Traditionally the Engagement party is an event used to introduce friends and family of the bride and groom who have not already met. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you would like, but should not be more than 6 months after your engagement. I tend to lean in favor of this ‘rule’ because any more than 6 months after your engagement and the whole shock and excitement begins to die down a little.
For me, the engagement party is such a lovely romantic way to formalize your relationship to all of the important people in your life (a societal coming out ball for your relationship if you will). There is something Gatsbyesque about an engagement party that just thrills me. It doesn’t have the stresses that come a long with the wedding, it is purely a night to have a fabulous time with friends and family and in your honour no less!
With this event will come your first trials with wedding etiquette. Here are a couple of things that you need to think about:
Every guest invited to the engagement party MUST be invited to the wedding
Engagement Registry – keep registered gifts under $100-150
With the engagement, registries can be a grey area. There will be people who will get you a present for this occasion and others who will not. Fo me, I had a few family friends asking where I was registered within weeks of the engagement announcement. The absolute worst thing is receiving gifts that are completely useless to you (especially if the guest spent a fair amount of money on it and it cannot be returned). Because of this, I think it is best to cover all areas. So register. Then put the link to your registry list on your engagement website. If a certain guest does not feel it’s appropriate for them to be spending money on you for your engagement, they can quietly ignore the registry link. Problem solved.
In my case, my husband and I were just moving back from Europe at the time and really didn’t have much of anything in the way of kitchenwares, so we registered at Williams-Sonoma to help start building our dream kitchen. We kept the items on the list under $100 (honestly the majority of them were under $30). When making your list make sure that you have many items at all different price points. This will give all of your guests (no matter what their budget) lots of choice. There is nothing worse than going to a registry late and having 2 choices left – so register for a lot more than what you think people will buy. (Hint: most stores have a completion system set up with their registry. This means that after the event you have a specific amount of time to buy up the remaining items on your list at a discounted price).
Our Engagement Party
I have had visions of my engagement party ever since my mother starting dreaming about it when I was 15. I wanted it to be lavish and stunning, but I certainly had a budget so needed to be creative.
I was living in Paris at the time so planning an engagement party back home in Toronto was definitely going to be a challenge. My mother and I researched venues endlessly (I actually flew home for two weeks in October to finalize the search).
One hint I can give you for the engagement party or the wedding – go with a venue that has everything on site (i.e. catering, flatware, plates, chairs etc). Using a catering and rental company to bring in everything last thing is VERY costly.
We ended up choosing the C5 restaurant and lounge at The Royal Ontario Museum. It is very contemporary with a dramatic space and spectacular view. Even though our engagement venue was very contemporary, we snuck in a few hints as to what the wedding theme might be. All of the food had some sort of french influence. I worked with the on-site event coordinator and the chef to devise a fabulous hors d’oeuvres menu inspired by gorgeous french cuisine with a contemporary flare. The result was nothing short of perfection.
Foie gras custard on a potato rosemary toast
Lovage cured smoked salmon, creme fraiche, salmon roe
Grilled prawns, Muscatel Beurre Blanc
Mushroom Pissaladiere, Roasted Garlic, Truffle Oil
Blue Cheese Praline Sable
Frites with a Hazelnut Emulsion
Rochetta Studded Polenta with Cherry Jus
Olive Oil poached salmon with heirloom carrots, couscous and barley foam
Ponderosa Mushroom Risotto
Charcuterie including rabbit rillette and a pork hoc terrine
Port wine truffles
Prune Beignet with mandarin scented sugar and citrus glaze
Chocolate Ganache Macarons
Vanilla Yuzu Butter Cream Macarons
Les Merveilleuse (a delicious Parisian concoction of meringue, chantilly cream, chocolate shavings and cocoa powder)
Since the venue was so dramatic we really didn’t need much in the way of decor. The restaurant had gorgeous hand blown candle holders so we flooded the room with those. We brought in about 10 of our engagement pictures in silver frames and I worked with the event coordinator to steer their in-house florist in the direction of White, White, White when creating her weekly flower arrangements (no cost to us as C5 had the flower arrangements in place every week anyway!)
After the engagement party there is of course one last thing – the thank you cards.
I am a big proponent of sending Thank You cards as SOON as possible after the event. If you can, try not to let the 1 month mark pass.
I hope this has pointed you in the right direction and given you some helpful tips when beginning to plan your engagement party. Remember it doesn’t have to be very complicated – people are here to celebrate with you!