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For all of you lovely, newly-engaged brides out there who have all sorts of questions about engagement parties, this is the post for you. Engagement parties can be terrific events hosted by friends and family to celebrate the couple and this exciting new phase in their lives.  Here are a few of your most common etiquette and planning questions answered!  

Does a couple need to have an engagement party?

Nope. It's totally optional. Engagement parties are a particularly good idea for couples planning a longer engagement, so that family and friends have a chance to meet and socialize.

Who should host?

An engagement party isn't like a shower (most notably, because gifts are not expected), so anyone can host one. I always think it is best if someone offers to host for you (such as your parents or a close friend), but if not, feel free to throw yourselves a shindig.  If you do host it yourselves, make sure to focus on celebrating this big milestone and the people that helped get you there rather than a 24/7 bling show. Trust me, your single gal pals will love you more.

Who should be invited?

The families of both sides, close friends, and wedding party members. Essentially, whoever is invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding (just as with a bridal shower).  Although not everyone invited to the wedding needs to be invited to the engagement party.

Does a couple need to have their wedding party selected before an engagement party?

No. Especially if the couple is having a longer engagement, it is best to hold off for awhile before selecting the wedding party.  Wait until a year or less before inviting bridesmaids and groomsmen to be attendants.  If the wedding party is already chosen, make sure to invite them to the engagement party!

What if someone brings a gift?

Some guests will probably a bring a gift for the two of you or the hostess. Of course, you should accept the gift graciously, but don't make a big deal out of it. You don't want your other guests to feel like they have been remiss in not bringing something. Set any gift on a discreet table or in another room. Open them up later and send thank you notes.

As a side note to a guest at any party, hostess gifts are a nice habit to adopt. In the modern age it certainly isn't required, but I think it is a really nice touch to never show up empty-handed. Bring a bottle of wine, pretty hand soap, or box of chocolates. It doesn't have to be expensive and your thoughtfulness will be very appreciated!

What if I don't have a big house?

What? You don't own a mansion to throw a lavish party for your 8,000 friends!? *scoff*  Seriously, with rent being what it is these days, square footage is a luxury item.  If you are working with a small space, that's fine. Rather than host an event that you anticipate lasing a couple of hours, throw an "open house" party over a 6-8 hour period. Especially on busy Saturdays, your guests will love the flexibility, and you will love being able to have a chair for everyone.

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What should I serve my guests?

Always be time appropriate. If you don't want to serve a big meal, don't throw your party between 11-1 or 5-7.  Those are typically thought of as mealtimes.  Otherwise just serve light snacks or sweets. A buffet of little bites is something that can be really affordable and also cute if you style it well. If you are serving hard alcohol or the wine is flowing, make sure to have plenty of water, carbs, and the numbers of local cab companies on hand.  Just in case.

When should I invite people?

Are the majority of your guests going to have to travel for this event?  If not, you really shouldn't worry about sending invites more than a month out. Different regions have different standards. The more traditional South prefers a calendar-friendly heads up with an invite around 4 weeks in advance. The most casual Northwest would frankly be weirded out by anything in excess of 2 weeks.

When is the best time to throw an engagement party?

Because you want to have big decisions out of the way, such as the number of guests you can invite, it's probably best to wait a little bit until after the initial engagement. On the other hand, you don't want to wait so long that your engagement party is bumping up against your wedding date.  Gauge the length of your engagement and adjust accordingly, but generally is is ideal to host the party 2 months following the proposal.

Is there a particular time of day that works best for an engagement party?

Any time of day will work for an engagement party. Just make sure that the food and drink provided coincides well with the invite time. For example, if the party is supposed to go from 11-3, guests will assume that a meal is being provided rather than just drinks and snacks.

Are there toasts?

Toasts are not as expected at an engagement party as they are at the rehearsal dinner or reception. However, they are still popular. As with any event, the parents or host ought to kick off the toasts, followed by close family and friends, and then co-workers and casual acquaintances.  In more traditional settings, the groom toasts his bride.  The toasts should always conclude with the couple thanking their hosts.

What types of themes or activities should be at an engagement party?

The host can choose any theme they like. Choose a backyard theme and play lawn games, or a simple barbeque with plenty of spots set up for conversation. The host might prefer something earlier in the morning, and host a brunch event at their house. Whatever event and activities best fits the guest list is just fine!

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