If you are recently engaged, someone may have mentioned the idea of an engagement party to you. Not to be confused with a bridal shower or a rehearsal dinner, engagement parties can be a fun way to celebrate the good news of your upcoming nuptials. Get prepared with this engagement party etiquette.
When to Have It:
Engagement parties typically take place very shortly after the couple has become engaged. Actually, in its most traditional form, this party is when the betrothal is publicly announced for the first time. In these days of social media, that type of "surprise" announcement is likely to be old news; however the father of the bride can still raise a toast to the engaged couple, even if everyone already knows they are planning to be wed.
Whom to Invite:
As with a bridal shower, only people that you will invite to the actual wedding should be invited to the engagement party. It is just a matter of simple etiquette. It is not polite to ask people to come make a fuss over you for getting the ring, but not include them in the main event (the actual wedding). For this reason, the party should not be scheduled until you have roughed out the guest list for the wedding reception. By the way, engagement parties can be as large or small as you like, so just because someone will be invited to the wedding doesn't necessarily mean they will be asked to all of the pre-wedding parties. It depends on your relationship with them and whether or not they live nearby.
What Happens at the Party:
A betrothal party is not terribly different than any other gathering, expect for the toast from the bride's father. It may be that a few other people will also be inspired to stand up and give their best wishes to the happy couple, although it is not mandatory. Given the celebratory nature of the event, you will likely want to have champagne on hand. But besides that, it is pretty much just a nice cocktail party, garden party, or barbeque, depending on the style of gathering you most enjoy. If the engagement has actually been kept a secret until that point, then people are just invited to a party, and the groom can give his fiancee her wedding jewelry engagement ring at the celebration.
Will There Be Gifts?
Officially, the answer is no. The bridal shower is the pre-wedding party that centers around presents. There may be some folks who feel moved to give the happy couple a little something, but nothing is required other than good wishes. If the father of the bride wishes to give his daughter a special piece of jewelry for the wedding during the party, he can do so when he gives his toast. Brides sometimes ask if they should set up a gift registry for their engagement party. Since it is not technically a gift-giving occasion, it would not be proper to create an "engagement registry". That said, there is nothing to stop you from making your bridal registry before the party; if people feel the urge to give you something from the registry, that is their choice. Be sure to send a thank you note for any gifts that are received.
Once your engagement party has taken place, you will officially be in full wedding planning mode. It is an exciting time, so try to enjoy it!