An engagement party kicks off the many celebrations that come before your wedding. While this is usually fun, relaxed get-together, there are certain engagement party etiquette rules that should be followed before, during, and after the event. By following this advice, you’ll avoid sticky situations as you move into the wedding planning process. Here’s our top engagement party etiquette advice to help you as you plan this first big pre-wedding event. And remember, if you're considering planning an engagement party during the COVID-19 pandemic, be sure to follow state and local gathering restrictions and use common sense when it comes to hosting events.
Do: Figure out who will host the engagement party.
Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the engagement party, but these days, anything goes—from the groom’s parents hosting to a group of friends or other family members taking the reins. Some couples even have two (or more!) engagement parties if each partner’s families are from completely different parts of the country or world. And if you want to host your own engagement party, go for it – many couples like to host their own casual gatherings with friends to celebrate.
Don't: Invite people you know won’t be invited to the wedding.
For the most part, guests will likely assume that if they’re invited to the engagement party, they’re invited to the wedding—and it’s proper engagement party etiquette to ensure the two guest lists align. Be sure to discuss the guest list with the hosts before sending out invitations – you’ll want to make sure that everyone is in agreement about the invitation list both for this pre-wedding party, and the actual wedding.
Don't: Assume you will—or won’t—receive gifts.
Guests don’t have to bring gifts to engagement parties—and it’s not proper engagement party etiquette to directly ask for gifts. In fact, many couples prefer to have a “no gifts” policy to take the pressure off their guests. However, you should expect that at least some people will want to bring gifts to the party, so set up your registry and wedding website beforehand in case they’d like to purchase a present for you.
Do: Keep it casual.
Here’s the thing. If your and your spouse’s families don’t know each other well, things may be a little awkward – and that’s okay. By keeping the atmosphere super-relaxed (think: backyard BBQ or casual eatery), guests will feel more comfortable mixing and mingling with each other.
Do: Incorporate a virtual component.
Whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic or for other reasons, there may be guests who are unable to attend your engagement party. We recommend including a virtual element to your engagement party, whether that means hosting a separate event for your virtual guests or including a Zoom station as part of your in-person engagement party.
Don't: Save your parents’ first meeting for the engagement party.
If you and your future spouse’s parents haven’t met yet, try to schedule their meeting for before the engagement party – even if it’s the night before or morning of. Choose a quiet restaurant (it’s neutral territory, as opposed to someone’s house) so that everyone can talk in a peaceful setting – both parties will appreciate it.
Do: Keep the entertainment minimal.
Unless you’re having a rager with just your best friends, save the dancing for your wedding. The goal of your engagement parties is to allow people to talk and actually hear one another, so avoid hosting the party at a very loud restaurant or playing super-loud music during the festivities.
Don't: Be shy.
For the first hour or so, your engagement party may look like a high school dance – one family on one side, the other’s family on the other side. It’s up to you and your future spouse to practice good engagement party etiquette and introduce people and encourage mingling. For example, “Uncle Pat, you and Brian’s Grandpa Frank are both big Colts fans – you two should talk!” It may feel a little awkward at first, but just go with it. Before you know it, both families will be chatting it up like old friends!
Do: Send thank-you notes.
Everyone who attends the engagement party – whether they brought a gift or not – should receive a handwritten thank-you note for attending. And it’s a nice gesture to write a note (and perhaps buy a small gift) for the hosts, as well – always a good idea to start things off on the right foot, etiquette-wise!