A couple can have one engagement party. Or they can have multiple engagement parties. Or they can have none. It’s entirely up to them.
First Engagement Party
Traditionally, the first engagement party is a small, family-only dinner hosted by the bride’s parents. The intimate setting allows the engaged couple’s parents to become better acquainted without the additional duties of playing host to other guests. It also allows parents to bestow sentimental presents on their soon-to-be-wed children without making a public spectacle of the gift giving.
However, nowadays anyone can give an engagement party; even the engaged couple can host a party for themselves. And the party can be as simple as coffee and donuts or as formal as the fanciest restaurant in town (or out-of-town for the jet-set). In case the bride’s parents would like to follow tradition and throw the first party, all other potential hosts should simply let the engaged couple know of their desire to host a party and ask the couple when would be a good time to hold it.
Multiple Engagement Parties
Couples who live far from their parents or hometowns may prefer to have a series of engagement parties in many locations in order to include friends without asking them to travel a long distance. The parties can reflect the different venues and anticipated guests: an afternoon tea with his grandmother’s closest friends in Savannah, a cocktail party for classmates and coworkers in Atlanta, and a small pool party with the old neighborhood gang at her parents’ house in Birmingham. There is no need to stick to a script of any kind. And people who might be available for several of the engagement parties can certainly be invited to more than one.
Surprise Engagement Party
The one engagement party that deserves special attention is the surprise engagement party, where guests are invited with no hint to the couple’s engagement.
- At some point during the party, the engagement should be announced—by the hosts, the parents, or the engaged couple—and then toasted.
- The bride-to-be should not wear her ring in public before the official announcement, or it gives away the surprise.
- Any engagement announcements should be scheduled to be published several days after the party, and the couple should ask the person handling the newspaper’s engagement announcements to keep it mum.
- People invited to share in the celebration of the engagement announcement are not automatically invited to the wedding—and the hosts and couple should use caution not to make blithe statements like, “The wedding will be next spring and you’re all invited.” It is much safer for all to say they have not begun to plan the wedding. This delays, at least briefly, demands for a wedding date, location, and attendants’ names from well-intentioned guests.
- There are some people who should not be surprised—namely, family. Family members should be told before the party, and they are asked to keep quiet until the announcement is made at the party. Especially, young children from previous marriages should be given first notice of the engagement so they have time to adjust and accept the new situation before a crowd of guests are cooing, “What do you think of your mommy’s new boyfriend?” Adult relatives should know, but the timing is less of a concern. If necessary, they are told just moments before the guests arrive. And those that simply can’t keep secrets should not be burdened with the secret at all.