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Engagement Party Etiquette – What You Need To Know

Is an engagement party the same as any other party, or is there any engagement party etiquette you should be aware of?

You’ve just gotten engaged and it’s time to celebrate!

Today we discuss the dos and don’ts for guests, the newly engaged couple, and their parents. What to wear (as a guest or the host), who to invite, are engagement gifts expected, and more!

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What is engagement party etiquette?

Yes, there is actually such a thing as proper engagement party etiquette! While today’s engagement parties are generally casual events, in the past they were formal events bound by many rules; from when the party is held, who hosts it, and who is invited. Even today it can seem overwhelming when you start to plan your engagement celebration.

Planning a wedding is a huge affair and when it comes down to it, the wedding is like the grand finale or the main event to months of planning and preparation. Interlacing the planning with a few parties (like the bridal shower, bachelor party, and rehearsal dinner) is a great way to keep it light and fun and build up the suspense to the big day.

So, an engagement party is more than a regular party. It’s the first celebration in the lead-up to your wedding. There are etiquette questions to think about when planning, such as who is hosting, what’s the budget, and who is invited.

Who hosts the engagement party?

In the past, it was the responsibility of the brides’ parents to host, but nowadays the groom’s parents and other family members or close friends can do so too. There is no hard-fast rule on who hosts it. The newly engaged happy couple can also throw their own engagement party if they wish!

When should the engagement party take place?

 It’s usually held shortly after the engagement has been announced, generally within the first few months. Even if you plan on having a long engagement, you want to have the party fairly close to the announcing of your engagement, so friends and family can celebrate with you in the moment.

Should I send out formal invitations? 

This depends on the level of formality and type of party you are throwing. A large planned party is more likely to need invitations rather than a backyard barbecue. You may wish to send out invitations if your party is a formal affair at a fancier venue like a country club or hotel, to keep with the theme. It can match your wedding invitation.

If your party is casual and small, you don’t need paper invites. You can use word of mouth or social media to invite your guests.

Who should I invite to the party? 

Once again this depends on the type of party and who is hosting it. Traditionally you were invited to the engagement party if you were going to be invited to the wedding. This still stands in part today, so think carefully about your guest list. You need to make sure that your engagement party guest list and wedding guest list align.

If you’re having a smaller, casual engagement party then it’s fine to have a larger wedding guest list and smaller engagement party guest list. Sometimes the number of guests at the engagement party is limited due to the venue. However, this rule doesn’t work the other way around.

Don’t invite people to your engagement party that are not invited to the wedding. Guests will assume that if they have an invitation to the engagement party, they will also be invited to the wedding.

The exception to the rule could be if you are planning a destination wedding or a small wedding with only immediate family members. Do let the guests know upfront that they won’t be invited to the actual wedding and that the engagement party is their chance to celebrate with you. Some couples choose to have a party after the wedding in this case too, to invite all those that couldn’t be there.

If some of your guests are overseas, having a virtual element to your party will help them to feel included. Live streaming or even just filming it and sending it to them later.

Friends making big party outdoors. Group of people toasting wine during a dinner party.

The sets of parents

If the bride’s parents or groom’s parents have not met yet, set up a meeting before the engagement party for them to meet for the first time. This is so they have a chance to get to know each other properly, alongside their children, before being surrounded by many other people.

Engagement party gifts

Giving a gift to the newly engaged couple is traditional but is not compulsory. Don’t include a gift registry in the invitation, or expect gifts. It’s okay if you are asked if you have a gift registry because some people will want to give a gift, just don’t ask for them.

You can include your gift registry on your wedding website. Sometimes guests may bring small gifts that are not on the registry. Perhaps a bottle of wine, or some flowers or something that’s sentimental or meaningful. This is just a nice gesture as gift giving is not mandatory.

Girl's hands hold a gift box with minimalist style wrapping design. The concept of celebration events and wrapping gifts. Flat lay, top view.

Cocktail party, formal or casual affair?

You can absolutely have an informal casual engagement party. It’s a chance for guests to chat and get to know each other before your wedding. The entertainment can be kept to a minimum, so chatting can be at the forefront. At the beginning of the party, as the bride and groom-to-be, you’ll want to spend a decent amount of time meeting and greeting guests.

Can I use a wedding planner?

Yes, if you would like to. Some wedding planners will include an engagement party as part of your full package. Or you could try a regular party planner if you are wanting to plan your wedding yourself.

Engagement party attire

A typical dress code for an engagement party is a cocktail dress code. Cocktail attire is a little more casual. It tends to be the default dress code for most weddings and engagement parties. Play around with colors and patterns, depending on the season or the location.

What to wear to a casual engagement party as a guest

If you’re a guest, even if it’s a casual dress code, you should wear something nice. Casual doesn’t mean sweats and hoodies. A floral dress or blouse would be perfect, or a dress shirt and smart pants. For a more gender-neutral look, an elegant jumpsuit or pantsuit is also an option.Learn more about deciphering dress codes.

Brighter colors are best suited for daytime parties, while darker and more muted colors are more appropriate for evening parties and more formal functions.

Learn moreRead all you can about tips for newly engaged couples.

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