An engagement party really has no proper timing. Many etiquette books will recommend anywhere from 4-8 months prior to the wedding. But if you’re hoping to use the engagement party to spring the engagement announcement on friends and family, clearly you may need to act more quickly (or they’ll have already heard throught the grapevine).
There are only two essentials to the proper timing of an engagement party:
While anyone, aside from the bride or groom, is welcome to host an engagement party, more often than not, it’s the bride's parents who step up to the plate.
The engagement party is as the name suggests, a party, not a formal or traditional occasion. Therefore keep it small and intimate and celebrate this happy time with only your closest relatives and friends.
Don't invite anyone who you will not be inviting to your wedding. The engagement party is as the name suggests, a party, not a formal or traditional occasion. Therefore keep it small and intimate and celebrate this happy time with only your closest relatives and friends. By doing this you will not only have a great time but won't risk having to apologize to anyone for not inviting them to your wedding because you don't have room for them in the church or reception venue. At this early stage you may not even have set a date, let alone, chosen a venue and so you have no idea if you may well be restricted to a certain number of guests because of your choice of reception venue. It's a party - not the wedding.
Do you issue formal invitations or just call up friends and invite them? This is up to you and the sort of party you are having, some are more formal than others and a printed invitation to a dinner at a hotel or private house would be the correct way to invite your guests, particularly as for such an occasion an RSVP is required in order that correct numbers can be catered for. If you are meeting at a bar or restaurant or having an informal gathering at your home, it would be appropriate to call or email your guests to let them know.
It is certainly proper to bring a gift to any special occasion, including engagement parties. However, it is not required and rarely expected. An engagement party is often given six months to one year before the wedding. Gifts can be as simple as a lovely bouquet of flowers to be enjoyed during the evening or as practical as the ever needed toaster oven.
However, for the most part, gifts are neither expected nor given at engagement parties.
Engagement Gifts – Separate from Engagement Party That isn’t to say that engagement gifts are never given; they are simply not given at the engagement party and not by all people. Engagement gifts are generally given to the bride only and then, only by family and the very closest of friends. When given, these gifts are usually mailed to the bride's house or bride's parents house.
There are two reason gifts aren't given at an engagement party. First and foremost -- only a few people would even give an engagement gift in the first place. An engagement party will have any number of people who are not expected to give gifts but could feel uneasy should others give gifts and they do not. Secondly, since many engagement parties are "surprise" parties for friends and family, you can’t expect people who don’t realize the occasion to come armed with a gift for it!
Engagement parties really run the gammet of formality. Some are as casual as gathering in a bar some Friday night to toast to the future wedding. Others, such as Party Theme Shop,, are catered affairs, with printed invitations and caterers scurrying about. Like anything related to a wedding, go with what works for you. Here are some ideas:
Cocktail parties are much less work than a dinner party, and usually a lot more fun if you're going to have more than 15 people. For a memorable cocktail party, play some great music to keep the party lively, make sure you will not run out of drinks before the end of the night, and choose to serve liquor over beer or wine. You could even make up a drink and name it for the newly betrothed couple. Remember: offer some delicious virgin concoctions for those who don't drink, and keep the appetizers simple and hearty (to absorb the booze).
This is a romantic (thought somewhat risky) notion to celebrate an upcoming wedding. If you’ve got your undying faith in Mother Nature, choose a beautiful spot in a local park or garden, ask 20-30 of your closest friends and relatives to show up at sundown, spread blankets out, watch the sunset, and make a toast to the newfound joy of your friends. Serve simple fruit, pastries, cheese and crackers. Then break out the wine for a lovely and romantic summer evening.
If the happy couple has a particular passion, consider centering the party around that and make it your theme. If they are both archeologists, throw an Engagement “Dig!” The options are endless, and have the potential to be endlessly fun.
If movin’ and groovin’ would be a popular activities among your party guests, center the party around it. You can really mix it up by having someone lead everyone in a little square dance or line dance. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to pick those moves up. They’re fun, and they’re a great way to get guests to mingle.
If you’ve got the inside scoop as to where the couple might be headed on their honeymoon, then capitalize on that information! Headed to Hawaii? Throw a lauau. The carribbean? A reggae party with jerk chicken and tropical drinks would be a blast! And if appropriate, ask guests to come dressed for the occasion.