Whichever way you decide to do it, it’s important to celebrate your impending wedding, and an engagement party provides you with the ideal opportunity to do just that. From a small intimate affair, to something more elaborate and raucous, this article takes a closer look at engagement parties for all those couples out there with reason to be happy.
Celebrating your engagement provides a chance for your families to meet (possibly for the first time) and for the focus to be on you, your partner, your future life together and your thoughts about the wedding.
From a night out at a restaurant as a couple, to a wild engagement party in a bespoke venue, there are a multitude of ways a newly engaged couple can mark the occasion. Let's take a look at each one in turn.
A Quiet Meal for Two
Celebrating as a couple may sound appealing, and indeed there's nothing to stop you doing just that. However, for some couples (particularly the younger ones) there will be more expectation to hold some form of larger soiree to mark the occasion.
If something less elaborate does appeal, our advice would be to keep it quiet and certainly don't announce it as an 'engagement party' as such. Labelling your romantic meal as a celebration of the recent proposal will only lead others to wonder why they haven't been invited or, worse still, plan something behind your back much to your horror!
Having said all that, there will be plenty of time for romantic meals in your future lives together, so if you do wish to mark the occasion, why not take this unique opportunity to do so with a family gathering or something on an even bigger scale.
The Family Gathering
A small gathering of your immediate family can sometimes be uncomfortable - particularly if this is the first time they’ve met. But let's face it, the families will have to meet at some point, so there’s no better place to start than when they all have a common occasion to celebrate!
Hosting the gathering yourselves is always a good choice, as you get to hold the meeting on 'a neutral venue', but strictly speaking it should be held at the Bride's parents house as they traditionally foot the bill for any costs incurred when it comes to engagement parties. Failing that, a meal at a local restaurant is always a good alternative, but again cost and the matter of 'the bill' will come into play so prepare for this in advance.
If it is the first meeting of the clans, it would be wise to try and steer the conversation away from certain topics around the meal table. Financial contributions are always one subject best left for another occasion, and be sure to step in if things get carried away when conversation turns to wedding plans - this is your big day after all, not theirs.
Small family gatherings are one of the most popular forms of celebration when it comes to engagement parties, and as long as you prepare in advance for all the questions which will inevitably arise, then it'll all go smoothly.
The Big One!
You may find that many of your friends and relatives will be keen on holding a big engagement party to celebrate the happy news. Indeed, you yourselves may be wanting to head down this path.
Planning such an occasion can be time and money consuming, so rather than hiring out a big marquee and using the same caterers as the Royal Family, you may wish to keep the numbers small. A party at your own house, or that of one of your parents is a good option, and can help keep costs low.
For something on a grander scale, look to hire out a local function room as an engagement party venue - many restaurants, pubs and clubs will be able to provide one for the night at a competitive rate. Be sure to shop around and uncover exactly what's included (and excluded) in the price you're quoted, and look to use this as good preparation for the wedding venue research that you'll soon be undertaking!
Getting the future in-laws to help send out invitations and co-ordinate responses and subsequent arrangements is a great way to ease the burden and also to involve others - and again, this paves the way for future wedding planning tasks that lay just around the corner.
Large engagement parties provide you with the opportunity to hold a celebration and make a big announcement all in one go - so if you've just set the date for your wedding, this can be an ideal opportunity to announce it to the world.
Showing Your Appreciation
As we all know, parties equal presents - and engagement parties are no different to this. And, whilst you can’t bank 100% on engagement gifts and presents turning up (or even offers of financial contributions from parents), if they are forthcoming make sure you show your appreciation.
Thank-you cards are great for everyone - both parents and friends alike. If you haven’t set the date when the presents initially come in, you could even look to include a ‘save the date card’ or magnet alongside your thank-you card - these will let people know when you are planning your big day, and help to ensure that those you are sure to invite keep the date free from other commitments and holidays.
For parents offering contributions or for friends or relatives who help organise engagement parties, there's nothing to stop you splashing out a little more on them. A bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine is a good idea - they needn't cost the earth, but they will help to show how much you appreciate all their efforts, as well as keeping them sweet for the months (perhaps years) of wedding planning ahead!
Engagement Party Alternatives
Engagement parties romantic meals for two or a get-together for the parents round a good bottle of wine are all well and good, but what about something a little more special?
‘Engagement Pictures’ are quite popular in other parts of the world and are spreading to the UK slowly but surely. Involving the use of a skilled photographer for an hour or so, a number of photographs of the happy couple are taken shortly after the engagement, and these photos can be framed, put on canvas or added to a plethora of items to make a lasting memory or unique gift for parents and close relatives. Whilst they can be expensive, they are a beautiful way of capturing the moment.
Days out, trips away and more can be used as an alternative to traditional engagement parties and we have several articles that outline potential activities in our Stag & Hens section of the site - be sure to check them out and feel free to steal as many of the ideas as you like!
For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other engagement articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with jewellers, bespoke ring makers and more.
For friendly tips and helpful advice, take a look at our engagement forum and engagement Q&A's or check out the rings for sale and the 'links to pages & websites you may like' below.