Most couples enjoy an engagement party to honor the upcoming nuptials sometime in the first few months of the popped — and accepted! — question. But what happens when it’s actually time to start planning an engagement party? What are some key points to think about and how the heck does it differ from planning the actual wedding? The Yentas, as usual, are here to help!

When should I have my engagement party?
Plan on celebrating your engagement soon after that ring is slipped on your finger. The exact timing, though, is all relative compared to your approximate wedding date. Ideally, you want to space out your engagement party from your wedding so that there isn’t too much of you two. With all due respect, as awesome as you and your partner are, an engagement party in one month and a wedding two months later is just a little…much. Most engagements are about a year to 18 months long. Consider holding the engagement party about a year from the wedding, if possible. If you haven’t solidified your wedding date yet, that’s okay. It’s likely you have a month, or at least the season, in mind. Start there and work about a year back. That said, you don’t need to have an engagement party before you can even finish answering yes to become a Mrs. It’s okay to go ahead and enjoy your new title as fiancé before diving into engagement party plans. Take a couple months to soak it in, stare at your ring, share the news, stare at your ring, daydream about your dress, stare at your ring and make a guest list.

Oh yeah, so regarding the guest list, who do we invite to the engagement party?
The absolute #1 rule of your engagement party: whoever you invite to the E-Party, must also be invited to the wedding. That means you better be sure that the engagement party peeps are going to be sticking around in your life for a long enough time so a year later you’ll still be close and want them at your most special event. Really, though, if you invite all the people to your engagement party who are also invited to your wedding, you may as well have your rabbi and a chuppah on hand and just tie the knot at the engagement party! We suggest you keep your engagement party smaller than your wedding day. The stress, expense, and build-up to the wedding day doesn’t need to be duplicated. Therefore, send invitations to your immediate family, bridal party, and close friends. Most likely, you’ll only want to invite 30 to 40% of your wedding guest list. Keeping it intimate, yet festive, is the way to go.

What kind of venue works for hosting an engagement party?
As long as you have an open space that allows for schmoozing, you can hold your engagement party anywhere. Parties can be at private homes, restaurants, country clubs, or even parks. Just make sure you have a private area so that you can enjoy conversation and kibitzing.

What about decor and entertainment? How far do I go there?
Remember, you don’t want to give away all your goods at your engagement party. If you go to the same extent as your wedding, you’ll have no surprises up your sleeve for the day that truly matters! So, decor can be simple flowers or candles. You could probably take on the craft of arranging flowers yourself in Mason jars or vases. Candles on tables and open areas add a dramatic and beautiful look, while keeping costs and resources down. You can also reuse the candles on your wedding day if they’re not burnt too far down. As for entertainment, a mix or Pandora station that fits your party theme can absolutely suffice for entertainment. Since typically there is no dancing at an engagement party, mood and ambiance music is what counts. Save your bucks for the live music at your wedding reception. If you really want an element of live music, enlist a friend or college music major to play some acoustic guitar or keyboard to set a more formal engagement party mood.

If I’m throwing the party at home, should I hire a catering company or just serve chips and salsa?
We think coordinating something in between a sit-down dinner and a cheese plate is probably acceptable. Depending on your budget and party space, heavy appetizers or a buffet can be acceptable and common offering for munchies. Pick a theme — Mexican, Italian, gourmet salads, BBQ — and run with it. Tray passed appetizers or a few tables with heated servers will suffice. You can even choose to do a desserts-only party and offer a slew of sweets from a cake to cookies and in between. Anything beyond that is, no pun intended, gravy. And as for booze, it’s up to you! You can hire a bar service or set up a cooler, but you can range from just wine and beer to heavier drinks. Either way, you’ve got to have a champagne toast!

So get your invitations ready (and, speaking of which, for more casual affairs like engagement parties, it’s acceptable to send online invitations or snail mail invitations), pick out a cute dress, and get ready to pose for the camera and show off your new bling! Your engagement party is a wonderful “first” during your wedding-planning experience. It’s like the opening ceremonies to the start of your wedding Olympics, sans any competitions. After all, you already scored the gold when you found your love!

The Wedding YentasTM , A Guide for the Jewish BrideTM, is a wedding planning site that offers tips, explanations of traditions, a vendor directory, and Real Weddings showcasing authentic and professional images for couples planning Jewish weddings. To read more articles and features by The Wedding YentasTM click here!
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