Although your wedding is often considered the biggest party of your life, there are traditionally many smaller celebrations leading up to the big day. The very first of which is usually the engagement party.

“An engagement party is usually held at the beginning of your engagement period. It is a celebration of the engagement and sometimes used to share the big news with family and friends,” explains Jaime Engebretson, owner and executive event planner of J'aime Events.

This is an entirely different party than the bridal shower, which is usually held closer to the wedding date and is held just for the bride-to-be by her friends and family.

Still have questions? Luckily, we have answers from wedding professionals about the dos and don’ts of planning an engagement party.

How soon should we hold an engagement party?

Although some couples use the engagement party to announce their betrothal, don’t feel pressured to host one right away.

“Typically, couples should have their engagement party a couple months after they get engaged. They want to allow enough time to plan, but they don’t want to allow too much time to pass. A good rule of thumb is normally three months after the proposal,” says Erika Velasquez, one of the founders of E&V Events in Chicago.

Who typically plans an engagement party?

Traditionally, the engagement party is hosted by the bride’s parents. Today, however, the party is often hosted by the couple themselves, family members or friends.

Who should be on the guest list?

The biggest guest list no-no is: “if you won't be inviting them to the wedding, then do not invite them to the celebrations leading up to that,” advises Engebretson.

The engagement party is usually reserved for your nearest and dearest, so don’t feel obligated to invite everyone who will be attending the wedding. You should also determine your budget and venue before finalizing the guest list and sending out invites to avoid overcrowding.

What is the etiquette for gifts?

Couples should not expect gifts from guests at the engagement party, according to Engebretson. However, if some guests do show up with gifts, wait to open them later as a couple instead of during the festivities. And don’t forget to send thank you notes!

Do we have to have an engagement party?

The short answer is no. Like many other wedding-related traditions, you are not obligated to throw an engagement party. It can be a good excuse to get friends and family together before the big day, especially if you’re planning a long engagement. Ultimately, though, it’s up to you and your partner to decide if it’s the right move for you.

What is the key to planning a great engagement party?

“A great engagement party will have thoughtful representation of the couple,” says Engebretson.

The engagement party should be a celebration of your love and journey together. So, make sure the party reflects that by adding personal touches, like decorating with photos of you together, serving up some of your favorite foods or hosting the event at a space that’s significant to the two of you.

Also, if you have the budget, consider hiring a professional planner. “Couples always think they can do it and end up stressing their family and friends out who should also just be enjoying the day with them,” recommends Velasquez.

©CTW Features