When a couple decides to marry, they set in motion a season of celebrations. There will be bachelor parties and hen nights, bridal showers and rehearsal dinners, and of course the wedding reception itself. But this ongoing succession of celebrations begins with one major event – the engagement party. The engagement party marks the beginning of a couple’s life together, and is the first step along the path to the wedding ceremony. It is the first major gathering of the bride and groom’s family and friends, and it marks the formal announcement of the couple’s engagement. Like any wedding celebration, an engagement party requires careful planning and plenty of forethought. However, with a few helpful tips the bride and groom will find it easy and fun to plan their engagement celebration.

Setting the Date

The first step in planning an engagement party is setting the date, and the length of the engagement will have some impact on this decision. Generally, an engagement party is held within a month or two of the actual proposal. However, if you’re planning a long engagement the party could be held several months after the proposal. As with any formal celebration, you will want to pick a date that is convenient for both you and your guests, and you’ll want to schedule your party so that it doesn’t interfere with major holidays or vacation times.

Who Will Host the Party?

Traditionally, the bride’s family hosts and pays for the engagement party. That being said, wedding traditions continue to change and evolve, and it is not unusual for the families of both the bride and the groom to share the responsibility for the engagement party. This not only serves to lessen the logistical and financial burdens, it gives both families a chance to get to know one another better.

The Guest List

When compiling a guest list for your engagement party, the first rule of thumb is to invite everyone who will ultimately be invited to the wedding itself. Start with family and friends, giving special attention to those who will be included in the wedding party, and work from there. If there is going to be a large wedding, there is going to be a large engagement party.

The Venue

The choice of venue will very much depend on the size of the party. If you are inviting fifty to a hundred guests to your wedding, you should really consider a professional event space. While the engagement party is just the first of a series of celebrations, it should be treated with the same care and attention as any other wedding celebration. It may be tempting to hold the party at the bride’s childhood home, but that can be hard on the family and the guests. Look for a suitable professional event space, and book the date early to avoid any unexpected scheduling conflicts.

The Party Menu

The engagement party is not as formal as a wedding reception, so there is no need to plan a full sit down dinner. Still, you will want to provide some refreshments for the guests, and you will likely want to consider hiring a caterer for the event. A selection of hors d’oeuvres, or even a small buffet, works perfectly for an engagement party. Work closely with your caterer to develop a theme for the menu, and remember to include a vegetarian option for your vegan friends. Cocktails are a big part of any wedding celebration, so you will also want to provide a wet bar with a selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Party Invitations

The invitations for your engagement party can be as a formal or as informal as you please, though they should reflect the theme you have chosen for the party. If it is going to be a large party, proper invitations are a must. Emails and word of mouth may be suitable for small gatherings, but in this case they are really inappropriate. Send the invitations out at least a month in advance, and include an RSVP so you can plan the refreshment menu accordingly.

The engagement party may not be as formal as the wedding reception, but it still requires a great deal of planning. Remember, this is the event at which you will be formally announcing your intentions to wed, and you want the party to be a memorable occasion for both of you, as well as for your families and friends. Use these tips as a jumping off point for your party plans, and you will be able to host an engagement celebration to remember.

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