Image Credits: Hillary Leah Photography
Congratulations on your recent engagement! Right now, you are probably on cloud nine, ready to share the exciting news with all of your loved ones. Hosting an engagement party is the perfect way to gather friends and family to celebrate (Plus, a party is a whole lot more fun and personalized than making phone calls en masse). If you aren’t quite sure what this commemoration entails or how to get started in planning, you are in luck! From guest list etiquette to what to wear, we are here to give you the inside scoop on how to pull off the perfect proposal party!
Planning an Engagement Party in Charleston, SC
Engagement parties are intended to be a preliminary celebration of you and your partner’s union, however, they can range from a laidback get-together to an extravagant soiree. The rules of proposal party etiquette have loosened up quite a bit, which gives you more freedom to get creative. As you are going through the process of planning your own party, just try to focus on creating the ambiance you envision. Can you see you and your loved ones hanging out under twinkly lights in the backyard with craft beers and a bonfire? Or do you prefer white tablecloths and a candlelit plated dinner for you and your guests? Once you have an idea of the general feel you are going with, you can get started with the planning part of the process!
1 – Decide Who’s Hosting
Traditionally, the bride’s parents will host the engagement party, however, there is no real rule. Some couples may have more than one celebration, with each of the families hosting their own. The two families may also decide to come together and co-host. Other couples may plan their own or let a close friend take charge of the event. Like many other aspects of an engagement party, it ultimately comes down to preference. Just keep in mind that, as a general rule of thumb, whoever does the inviting typically foots the bill, too.
If you are planning to ask someone to host, make sure to be conscious of the time commitment and financial responsibilities before doing so. There may be some costs that you and your fiancé may need to help cover, in which case setting a formalized budget can help. Remember, it’s better to allocate more funds to your big day than the proposal party. There are plenty of creative (and cost-friendly) ways to have a memorable celebration surrounded by loved ones! All in all, just make sure that you are on the same page with your partner and host(s) about your expectations to ensure the process runs smoothly.
2 – Choose the When & Where
Typically, your engagement party should be within a few months of the proposal – the sweet spot between care-free, engaged lift and the start of serious planning mode. Some couples are able to pull off a party the evening of the proposal, however, this feat can take some serious creative planning. Waiting at least a month after getting engaged, though, will give you plenty of time to enjoy your engagement bliss and plan a stress-free event. Just make sure to give your guests enough time to plan, especially if you plan on inviting long-distance friends and family.
Engagement parties are usually held where the host lives, so keep this in mind when deciding who will entertain. If they live in the same region as you, then your engagement party will be conveniently close to home, otherwise, you will need to consider travel and accommodations. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you are farther away from most of your friends and family, then it is probably best that you and your fiancé are the ones who are traveling. If everyone is fairly spread out, you may want to consider having multiple celebrations. Ultimately, it comes down to what makes the most sense for the majority of your guests.
3 – Create Your Guest List
An engagement party can be the perfect opportunity to let different families and friend groups mingle in a more intimate setting. For this reason, the celebration is often reserved for close friends and family. Larger parties may also require you to rent out a venue and hire a caterer, which may or may not be what you are going for. Engagement parties typically last somewhere around four hours, which is something to keep in mind if you are renting out a venue. Make sure to decide on whether it will be a kid-friendly party, because some guests may need to work on finding a sitter for the event.
The exact number of guests will depend on the couple’s preference, but don’t feel pressured to have a lengthy guest list. Especially with new safety considerations as a result of COVID, it’s okay not to invite everyone you know. However, if you are inviting someone to the engagement party, they should also be on your wedding guest list. For that reason, it may be best to work backward, deciding on your wedding guest list and narrowing it down from there. Now, how to invite your guests. You might be wondering, If I am only inviting my closest friends and family, do I really need to send out formal invitations? The answer is no, but you should send out some sort of official word. If you would rather save on postage, casual e-vites are an acceptable alternative. However, you should send more than a group text so that the message doesn’t get lost in translation!
4 – Plan the Menu
Depending on your vision, this step may not be applicable to you. Engagement parties can be at any time of the day, mealtime or not. If you do decide to feed your guests, there are plenty of options, from a boozy brunch to light hors d’oeuvres to a candlelit cocktail party. But, our best advice is to save the five-star meal for your wedding night. Food and your engagement party can be kept simple and casual, while still tasting delicious. If you are having a smaller gathering, you may want to choose a special meal that you and your partner love!
Traditionally, the highlight of most engagement parties is the mingling and socializing. Since this has become a bit more difficult with COVID, you may want to opt for a plated meal or have someone serving to avoid the spread of germs. Having a mixture of food can also be a safe bet, especially if you tend to have picky eaters in the family. The type of food you should serve really depends on your formality, style, and location, just don’t forget about the desserts! Have a little something sweet for your guest to enjoy, whether it’s popsicles or a layered cake.
5 – Set the Scene
Keep in mind that, unlike bridal showers, engagement parties aren’t typically as gift-centric. If you have a finished wedding website and registry list, it can be helpful to include these on the invitation. However, this party is focused on catching up with loved ones (safely) and introducing various friend groups. Break the ice with fun games like Ring Hunt or Wedding Bingo. If you are hosting your party outdoors, set out some fun lawn games like cornhole.
Like your invitations, you don’t have to host an elaborate extravaganza. Try not to get carried away with trying to match the party theme to that of your wedding. You may end up choosing something entirely different down the road. It will leave your guests surprised on your special day, anyhow. Get creative with your decor, adding floral arrangements, engagement photos, greenery, and twinkly lights. The most important consideration when setting up your party decor is how much you would like to spend and staying under that budget.
6 – Decide on the Dress Code
The location and style of the party will dictate the dress code. If you are hosting a backyard cookout, you probably don’t want to wear an evening gown. A sundress or jeans and a blouse will be just as cute. If your event will be more formal, think more cocktail attire. As a general rule of thumb, wear something that makes you feel special (since you will be taking plenty of pictures) but won’t overshadow your actual wedding day look. Ultimately, it comes down to what you are most comfortable in, just make sure to give guests a hint on your invitation so that they don’t feel out of place.
Remember, the most important requirement for your proposal party is to enjoy it! The purpose is to commemorate one of the most special days of your life. Take a step back and savor the excitement that comes with getting engaged, because soon it will be time to plan your special day. If you are looking for the perfect oceanfront wedding venues in South Carolina, reach out to Seabrook Island Weddings today! We have a variety of venues that can accommodate your dream beach wedding.