Sleight of Hand
In society, weddings are known to be the most festive event in someone’s life. It’s literally a season of celebrations: you have the bridal shower where the bride is deluged by excessive gift-giving (not too sure why there isn’t a male equivalent); the bridesmaids luncheon where she shows her appreciation to all her bridesmaids; the bachelor and bachelorette parties; the wedding and wedding reception rehearsal which, even though it’s more of a drill, can end up as a party itself; and of course, the actual wedding. But before all of that takes place there’s an engagement party. And if you want to pleasantly surprise your guests, it’s best to mask an engagement party as something else. Traditionally, it’s the bride’s father who hosts this party. Traditionally, the father makes the first toast as well. Also, traditionally, requesting gifts on the invitations for an engagement party isn’t proper. Traditionally, giving someone in Greece a thumbs up is considered rude. Isn’t it time we had a new tradition? If you agree with me, go for a more contemporary version where the newly-engaged hosts the party. In any case, it’s always best to keep things in perspective ’cause tradition can get boring.
The Guest List
Of course, when planning an engagement party, you should consider who you’re going to want at the wedding. Don’t invite people you don’t want at your wedding. If you’re going for the surprise “guess what, we’re engaged” type of party, and host it as a backyard barbecue where you usually probably invite your neighbors, don’t invite the ones you don’t get along with. Obviously, you could invite a disagreeable neighbor and not invite him to the wedding in a “that’ll show ‘em” kind of way, but that wouldn’t be nice. Weddings are meant to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, not a way to get even with disgruntled neighbors.
As far as spending is concerned, you don’t want to have a blowout engagement party. Keep it lowkey, local and causal with minimal cost to you and your guest. The previous example, a backyard barbecue, would suffice. Another good example would be to undercut a different party, not a birthday or retirement party – you don’t want to steal the show. Instead, you could host a Christmas party, or Thanksgiving party, where you’d invite both sides of the family to make your announcement. In both situations, the price shouldn’t go to high, especially if the party falls in a holiday that you routinely celebrate anyway. Another way to reduce cost would be to have a potluck where everyone brings a dish. Your uncles casserole might not be a hit, but remember, the most important reason we have engagement parties is of course to announce the engagement, not to wow people with expensive decorations and awesome food; that’s what the wedding is for. And even though some people do send out invitations for engagement parties (depending on whether you’re going for the “surprise approach” or formal), it’s not necessary.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t send them out. These can be fun invitations, not too refined or classy, that convey the spirit of the occasion. But really, surprising people seems like the most exciting way to do these parties, and invitations might raise suspicion, so I’d leave them out. Of course, it is your choice what you want to do. If you’re upfront and tell your guest that this is in fact an engagement party, then that’s probably how you would go about planning this. You could have table decorations at a rented out area, go to a fancy restaurant, hire entertainment, but then you’d be building pressure because now guests are expecting the wedding to be off the charts. That’s why I say go casual, but hey, I’m not the one getting married.
Gifts can be a touchy subject if you don’t know how to handle them. If you send out invitations, there are people who believe it’s not proper to include whether or not you’re expecting gifts as I’ve mentioned before. To me, that sounds kind of high-class or snooty, so I don’t so much listen to “tradition”. But again, if you want it to be as inexpensive as possible, even for your guests, then leave the gift subject out of it. They’ll be able to send you more elaborate gifts later when you’ve set up your wedding registry (and they’ve saved some money). Whichever way you plan on jumpstarting your marital season, make sure you have fun and allow it to be a joyous occasion for everyone involved.
Wedding/Engagement Party Resources:
– if you ARE going to send invitations, at least try the low-cost method of making them yourself. There is software available with which you can create custom invitations or choose from thousands of pre-loaded designs and templates to help you acheive a professional look. A good, highly reviewed piece of software is The Print Shop, from Encore. Currently, it’s the best selling invitation software on Amazon.
– This is more of a tip than a resource, but when organizing your registry, it’s good to have more inexpensive items than expensive. Also, make sure it’s as large as you can get it so people will have plenty to choose from and won’t be force to purchase an expensive item. Include stores like Target or Walmart for the less-pricey options, and higher-end stores for your expensive gifts.
– Ladies, I know it’s a big deal for you to look great on your special day, but it’s an even bigger deal if you can stay in budget. There’s a site that specifically caters to that need. Preownedweddingdresses.com unites buyers and sellers of, you guessed it, wedding dresses. They are preowned so you can buy them at half-price of the original cost. And, if you don’t plan on buying from here, you should consider selling from this site since you can get a nice chunk of change for a dress you probably will never wear again. And for the guys, Fine Tuxedos is a good company to buy suits from.
Otherwise, make it a fun engagement party and a classy wedding. Good luck!
Some other party ideas include: