Engagement party 101: tips, etiquette, and planning

Two women sitting outside posing for engagement photos.
Paperless Post BlogWedding > Engagement party 101: tips, etiquette, and planning

So, you’re engaged! Congratulations are certainly in order. An engagement is one of the most special times in a couple’s life, and an engagement party is the best way to start celebrating before all the hectic wedding planning begins. Don’t know how to plan an engagement party? Ahead, we’ve compiled our best tips and tricks to get you started.

What is an engagement party?

An engagement party is a celebration of the proposal, and the first event to kick off your festivities leading up to the wedding day. It comes before the bridal shower, bachelorette, or any other pre-wedding party, and you typically invite a smaller guest list than you are planning to invite to the wedding.

It’s a chance for you and your partner to celebrate this new adventure with close friends and family, and for everyone invited to get acquainted with each other if they haven’t already met. For example, having your friends meet your fiance’s family or parents meets more of your close friends.


Left: A well-set table in a manicured garden. The decorations are white-on-white and there is a tub of champagne in the foreground. Right: A taupe engagement party invitation with a floral border. The invitation is paired with a grass green invitation with a vertical stripe patterned liner.Image via Hygge Studio; “Knitted” by Schumacher for Paperless Post.

Is it normal to have an engagement party?

While some couples choose not to have an engagement party, they are very common—especially with engagements lasting longer than one year. Couples planning a destination wedding, or planning an engagement longer than 18 months typically throw a more formal party. If it’s going to be a while until you start celebrating the wedding, by all means, don’t hesitate to celebrate your engagement.


An animated engagement party invitation with a floral backdrop and a big scripted “Cheers.”Arrow Heart” Flyer by Paperless Post.

When do you throw an engagement party?

There is no hard and fast rule about exactly when to throw an engagement party, but they are typically held within a few months of the proposal. Engagement party invitations should be sent around four to six weeks before the event to give guests proper notice. However, if you are sending online invitations, you can send them closer to the four-week mark since they arrive instantly, and you don’t have to worry about them getting lost in the mail.

You can plan an engagement party completely separate from your upcoming wedding, so there’s no need to have any wedding details nailed down before you host—not even your wedding date. Of course, it would be nice to share those details with guests when they ask. (And they will ask.) But it’s not necessary!

If you’re getting together with friends and family for another holiday or your birthday, you can combine both celebrations while you’re together. Doing this often works best for couples who don’t live in the same city as most of their wedding guests, and will only be in town for a short time. However, if you are hosting around the winter holidays, avoid picking a date in the few days before and after the holiday to make sure no one’s schedule will be double booked.


Left: A white engagement party invitation with a floral and palm motif in the upper right corner. It is paired with a blush envelope and a matching liner. Right: Two brightly dressed women sit at a table at a tropical garden party. The woman on the left is showing off her engagement ring to someone off-screen.Florissant” by Paperless Post; image via The Perfect Palette.

Who hosts an engagement party?

Traditionally the most classic type of engagement party is hosted by the bride’s parents at their home, but modern couples can bend the rules. Anyone can host an engagement party—here are a few other options we’ve seen lately:


Both sets of parents 

Have both sets of parents of team up to host together. This is a great way for the happy couple to meet their partner’s parents’ friends who’ll be invited to the wedding. It’s also a great way for your partner’s parents to meet your family if they haven’t before, especially if they don’t live in the same city.


Friends of the couple or members of your bridal party

If your parents aren’t throwing you an engagement party (for whatever reason), you can always have a close friend or a group of friends play host. Or if you are having two engagement parties in different cities, you might have your parents host one, and your friends host the other.


The newly engaged couple

Yes, you can throw your own engagement celebration. Especially if you’re hosting right after the proposal, a surprise party it’s a great way to share the news with family and friends.

Who do you invite to an engagement party?

The only rule of who to invite to an engagement party is they must be invited to the wedding. According to wedding etiquette, you should invite everyone to the wedding that helps you celebrate your engagement. Still, not everyone invited to the wedding needs to be included in your engagement party. Unsure what to say? Read our guide to engagement party wording.

Engagement parties are typically smaller and are a more casual affair than weddings. You’ll want to talk and mingle with all your loved ones, so don’t invite so many guests that you feel overwhelmed or rushed to greet everyone. Keep it simple and invite close family and you and your partner’s closest friends.

What happens at an engagement party?

When it comes to engagement party planning, the options for venues and activities are endless! (Check out our favorite engagement party ideas here.) Typically it’s a casual cocktail party at someone’s home, a bar, or restaurant. But more adventurous couples can skip the cocktail attire and opt for an activity-based engagement party like ax throwing.

No matter the venue, toasts are always customary—typically from the hosts and the engaged couple. Keep them short and sweet, and save your lengthy ones for your big day. Another must? Telling your proposal story! To avoid repeating yourself over and over, consider telling how it happened when it’s your time to give a toast.

Though speeches are a must, according to engagement party etiquette, engagement gifts are not. There’s no need to attach a registry or ask for gifts. That’s what the bridal shower is for. (But if someone does bring a gift or sends a wedding congratulations card, don’t forget the thank you note!)

Left: A drinks table at a party with various types of wine poured; right: a brown engagement party invitation featuring a floral motif and paired with a cream and yellow envelope.Image via Honey Lane; “Garden Path” by Oscar de la Renta for Paperless Post.

How to plan an engagement party?

Planning an engagement party isn’t unlike prepping for a milestone birthday party or baby shower. Just make sure to cover all your bases.


Choose a date & time

Pick a date that will work best for your guests. (Or send early enough in advance before they have plans.) Weekend evenings (Friday or Saturday) are preferred, so most guests won’t have to work the next day. Set a start and end time, so engagement party guests know when to arrive and depart, typically a two to four-hour window.


Pick a venue

Choose a venue where the majority of your guests live. For example, your parents’ hometown. If you have friends in one city, and family in another, consider hosting two different parties for each group. If your guests are all over the place and most will be traveling in for your engagement party, pick a different city than where you’re hosting the actual wedding to avoid travel fatigue.


Decide on a theme 

When it’s time to set the scene, consider going in a different direction than your wedding venue. For example, if you’re hosting a laid-back garden wedding, plan a fun and glam engagement party. Or if your wedding will be a formal church ceremony, hosting something casual outdoors.


Create the guest list

Like we mentioned before, keep your engagement party list much smaller than your wedding guest list. Whether you’re hosting your own engagement party or need to put together a list for the host, you can easily pull past contacts from your Paperless Post address book.


Send engagement party invitations 

Send engagement invitations about four to six weeks in advance of the date. Your ideas for engagement party invitations can be completely different from your wedding invitation theme, so there’s no need to coordinate both sets of stationery. You can show off your engagement photos with a photo card design, or showcase your names using calligraphy or modern typography.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on printed formal invitations either. Sending online invitations through Paperless Post is the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to invite your guests on a budget—without sacrificing style! Plus, you can add a link to your wedding website to give guests a sneak peek of your wedding details.


Plan a menu

Where there are cocktails, there needs to be food. You can serve a full family-style dinner or pass around light apps. Just make sure to specify on the invitation what will be served so guests can plan. For example, “Please join us for cocktails and light bites” or “Please join us for a festive dinner celebrating the future bride and groom.”


Choose an outfit

Prepare to make an entrance! An engagement party kicks off all your wedding festivities, and you’ll cherish the photos for years to come. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your outfit and cause yourself unnecessary stress. Plan ahead, and find something appropriate to match the dress code that’s festive and fabulous.



Feeling inspired and ready to start planning an engagement party? Start browsing our selection of modern engagement party invitations today. 


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