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how to plan your engagement party wedding nz australia

Engagement Party Planning – Everything You Need to Know

How to Plan your Engagement Party

If you’ve just got engaged and can’t stop smiling from ear to ear (and can’t stop staring at your new sparkle-adorned finger) you probably want to shout it from the rooftops and really celebrate your new relationship status.

Planning your engagement party is a great opportunity to bring you families and friends together – some of whom won’t have met yet – and really kick off your engagement celebrations. Discovering how to plan your engagement party, is also brilliant practise for planning your wedding, which we’ll help with soon!

Grab your little white book wedding planner and take notes as you read this, and before long you’ll be popping Champagne and feeling every bit the bride-to-be (or groom-to-be, of course!)

Read these first considerations, and then move onto 5 Steps to Planning Your Engagement Party below:

When to Plan your Engagement Party?

Traditionally your engagement party is held within around 3 months following your engagement. If you are planning a long engagement, with plenty of time for the Big Day, you may wish to wait a little longer, but ideally it will be at least 6-9 months out from your wedding. This allows you ample time for planning your wedding after the engagement party (which is an event to plan itself).

Who do you invite to the Engagement Party?

You may be wondering whether everybody you invite to the engagement party needs to be invited to your wedding too. Strictly, no, you don’t have to decide on your wedding guest list immediately – so much can change in the lead up to your wedding, however, take care with your engagement party invitations, because some guests will assume their invitation extends to the wedding.

If you know you will be having a smaller wedding, you may wish to have a larger engagement party, but if practical to do so, communicate this with your engagement party guests in advance, so that they know the big day will be a smaller guestlist. It wouldn’t be very fair to only exclude a few engagement party guests from the wedding day, so do be mindful of who you ask. It’s all about communication, and insuring your messaging is as clear as possible from the outset, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a different guest list for your engagement party and your wedding day, you just want to make sure you do so thoughtfully, and try not to make anyone feel excluded.

Where to Host your Engagement Party

Traditionally, engagement parties were always hosted by the bride’s parents, but now, anything goes, and many couples choose to host their own engagement party celebration at home. There are countless suitable venues – as many as for a wedding: restaurants, bars, parks, wineries and more. Take a look at 20 alternative and unique venues to get inspired. Your style will influence your choice, as well as the number of guests, but don’t be afraid to be creative.

Who pays for What at your Engagement Party

What you choose to provide, and pay for will depend on your venue of choice and the style of celebration you plan. If you are having your engagement party at home, you could provide the food and some drinks, but also ask your guests to BYO a bottle of wine if it’s going to be a big party. If you are at a bar or restaurant, likewise, it’s nice to provide some platters or nibbles, but guests probably won’t expect you to foot the bill for the bar tab too. When you choose the venue for your engagement party, unless you arfe planning to provide all of the catering and alcohol, keep in mind your guests’ budgets, if you don’t want your friends missing out due to budget – for instance a trip to Waiheke for an expensive winery meal may be out of the question for some. We invited friends to join us for a meal at a local restaurant, where we provided Champagne to drink, and cake for dessert, while guests paid for their own meals.

Do you need to send Formal Engagement Party invitations?

It’s not necessary to have expensive wedding stationery made for your engagement party – you can treat it like you would another party by sending emails or creating a Facebook event. You can also use a service like Paperless Post, or a downloadable invitation template to email.  Be clear about the details such as dress code, address and the time you expect the party to start and finish, and give around one month’s notice if possible, following up with all RSVPs one week out. 

Should Engagement Party Guests bring Gifts?

Some of your engagement party guests will choose to bring you a gift, I’ve made suggestions in Attending an Engagement Party Tips, but unlike some cultures, we don’t really register for engagement gifts and it’s certainly not mandatory to bring a gift. However, as you can expect closest friends and family to bring a small gift, think about a safe place to store these during the party, and getting them safely home – there may be a few bottles of wine to carefully pack into a car or taxi at the end of the party.

5 Steps to Planning Your Engagement Party

Planning your engagement party is not dissimilar to planning your wedding, and is much easier to do broken into small steps.

  1. Set a date – ideally a month in advance to gift guests ample time to make arrangements and RSVP. 
  2. Choose a venue – there are some ideas above, and if you are having your engagement party at an external venue, decide whether you are hiring it for exclusive use, or will share the space. Communicate with the venue, if hiring, and discuss things like decor, music, a microphone for speeches, and anything else you require from them. If you are ordering food for guests to share, you may wish to do so in advance, to give the kitchen ample time to plan and ensure the food arrives on time. If you’re organising the food at home, create a menu or organise catering in advance. Like planning a wedding, have a wet-weather option if you are partying outside.
  3. Create a guest list, giving thought to the considerations above about who to invite. Consider the space you have at the venue, and the expense you’re willing to take on for your guests – whether providing food or drinks.
  4. Decide whether you wish to send formal invitations or invite guests informally through email or a Facebook event. If formal, gather wedding guest addresses and send at least one month in advance.
  5. Decide what to wear – some couples choose to dress quite formally, with many brides opting to wear a semi-formal white dress. Consider whether you will have some formal photos taken too, either by friends or a professional photographer.

Engagement Party Ideas

  • Consider having your engagement shoot done in the afternoon before the party. It spreads the excitement of the day out longer, and you can justify having your hair and make-up done for the event!
  • Place a few disposable cameras on the table and have fun flicking through the photos in a few weeks once they’ve been developed. 
  • If you have any idea of your wedding theme, style or colours, use them now: colours in the menus, a signature cocktail, flowers, candles, decor etc. 
  • As this is the first event leading to the wedding, take the opportunity to organise it properly! 
  • If you have already chosen your wedding party, ask your bridesmaids or groomsmen to help out. You can assign small jobs such as speeches, checking the music, or ask someone to take a few photos throughout the night to look back on. Your attendants and close friends will love to get involved.
  • You’re the host, so be responsible and don’t drink too much, especially not before you’ve made a little thank you speech, greeted all your guests and introduced your guests to each other if they aren’t already friends.
  • Have fun, let your hair down and show your guests a good time too.

Don’t overthink it – Planning your Engagement Party doesn’t need to be difficult.

Planning your engagement party may be the first big celebration you’ve ever organised so I can understand if you’re feeling a bit anxious, but your engagement party can really be as simple and easy as you like. After organising your engagement party, you’ll probably also see that planning your wedding needn’t be difficult either. You’ll be excited to plan the future, but planning your engagement party is a great way to enjoy the present. Once you start planning your wedding, you won’t want to stop, so bask in this moment and make the most of it. Your engagement party is a practice run where you’re the hosts, the decision-makers, the centre of attention, and hopefully the life of the party.

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