So the love of your life has popped the question and you've said yes; once the shock wears off and you can drag your eyes away from that dazzling beauty which now holds pride of place on your left hand, it’s time to get down to business. Planning your engagement party! For some couples, an evening alone is the perfect way to celebrate such a momentous occasion but for others that just won't do. Think of this as the first step in refining your vision for the big day, helping you determine your personal bridal style, discuss budgets with your partner and have a realistic look at the guest list in a much less stressful situation.

Planning the engagement party can be quite a daunting task but don't worry, we've broken it down into easy-to-follow stages!

Decide Who’s Hosting

Traditionally the parents of the bride host the engagement party, though a lot of couples decide to throw tradition to the wind and organise the celebration themselves. That being said, anybody who is close to the couple can throw them an engagement party, be it an intimate dinner or a big bash! Before you get bogged down in the details of your wedding, you need to have a sit-down and discuss who is planning, and paying, for the wedding celebrations. If your friends or family decide to throw a party for you, are you then expected to contribute financially since you and your partner are effectively the stars of the show?

Pick a Date

Typically you want the engagement party to be close to the engagement, while the news is still fresh in everybody's minds. If you wait over two months after the engagement, you probably won't have the same jubilant reaction. Because of this short timeframe, more couples are opting to announce their pending nuptials at the party itself!

Choose a Venue

Picking the venue for your engagement party can be tricky, it dictates a lot of other details for your soiree, the date, the guest list, the menu and the styling options so it should be one of the first things you consider. If you truly want an engagement party that's relaxed and understated then just host it in a family home or public space and save yourself the hassle, but if you want to start off your wedding journey with a bang then take the time to find the perfect venue for you and your spouse.

Create the Guest List

One of the next big steps is figuring out who you want to be in attendance, it's a general rule of thumb that the people you invite to the engagement party will also expect an invitation to the wedding so keep that in mind. Make a list with your partner and jot down your need to have guests, parents, close family members or close friends and work from there. If somebody else is hosting the event then be sure to let them know about your guest list requirements and don't be afraid to put your foot down. If you're planning on a small and intimate wedding then it doesn't make much sense to throw a huge engagement party. Also, keep in mind this isn't going to be the only celebration in your wedding journey, you have the wedding shower, your stag and hen do's, the rehearsal dinner and so much more.

Send Invitations

Give people at least two weeks of notice for your party, if you're booking a small and intimate dinner then potentially even earlier to give your guests time to clear their schedule for you. However, if your engagement party is a more casual affair with a bigger guest list then formal invitations aren't necessarily the most important detail and you can rely on e-invites and phone-only invitations. If you do choose to send out paper invitations and RSVP then you should ask yourself if you want to keep a unified paper goods theme for every event leading up to the wedding and the wedding itself or if you'd rather keep things specific and seasonal.

Plan the Menu

The menu for your engagement party is really dependent on the venue and formality of the event, for example, if you're having a back garden wedding in the summer then a barbeque, buffet-style sides and jugs of seasonal cocktails make for the perfect dining experience. Typically engagement parties are hosted cocktail-style, with passed appetizers or a display of cheeses, meats, and crudités. If you have no idea what to serve, don’t be afraid to ask the venue manager for help, this isn't their first rodeo so they can give you some really invaluable information about what to serve and how to do it. Just make sure to specify the information about the type of menu that will be offered in the invitations so that your guests can know what to expect.

Set the Scene

Now it's time for the fun stuff! Just like every other engagement party detail, the theme and decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you'd like. This is also the first point of setting the tone for your wedding day, if you're planning a sleek city soiree then match that with your engagement party decor. Incorporate personal touches that reflect your relationship, such as photos, mementoes, or favourite quotes. From table centrepieces to lighting and signage, every detail contributes to the ambience of your event. Don't forget to consider the venue's layout and size when planning your decor, if you know you want lots of soft candlelight then you need to know exactly how many pillar candles you will need to properly light up the place without becoming a fire hazard!

Choose an Outfit

Just like with your decor, the outfits you and your partner wear at the engagement party are going to set a vibe for your wedding day so make sure that's something you're keeping in mind. If your wedding is going to be black-tie formal then consider a dress that matches that style, or if you're opting for a garden party then a chic summer dress will work perfectly in your favour. It can be tricky finding the right dress so give yourself plenty of time and options so you feel utterly fantastic at your engagement party!

- Gráinne