for food, drinks, and party favors. String up lights if you have a power source, or string up small glass candleholders perfect for votive candles or tea lights. If kids are invited, then set up a sand castle building contest (the adults are just as likely to take part as the kids).
A Little Vino – Wineries are always top picks for functions like this, and for good reason. Booking a winery for your party will typically come with a tour, a tasting, and a beautiful outdoor area perfect for dining and entertainment. Many wineries are geared toward wedding celebrations like this, and may even offer catering and decorating services.
Location – Keep in mind who will be attending the engagement party and whether or not they’ll need to travel for it. If you have family and friends concentrated in two separate cities, consider hosting two separate events (toned down if money is an issue). If you’re looking to have your party at a venue, keep in mind how busy the venue and the surrounding area might be, and whether or not this could hamper the fun.
Invites – It used to be a virtual golden rule that if you invited someone to your engagement party, then it was understood that you would be inviting them to the wedding as well. This isn’t really the norm anymore, as engagement parties have taken on a more casual, all-inclusive feel. You can be creative and fancy with your invitations, but, if you’re worried about giving people the idea that an invite to the party equals an invite to the wedding, then perhaps create a Facebook page for the event that people can RSVP. Maybe even include a section in the invitations that state that the wedding list has yet to be made. For ideas on invitation designs, check out the American Wedding’s stationery collection.
Stay Calm – Don’t overdo the planning of the engagement party. The wedding itself is going to require some serious planning, and the point of the engagement party is really just to let everyone meet and mingle, so don’t feel pressured into creating a virtual mini-wedding. You can decorate, go with a theme, and have activities, but don’t let yourself get worked up and carried away. For ideas on decorations, food, and more, check out this great selection from BuzzFeed.