Are You Recently Engaged?
Our son, Alex, got engaged to Brittany in October 2017. We were overjoyed. They’ve dated for nearly 9 years. That familiarity didn’t lessen the excitement. We wanted to share our joy about Brittany joining our family through marriage. So, we hosted an engagement party for family and friends.
What is an Engagement Party?
Engagement parties are popular in the South, where we’d lived, prior to relocation, and where Alex was primarily raised. In fact, about a third of the revenue from my business at the time, A Wonderful Wedding, came from planning and executing this special occasion event.
Now in Omaha, Nebraska, we learned many were unfamiliar with engagement parties. Most guests commented, “I’ve never been invited to an engagement party before,” or “I wasn’t exactly sure what an engagement party was.”
Technically, this party is a celebration of a couple’s recent engagement. It’s also an ideal time for upcoming wedding guests to get to know one another.
The bride’s parents traditionally host the first engagement party. Many couples stray from this tradition and host their own celebration or attend parties hosted by friends and family. Some families even co-host the party.
In our case, since the couple will marry on a South Carolina beach with only immediate family present, we decided to host the party so extended family and friends could share in the engagement and upcoming nuptials, locally.
Engagement parties are usually held within three months of the official engagement or six months before the wedding ceremony. After that, couples and families are typically entwined in wedding planning. Invitations are issued about four weeks prior to the party, allowing guests time to make travel plans, if necessary.
The location can be tricky. Many newly engaged couples live in a different location than family. So, consider travel requirements of guests. Is it easier, and more affordable, for the couple to travel to them? If it’s a destination wedding, is it realistic to expect guests to travel twice to celebrate with you?
If most live in the same area, then it’s as simple as choosing a local venue.
• Number of guests-space needed.
• Level of formality-backyard Bar-b-que, afternoon tea, formal dinner in a restaurant’s private dining room, Sunday brunch, other.
• Guest limitations-can all walk stairs or navigate uneven terrain?
Once again, the tradition of whom to invite often clashes with reality. Traditionally, only guests invited to the wedding are invited to an engagement party. In our case, since the wedding is limited to immediate family, this tradition wasn’t followed.
We invited close friends, family and neighbors whom we knew would be delighted to share in the news of Alex and Brittany’s engagement. Equally important, the invitees are excellent marriage role models and supporters of the young couple, something all newlyweds need.
Our home was chosen as the engagement party LOCATION.
GUEST LIST. The list was created with Brittany and Alex’s involvement. Invitations were ordered online from Vistaprint. They included the location address, date and time and where and when to RSVP. The card also had Alex and Brittany’s wedding website address, which included information on how they met, wedding day details and their registries.
-HINT: Be sure to order as early as possible. The USPS lost the initial order and it had to be re-ordered. Vistaprint re-printed and sent again at no charge. [NOTE: Informed Delivery by the USPS is a great service. Check to see if it’s available in your area. It provided proof of lost mail.]
-TIP: Invitations may be sent digitally using Facebook or email or you can even print your own. If it’s a small party, you may call guests and invite them.
-CHILL-OUT: Don’t worry about matching your wedding theme or colors to the engagement party. Maybe you haven’t even chosen a wedding date or location yet. That’s okay. This is an early celebration in your wedding planning.
TIME. Since some guests were driving in from surrounding states, we chose 1-4 PM on a Saturday afternoon. This allowed commuting guests a comfortable day trip.
MENU. This was admittedly a bit more challenging than originally thought. Since the party was held between lunch and dinner and during the Christmas season, the menu required creative thinking with a blend of holiday and bridal.
-Heart-Shaped Tea Sandwiches with a Story: Heart-shaped cookie cutters from Ann Clark, a Vermont based family-owned company, were ordered. Sadly, the package was destroyed in USPS transit. After contacting the company online and sharing a photo of the package contents and why the cutters were ordered, an overnight package arrived. Inside was the replacement, an additional animal-shaped cutter and a hand-written note. Supporting family-owned business makes a difference. Do so whenever possible.
The guests seemed to enjoy the pecan and pimento sandwiches on white wheat bread.
–Other menu items included: a variety of cheeses, spreads, crackers and olives with flavored popcorn, red grapes, fresh vegetables, mixed nuts, pretzels, veggie straws, French macaroons and three types of salami. The strawberry tree with yogurt dip was a guest favorite. Two flavors of cake were served after a champagne toast.
–Beverages included flavored waters, soda, beer and champagne.
-HINT: Write each menu item down and underneath the ingredients needed. Purchase and prepare as many items in advance, as possible. For instance, the heart-shaped bread was cut the day before and wrapped so it could be easily spread the morning of the party. The spreads were prepared a day in advance. And, vegetables were washed and cut in advance.
-REMEMBER: If you’re having the party at home, you also have to purchase the plates, utensils, cups, napkins, serving trays, etc. Ensure plenty of seating. Set out enough garbage containers and make sure your bathroom is properly prepared with hand towels and toilet tissue. If guests wear outer coats, know where you’ll keep these during the party.
Mixing bridal with Christmas was fun. Diamond engagement ring cupcake toppers were ordered and used on food trays and household décor. Paper bells and heart-shaped streamers were pinned to the ceiling, creating a bridal mood. Diamond ring stickers were attached to cups. The Christmas tree was decorated with sentimental family heirloom ornaments. An engagement photo of the couple adorned the fireplace ledge. The style and theme were completely different from the upcoming beach wedding. And, that is perfectly okay.
About 2/3 of the way through the party, guests gathered on the main floor. A family heirloom table with four champagne glasses, votive candles, a cake knife and server and a two-tiered cake was carried into the room and placed on an X taped on the floor, under bells and streamers from above.
Alex and Brittany joined Ken and I behind the table. As father-of-the groom, Ken welcomed guests and spoke of the importance of having support in one’s marriage. Alex followed by thanking guests and expressing his excitement about having Brittany as a wife after their summer beach wedding. I finished the toasts by highlighting Brittany’s entrance into our family unit and the use of tradition in the engagement party. Guests were invited to also toast the couple. The cake was removed and served from trays.
–Break from Tradition: No wedding cake is planned for the beach ceremony. Instead an engagement cake was ordered from Crum Cakes Bakery in Omaha. Lana, owner, suggested the “She Said Yes” cake topper. It was perfect.
Alex and Brittany ordered engagement ring-shaped cookies from Crum Cakes Bakery. As guests left the party, they presented these to them with a thank you for attending.
The engaged couple’s attire should match the style and feel of the event, understanding they are the center of attention at the party. No guest should ever upstage a bride, or wear white at a wedding, unless the invite requests this.
The gifts of one’s presence and continual support are the most valuable gifts any engaged couple can receive. Gifts are not expected at engagement parties, but are often given. Couples should acknowledge receipt of these gifts with a genuine hand-written thank you note after the party.
–HINT: Open gifts after the party since all guests may not bring a gift.
Best wishes & Congratulations to all newly engaged couples and their families. What a very special time in your lives. Enjoy every moment. And, if it includes an engagement party, I hope you found this post valuable. Questions? Ask below.
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©Copyright. January 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.
Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.