In anticipation of plenty of engagements over the summer months, here’s a few handy tips for engagement party etiquette (and a few engagement party present ideas). If you’re the one with the new bling read how to organise your engagement party.
RSVPs (répondez s’il vous plait) are not optional. The formality of the invitation will give you an idea about the required formality of acceptance. If the invite specifies any way of RSVP’ing (email, text or even Facebook acceptance), you should respect that your response is expected, and assist the host’s preparation. Often catering or even seating will be determined by guest numbers (like at a wedding), so if you’ve said you’re going, it’s very rude not to turn up. RSVP as soon as possible.
Do you bring a gift?
Yes, absolutely take a small gift to an engagement party – see the perfect engagement gift. If you aren’t specifically told not to, it’s sensible to err on the side of presents – it’s never inappropriate to bring a gift for your host. It need not be an expensive gift though, something personal, thoughtful or simple will suffice.
A very nice bottle of wine, a small piece of homeware, something unique that you know the couple will love or (ideally) the little white book wedding organiser and diary. Attach a card with a brief message, which will make it easier for the couple to remember whom the gift was from, and how to thank you.
Can you bring a guest to an engagement party?
Revert to the invitation. If the invitation is made to you individually by name, and doesn’t specify a guest, it’s a no-brainer. If the invitation is generic, and is posted or handed to you without explanation, politely enquire whether you can bring your significant other. However, it’s not okay to expect to bring a friend or group, unless specifically suggested on the invitation, “Come one, come all”. Facebook invitations are a grey area, because unless the couple are ‘friends’ with your significant other, they may not be able to invite he/she, so again, politely enquire.
Keep the location and couple in mind when dressing for an engagement party. For example, I attended a casual garden-party engagement party at the groom’s parents’ house, but knowing the venue and couple themselves, I wouldn’t expect to rock up in ripped jeans and a t-shirt. While black and white is alright, I’d steer away from wearing all white to an engagement party, in case the bride chooses to wear a white outfit – as I did to mine – you don’t want to appear to be competing for attention. See the Dress Code Guide for more.
If you’re still unsure what to wear, ask the hosts.
If you must be late to an engagement party, let the host know as far in advance as you can – and be careful not to interrupt toasts, speeches, or other “officialties” of the evening. If you are running late, why not offer to pick up something on the way, in case the hosts have forgotten something? Unless you’ve arranged to help out with preparation, try not to be early either – last minute party prep can be stressful enough. Within 15 minutes of the invite time is advisable.
Greet & help the host
It’s only polite to greet and thank the host for inviting you – for an engagement party this may not be the couple themselves, but a friend of parent, who will often go to a lot of trouble to make the event happen. If the host is preparing food, for example, offer to help and be specific, i.e. “Can I help with that salad/fill water-glasses/pass food around?”
Also, don’t be shy – bring your most confident self to the party and mix and mingle with other guests – the bride and groom won’t be able to babysit you all evening.
Other Engagement Party Etiquette
Keep conversation casual
Engagement celebrations call for light and positive chat, so when meeting other guests or chatting loudly among friends, be mindful of what you’re saying and who’s listening. Engagement parties are not the time to recount stories of the groom’s psycho ex-girlfriend, or get into an argument with someone about politics or religion. It should go without saying, but avoid gossiping.
Hold your liquor
Whether an open bar, BYO or you’re paying for yourself, respect the host, couple and event and don’t overdo the drink, especially early on in the evening. It’s great to be a party animal, but wait until the hosts are doing shots before you do. There are few things as obnoxious as being the overly (and inappropriately) drunk one at another’s celebration, and you’ll regret it the next day.
If the host threw a great party, it never hurts to say thank you, either by a brief email, next-day telephone call or for a formal event, a thank-you card.
Now that you’re looking for the perfect engagement party gift: check out the little white book wedding organiser and diary