Just because he’s popped the question and you’ve said yes to that gorgeous diamond engagement ring in Christchurch doesn’t mean you’re ready to hop right into wedding planning. Before you get too deep into ordering your wedding flowers in Dunedin, or looking for a function room on the North Shore, you need to think about an engagement party first.
Okay, we know that some of you out there might be groaning at the idea of a party just to celebrate an engagement, especially when the big party is coming up soon, but hear us out. An engagement party isn’t just about celebrating (although that’s the best bit!), it’s also about giving your wedding guests a chance to get to know each other. Many of your guests will be heavily involved in the wedding and be spending time with you at your hen party or wedding shower, so it’s good to get the initial “hi, how are you’s” out of the way.
Who pays for it
Traditionally, the bride’s parents will throw the party, but in these modern times, who cares! Since you’ll likely already be having conversations about money with both sets of parents, slide in a conversation about the engagement party right away as well.
There’s plenty of ways to start talking about money with your parents, but as with anything about money, it’s always best to start talking about it sooner rather than later. Make sure you finalise your budget as accurately as you can before you involve your parents, and have a good idea of what the party, and the remaining wedding planning costs will be. That way your parents will be also have a specific number they’ll need to think about.
How to feed them
An engagement party is, at its roots, the same as any other party. You’ll need to provide some food and beverage for your guests, and will be up to you to decide if you’ll go a formal dinner route or getting takeaway delivery from your favourite Newmarket place.
Either way, planning is paramount here. Start ordering your NZ wine online so you’ve got a surplus before the party and get a discount for ordering in bulk. Think about getting freshly roasted coffee in Auckland for serving after dinner. Food items you can get a few weeks ahead of time will be helpful. When deciding how much food to serve, use a guide like this one to get started.
Who to invite
Make sure you have your guest list nailed down, along with RSVP’s before getting started with too much planning, especially food planning. Your guest list should of course all be invited to the main affair (the wedding), but you don’t necessarily need to invite the entire wedding to the party. Think close family members and friends, including the wedding party if you’ve picked them.
When to have it
This one is really up to you and what works best with your schedule. You don’t want to have the party be a month before your wedding, but you also don’t want to have it too soon if you’re planning a long engagement. It might also feel a bit strange to get engaged, then wait months and months to celebrate, so use your best judgement on this.
What kind of party
An engagement party can be as informal as a backyard BBQ and beers in tubs on the ground. It can also be a formal sit down dinner, complete with dinner dresses and suits. If you’re going the formal route, here are some ideas to get your taste buds going. Try and incorporate you and your fiance’s styles into the party, making it a party that you’d both want to go to.
If you’re hoping to make it quick and painless, consider a somewhat early brunch with light breakfast food and pastries, coffee, and mimosas. There’s plenty of themes to choose from, like a parisian afternoon, or a chocolate and champagne romance themed day. Go low key with a backyard party, and put up fairy lights in the trees and insect repellent candles to carry into the evening.
What’s the gift situation?
Gifts aren’t usually the norm for engagement parties, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for them, or will receive them even if they’re unsolicited. Whichever way you decide to go, just make sure to be upfront with your guests. Place your expectations right on the invite, and a link to your registry if you’re asking for gifts. Try one of these 50 registry sites for some of the best gifts.
Just keep in mind that since gifts aren’t usually expected, it may be asking a lot of your guests to bring one along, especially if you’re asking for gifts at the wedding shower and wedding as well. If you decide to not ask for gifts, bear in mind that you might get one anyway. It’s a good idea to just thank the guest for the gift rather than making a big deal out of it, and place it somewhere away from most guests to prevent any guilty feelings.
What to wear
What you’ll don as future spouses will depend on the formality of your party. While you don’t need to go overboard, it is nice to stand out a little bit. Pick out a new dress, or find a flashy new tie that you feel great in for the party. Be comfortable and just a bit fancy for those inevitable pictures posted all over social media.
The good thing about planning an engagement party is that it’s giving you some practice for the big event. All of these tips will lead into wedding planning as well, so try to take them seriously and give engagement party planning a go. Who knows, you even find you love it!