Engagement Party Etiquette & Protocol
Engagement party etiquette has changed a lot over the years. The
protocol used to be that the bride's family would host an engagement party to
celebrate the event and invite family and friends.
It was the first of many formal duties the brides family held.
Today, it's perfectly
acceptable for anyone to host an engagement party, even a group of people who
can then share the expenses and organizational tasks.
Although it's not considered proper etiquette for the bride- and groom-to-be to throw
themselves a party, it's becoming more common.
Whether or not they actually HOST the party or just incur the expense is at
their discretion and is often decided upon for practical reasons rather than
Many couples today feel that
the financial burden of the party (as with the wedding itself) should be their
This shift is likely due to the fact that newly engaged couples
are generally older and more established than they used to be when all these
traditions began. And let's face it, we no longer look at tradition in a
We definitely don't feel as tightly bound by what our ancestors did nor do we
feel the need to uphold every aspect of how things were done in the past . We do
love knowing about it, taking bits and pieces from it, and then starting our own
new traditions that are in keeping with who we are and how we live today..
The Etiquette of Timing & Invitations
Traditionally, the party was held between 30 and 90 days from the moment she
said "Yes!" and, always, at least 6 months before the wedding date.
The general idea here, is
that the party should be as close as possible to the proposal but far enough away that
guests and hosts have time to organize their calendars, especially for more formal
Keep in mind
that a party is not a requirement nor has it ever been.
Regardless of how casual or formal you go, engagement party etiquette
requires that the
invitations for the party be mailed 4 to 5 weeks prior to the event and that
wording clearly indicate the date, place and time along with any other important
This gives everyone time to enter the date in their calendars and shift
anything they may need to in order to attend. It also means that more often than
not, the invitations are sent out prior to any details for the event being
finalized or even planned.
Engagement Party Guests & Etiquette
In terms of guests, engagement party etiquette requires that both families
invited so that they can all meet each other, mingle, and get to know one another in a social setting.
After family, close family friends are traditionally included.
Engagement party protocol states that only
those who will definitely be invited to the wedding are invited to the
party and that it is very bad form to do otherwise.
Traditionally, this meant
that the engagement party guest list could come close to the numbers for the
wedding itself, or conversely it was much smaller and limited to just close family and very close friends in
order to keep the party a more manageable size.
Traditional engagement parties that followed both etiquette and protocol were
quite formal—they were almost like mini weddings. Invitations were
professionally printed with RSVP cards and all social formalities were followed.
Proper etiquette dictated that the bride's father make a
engagement party toast early in the evening which would be followed by a
response from the groom where he would toast his fiancée and her family,
then finally his parents.
Then, the floor would open up for anyone who would like to raise a glass to the couple and
Today, you can still go that route, however it's also perfectly acceptable to
have a casual get together with a fun and more relaxed environment.
Engagement Party Etiquette & Gifts
In terms of gifts,
presents are not required and not part of traditional protocol
since the same guests will be invited to the wedding where gifts are certainly expected. However, close friends and family may choose to do so and it is at their
If some do bring gifts, proper engagement party etiquette
dictates that you don't make them part of the celebration or put them on
display. Discretely put them aside and open them in private after the guests
have left.... and don't forget about those Thank You cards!
Today, although there still aren't any hard rules concerning gifts, the presumption is that if
it's an intimate gathering and includes only very
close friends and family that gifts may be brought, but it is still by no means any sort
Most often, people choose to bring a hostess gift or send flowers—it's
basic social etiquette regardless of the event. Flowers
help the hosts make the place look more celebratory while alleviating
some of the cost burden on them. Others send flowers to the newly engaged
couple and some do both. It's really up to them and there is no right or wrong
Engagement parties today can be any type of
celebration from the most elaborate affairs, to
cocktail parties, to casual backyard events or an afternoon tea.
have entertainment, play
games, or have an intimate family gathering. It's really a question of
But, even though
much of the formality has been dropped when it comes to the ritual of an
engagement party, that doesn't mean that proper etiquette
towards guests and family shouldn't be upheld.
Want to know more?
engagement party ideas page discusses the pros and cons of at-home
parties vs. commercial venues and how color can play a major role in creating a
festive atmosphere. And speaking of atmosphere, so many people ask us about
party colors and engagement themes
because they're so important for turning a simple party into an event and
Finally, some valuable tips on figuring out the
for an engagement party.
Check out our
party planning page for help with throwing a successful bash. It
has a downloadable worksheet for party planning and an RSVP Guest list
Like we've said throughout the site, this time is all about you and
your style as a couple. So know and understand engagement party etiquette and
take what you want from it, but in the end, do what feels right for the both of