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The Do's and Don'ts of Planning an Engagement Party
By:  Karen Sullen

He's popped the question, and you said "Yes!"  There's a sparkle in your eye and on your finger, and everyone's excited just thinking about your special day.  You're getting married, for goodness sake, and that's cause for celebration.  So before you begin planning the wedding, there's one other event that you might want to plan first—the engagement party!  While they may be customary in some circles, many brides may overlook this opportunity to celebrate and bond as they begin their new lives together.  To help you find out whether an engagement party is right for you, we'll take a moment to answer some of the more common questions and provide some party planning tips to make sure your party is definitely engaging.  

Why should I have an engagement party?

Before you get busy with the flurry of wedding planning details, an engagement party allows you to savor and celebrate the loving decision you've made.  It's also a great opportunity for extended family and friends to interact and get to know each other better.  

Is it mandatory?
An engagement party is customary in some social circles or when the engagement period will last longer than a year.  If you're planning to get married quickly, there really is no need for a formal party and an announcement in the newspaper or save-the-date magnet should suffice.

Who hosts the party?
Traditionally, the bride's parents host the engagement party.  But there is no set rule in today's society.  The party can be hosted by either parents or by the couple themselves.  

Should my engagement party be a particular size or style?
No.  Don't feel compelled to invite everyone you would to the wedding.  This is a more intimate gathering for family and friends.  Therefore, it can be as casual or as formal as your budget allows.  From dinner parties at home, a luau on the beach or a more formal affair at a hotel, just like your wedding the engagement party should reflect your style and personality.  

Will I need invitations?
Yes.  Even if it is a casual affair, invitations will help inform guests of important details such as the type of attire that is preferred, whether or not to bring gifts, and how to RSVP if it is a catered affair.  

Should I expect engagement gifts?
While engagement gifts are a nice touch, they are not mandatory (except in some religious and cultural circles) and should be left to the discretion of each guest.  Since many of them will also be attending the wedding and providing a gift at that time, you may want to forgo the engagement gifts.  They'll appreciate you letting them know ahead of time that it is not necessary to provide a gift.  

Should I provide party favors for the guests?

Inexpensive favors, such as save-the-date magnets or personalized chocolates and candies that serve as reminders of the wedding date are a great way to thank guests.

Can my engagement party be a surprise?
Absolutely!  But proceed with caution.  A family gathering can easily be turned into an engagement party just by proposing.  Or you can plan the entire gathering for that very purpose.  However, be very sure that your intended will accept.  Otherwise, things could get awkward and embarrassing.  

What are good activities to include?
Depending on the type of party, a program of activities may not be necessary.  However, a few words about the engaged couple are always appropriate even at a casual affair.  For a more structured event, here are some suggested activities:

-    The couple can share how they met
-    Guests can roast the couple
-    Show a video of the couple then and now
-    Couple can give gifts to each other and their parents
-    Introduce immediate family members
-    Have guests share "advice" on marriage
-    Take a family photo
-    Announce wedding date and other details

Whether you decide on an intimate dinner party or a swanky soiree, let the mood of the celebration be driven by a sense of romance.  Love is definitely in the air, and it's engaging!

Smart Marketing, Wedding Supplies & Services, Duluth, GA