Let's Throw A Party!
Congratulations, you're engaged! This is such a wonderfully exciting time for you and your partner, if not maybe a little daunting?
You may be wondering where to begin with wedding planning and in between browsing Pinterest, emailing potential wedding venues and getting carried away with all the prettiness on Instagram it can be slightly overwhelming so why not start small?
Planning an engagement party, however elaborate or modest can be a fantastic way to test the water for how you want to approach the whole wedding planning process and it can mean you get to bring all your family and friends together to celebrate and get to know each other a little better before the big day.
I help plan numerous engagement parties each year and I love seeing how different couples want to celebrate, so I have jotted down a few things to consider and what I would love to do if it were me!
Formal or Informal
This could be the difference between hiring a private venue/room or just have a relaxed gathering at your local one afternoon/evening.
My biggest piece of advice would be to choose a venue that reflects you and your partner! If your favourite thing to do is spend Saturday's at your favourite pub then why not host your party there? If cocktails are your thing and you love a bar with amazing drinks and a more decadent feel then London has plenty to choose from.
Perhaps, you want something more intimate? My perfect engagement party would be a beautiful late lunch with immediate family and a few close friends in a private dining room followed by drinks in a pub where other friends can join as the evening goes on.
The Guest List
I am a firm believer in not letting the guests dictate the style of your wedding or engagement party. You and your partner will be at your happiest when your event reflects the two of you so don't ever feel like you have to invite certain people! Harder than it sounds I know but if people really have your best interests at heart they will understand this.
Once you have chosen the style of engagement party you want and you have a rough idea of what your limitations are i.e. minimum & maximum guest numbers then you can begin to write a guest list. Think of the people you called first to tell them the big news, or those friends that you speak to on a daily basis and go from there.
I also tend to recommend that you refrain from inviting people to the engagement party that you know (for whatever reason) aren't going to be invited to the wedding. However, I do know couples that have married with only immediate family and have used the engagement party as their main celebration before a very intimate wedding.
Some couples choose to get stuck straight into saving once they become engaged and who can blame them? Even at their most cost effective, weddings are very expensive! Having said that, I am a firm believer in celebrating at every chance you get during your engagement (trust me, it will be over in the blink of an eye) so, I encourage couples to set aside a little bit of money to celebrate with and this can be the perfect opportunity.
Perhaps offering everyone a favourite cocktail or glass of Champagne on arrival is how you want to spend this, or you may choose to pre-order some food for guests to enjoy throughout the evening.
As a very rough example, even £500 could go a long way to making guests feel welcome and getting the party started. Depending on the venue, this would buy you 10 bottles of prosecco and 40 beers which is a drink on arrival for 100 guests!
Presence or Presents
For some couples (and cultures) an engagement party can be just as big as a wedding and as such giving gifts can almost be expected. I think it's always important to set the tone and best to tell people if you really aren't wanting any gifts.
This is something to bear in mind as well if you are hosting a party where guests will be spending their own money. We have all had friends get married where the cost of attending all the celebrations can really build up!
If you know guests will be looking to give you gifts then I believe that guidance is always welcome and there are a few great sites (like John Lewis) where you can register for gifts that won't clash with a larger, more elaborate wedding gift registry down the line. I also LOVE Not On The High Street for really unique personalised gifts that are also affordable.
The Finer Details
It's the smallest touches that can really bring an event to life and with something like an engagement party it's a chance to really have some fun with decoration. I love the following ideas for personalising your party!
- Invitations are a fantastic way to set the tone for any event and if you don't want to spend too much money on this then Paperless Post is a great way to go as you can design the whole invitation yourselves!
- Personalised coasters or cocktail napkins are always a great touch and you could choose a hashtag or even have a monogram made that can then be carried through to your wedding day.
- Designing your own menu is a great option if you have hired a room or venue exclusively. You can have an illustrator or calligrapher add little touches to them that are personal to you both and it's a talking point for guests throughout the evening.
- Create a mini photo album of the evening just by having a polaroid camera, a few nice pens and even a few props for guests to have fun with. Like with a wedding, the night will fly by and its always nice to have reminders of special times.
- Personalised balloons by Bubblegum Balloons are my absolute favourite. They come in loads of colours, designs and they have a gorgeous engagement range which I personally lust after just because it features tonnes of rose gold!
Having said all that, the most important thing about hosting your engagement party is being able to do it your way. Plan it together, make sure it's a shared experience and that way the memories will be amazing.
Did you have an engagement party? What tips would you give others?