How to Plan the Ultimate Engagement Party

hannah steve wedding california couple
Steve Steinhardt

Congrats! Either you or a loved one is engaged, and you're ready to celebrate! Luckily for all, there are many pre-wedding events that are designed to honor brides- and grooms-to-be. But there's one that comes before all of the others, and it was created specifically for this moment. It's called the engagement party, and if you're throwing one, you'll want to make sure that it's worthy of your love.

To help you plan a fête to remember, we've compiled a list of all of the major elements of a great engagement party. The following guide walks you through the steps required to plan the event, and it also provides our top tips and ideas to guarantee that your soirée packs a punch. Our advice serves as an etiquette handbook, too, because we know that you have questions ("Who throws an engagement party?" "Who do you invite?" "What do you wear?"). Luckily, we've got the answers, and they're all based on common engagement party rules.

Read through this comprehensive checklist for tons of protocol, pointers, and inspiration. We've covered things that may have slipped your mind (like making sure to facilitate introductions between unfamiliar guests), but that'll make your attendees have the best experience possible. We've also offered our recommendations for making your (and/or your couple's) involvement easy and—most importantly—fun. Get ready to throw the first of many celebrations before the knot is officially tied, and savor this unique and amazing time while at lasts.

01 of 19

Designate a Host

bride groom parents
Ryan Ray Photography

Step one is deciding who will host the gathering, as that may influence other elements of the event. Often, someone volunteers; otherwise, the couple can ask for help, or else choose to throw the party themselves. They might also have multiple engagement parties with different groups of people, and in that case, there might be multiple hosts. Typically, whoever takes on the role will make most of the decisions and set the budget, though the couple can discuss collaborating.

02 of 19

Pick a Date

couple planning at table

Hosts should find a time that's close to when the couple announces the news to everyone, or they should assemble their nearest and dearest and let them announce the news at the fête. If a host opts for the latter, they should throw it whenever the couple's comfortable sharing their engagement publicly, but either way, they should also keep guests' availabilities in mind.

03 of 19

Choose a Location

Anchor and Safety Throw Ring Accents
Millie Holloman

The location may depend on one or more things, including the theme, the budget, and where everyone lives. Homes and restaurants are popular choices, but hosts can get creative.

04 of 19

Set a Theme

guests mingle outdoors cowboy hats
Leo Patrone Photography

This may come before or after selecting the location, depending on whether or not the theme will influence the venue. It doesn't have to be similar to the couple's desired wedding theme or formality—in fact, we recommend that it be different. Hosts can turn to the couple's hobbies and interests for inspiration, and they should fully commit to whatever's chosen for a fun and memorable affair.

05 of 19

Compile a Guest List

camryn eugene rehearsal dinner guests
Lauren Fair Photography

Hosts shouldn't invite anyone who won't be invited to the wedding. Engagement parties are usually smaller than weddings, too, so if the couple would rather have only their closest family members and friends present, they can go right ahead.

06 of 19

Send Invitations

engagement party invitation
Monroe + Co

Stationery's meant to give celebrants an idea of what the party will be like. All of the important details should be included, like the date, the location, the dress code, and who it's for! If the couple wants to express that they aren't expecting gifts, that can be noted here, too. A line like "best wishes only" usually gets the message across. Another fun option is to ask for something that doesn't require spending, like cards with recipes or date suggestions.

07 of 19

Enlist Help

engagement party couple green doorway outdoors
Jose Villa

Obviously, hosts are responsible for a large portion of the legwork. But other family members and friends can help with things like planning, setup, and cleanup. If it's in the budget, we also suggest hiring professional help. Couples can hire an engagement photographer to document their party and take their portraits on the same day. Bartenders and other service providers might be worth the bucks, too.

08 of 19

Plan the Décor

Heather Payne Photography

Decorations will depend on the theme, and should suit (and be welcomed by) the venue. Hosts don't have to go crazy—a few thoughtfully-crafted centerpieces can have a huge impact. Hosts can also crowdsource for things like tableware, or even flowers from someone's garden.

09 of 19

Set a Soundtrack

DJ pool
Jesse Leake

Hiring a DJ or band is awesome, but scattering speakers throughout the space or asking the venue to play music both work, too! It's less about how hosts present tunes (though volume matters, and a playlist made using free streaming services with intermittent ads can be annoying), and more about what they pick. A mix of romantic, upbeat songs will set the right tone. Make sure to add any songs that are meaningful to the couple's relationship, or music that fits the theme.

10 of 19

Figure Out Food

food table
Tec Petaja

If the celebration's at a restaurant, this step is easy. For hosts supplying their own fare, buffets are simple to assemble, and potluck-style gatherings can take some pressure off. Attendees can sign up to bring either an appetizer, a main course, or a dessert, for example. Alternatively, hosts can stick with just small bites and beverages instead of having a sit-down meal. The easiest option is to have the event catered, letting someone else do it all.

11 of 19

Decide on Drinks

hannah steve wedding california champagne tower
Steve Steinhardt

A personal favorite? A Champagne tower, which will be especially festive for this party. No matter what you do, make sure that there's a variety of different options, including plenty of water, soft drinks, and juice boxes, especially when younger guests are invited. When throwing an engagement party away from home, hosts should check in with their venue about what's allowed and what the venue can provide.

12 of 19

Don't Forget Dessert

Rachel Thurston Photography

Even without a full meal, a party benefits from some sweet additions. Cakes are great, but they aren't the only options. Again, if you're partying at a booked venue, be sure to ask what the location can make, and if they'll charge for bringing outside food/drinks in.

13 of 19

Personalize It

monogram blue white cookies
Cameron & Kelly Studio

Personalized touches can be thrown in anywhere, but are important for making the event reflective of the couple. We're big fans of monograms, which are an exciting way to represent their upcoming union.

14 of 19

Dress the Part

engaged couple walking outdoors
Clary Pfeiffer Photography

Hosts and guests should adhere to the designated dress code. It's courteous for couples to do the same, but they can still wear something that makes them stand out from the crowd. The bride-to-be isn't obligated to wear white, but many women in this position want to!

15 of 19

Introduce Your Families

hannah steve wedding california guests
Steve Steinhardt

The engagement party may be the first time that family members and friends of the couple have to meet each other. Thoughtful seating arrangements will encourage everyone to mingle—which they should!

16 of 19

Offer Activities

wedding guests bags game
Jessica Antola

Activities are another easy way to help attendees get to know one another. And even if everyone's acquainted already, they're just plain entertaining. For an outdoor soirée, we like lawn games.

17 of 19

Raise a Glass

engagement party people sitting around table drinks cheers
Jose Villa

Toasting everyone in attendance is a treasured gesture. It's the perfect opportunity to show appreciation, and to get everyone excited for the upcoming wedding.

18 of 19

Prepare for Presents

wire basket card holder
Jake & Heather

Even if the invites make a no-present policy clear, some celebrants will likely bring gifts along anyway. At the very least, most (if not all) will show up with a card. Designate a space for these items to go—and preferably out of sight, so that those who came empty-handed don't feel guilty.

19 of 19

Give Favors

champagne truffles favor bag
Natalie Franke

Favors aren't obligatory, but little takeaways set the party apart. We encourage hosts to keep them small—it's the thought that counts, after all.

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