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Planning an Engagement Party
"All commands from your lips are sweet, I say, and now have you not said the sweetest of all? Marry you...! "~Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens
The Engagement period is such a wonderful time. As a couple, you have declared your love for one another with a promise of marriage. It is also a great time for both families to get to know each other. However, it is also a time where important decisions are made which may produce added stress during the engagement period.
It is at this point that you may or may not consider hiring a Wedding Planner. Every couple's needs differ so it is prudent to identify them from the get go to avoid problems or conflict later on down the road. You will both have to make virtually hundreds of decisions and choices leading up to your big day. It can seem overwhelming but if you stay focused you will be able to achieve your goals.
The first thing you want to do is announce your Engagement to family and friends. This can be achieved by:
-Contacting them personally by telephone, text or e-mail-Mail out "Save The Date" cards
-Place an announcement in the newspaper(s)
-Announce the engagement at a party
-Create a wedding website
This will be the first and most significant step to the wedding planning process. You are letting everyone that's important in your lives know that you're getting married. Everyone will want to share in your happiness.
During the Engagement period you need to ask yourself some crucial questions. It is important to know the When, Where, What, Who and Why.
-When is the wedding? You have to decide if you are having a winter, spring, summer or fall wedding and set the date. You may be considering a destination wedding so research needs to be done and plans should be made well in advance.
-Where is the wedding? It is vital that locations for both ceremony and reception are chosen early on in the planning process. (We will discuss this in greater detail later on in the guide.)
-Who is invited to the wedding? Both the couple and their families need to decide on a guest count. You can't very well book a venue with 150 guest capacity if you plan on inviting 300 people to your wedding. It is also essential to remain mindful of your budget because as we will discuss later on, your reception will require the greatest percentage of your budget.
-What is your budget? The budget must be determined from the beginning. At the end of the day you will need to assess what the big day will cost.
-Why are certain elements of your wedding more important to you than others? Each one of us have, for whatever reason, things in our lives that are important. For example, we live in a very multicultural world steeped in traditions. For many couples and their families it is very important to incorporate family and cultural traditions into the festivities. It is a good idea to have some sort of dialogue about it from early on so as not to create any situations or bad feelings later.
By answering these few questions during the Engagement period, the outlook for the wedding planning process will be a favorable one and not a daunting task.
Planning An Engagement Party
Planning an engagement party may not be rocket science but there are rules of etiquette and points you may want to consider. After all, an engagement party may set the tone for the upcoming nuptials. You should decide if it will be a formal, informal or themed affair.
Traditionally, the bride's parents host the engagement party. If for some reason the bride's parents are unable to do so, then the groom's parents can step in and make the necessary arrangements. However, in today's world just about anyone, even a friend, can throw you an engagement party as long as it is okay with family members. We don't want to upset the "apple cart".
Most Engagement parties are held at home, restaurants or banquet facilities. Once again, there are no rules here so if you want to be creative, knock yourself out! Perhaps you want a setting such as a boat cruise, a winery, a country club or even a barn in the country. You can pretty much set whatever mood you'd like just keep in mind the number of guests attending when seeking out a facility.
When making out your guest list DO NOT invite people that are not invited to the wedding. Believe it or not, I know people who were invited to the Engagement party but did not make the guest list for the wedding, (this goes for any other pre-wedding parties). Also, if you don't yet have final numbers for your wedding guest list, then keep the numbers small for the Engagement party to avoid problems later on. Invite guests you absolutely know are invited to the wedding only.
If you're sending out invitations, you pretty much have Carte Blanche to choose whatever you want. You can choose, formal, informal or funny invitations to send out. Depending on the size of the party, you may choose to telephone your guests personally. Another great idea is to send your invitations online. You can pretty much design whatever you want and send it out for free quickly, to many guests at once. Here's the other great thing about it, you can track who's checked the invitation so if they say they didn't get it or that they haven't looked at it yet, you will know otherwise. One more thing, before you send anything out, whether you made the invitations yourself or have them professionally done, please, please, please PROOFREAD everything. Nothing is sadder than an invitation with errors!
If your party is being held at a restaurant or banquet hall, your menu and beverage selection will be handled by the venue and their chefs. If you choose to have a gathering at home or a venue without caterers, you may decide to have a potluck and have guests bring a dish. This would definitely be an economical way to throw your party. On the other hand, if there are a number of guests bringing food, you need to be cognizant of possible food borne illnesses that may occur if certain food products are not kept at proper temperatures. It would be a far better decision to have a professional catering company handle the food. They will be able to provide you with great menu plans for the number of guests invited and depending on how much you want to spend, you can have a buffet style meal or they will bring staff to serve your guests. As far as drinks go, it is best to keep it limited to wine, beer, soft drinks, bottled water, coffee and tea. Oh yes, you may want to purchase a few bottles of champagne for toasting.
Toasts are a traditional part of the Engagement party but there is a certain amount of etiquette involved. The first person to offer a toast should be the bride-to-be's father and he is followed by a toast from the groom. After they have both made their toasts, anyone else who wishes to make toasts can do so. If you would like certain guests to make toasts then you should ask them personally to do so. You also have the option of keeping it informal and have anyone say a few words following the father and groom's toast. It is customary to commence your toasts anywhere from half way to two thirds of the way through the party.
Depending on the theme of your party, you may consider having music or some sort of entertainment. It is not necessary to do so but it certainly wouldn't hurt the atmosphere of the gathering. You may choose to just play a variety of your favorite CDs or hire a DJ. Perhaps you would prefer a pianist, harpist, flutist or soloist to perform. Whatever your flavor, if you plan on hiring anyone, make sure you compare prices or check for any reviews online. The best mode of advertising is word of mouth so ask around.
If you plan on adding decor such as flowers to your special event, remember that less is more. Nothing adds more beauty, elegance and class to a party than a tastefully decorated environment. So forego the streamers, balloons and cheesy props. You can choose to make your own centerpieces or go visit your favorite florist for ideas and prices. Once again, be creative and just subtract the tacky.
Are you registering for gifts for your Engagement party? Are you planning on including a note in your invitation regarding your registries? If you answered yes to either question, then shame on you! Did you know that it is not required of a guest to bring a gift to an Engagement Party? A couple should not expect gifts nor be offended if a guest arrives empty handed. In most cases, especially for cultural reasons, most guests do bring the betrothed a gift, but it should never be asked for or expected.
If you are planning to have pictures taken, you may choose to have a relative or close friend document the event. This would be an informal and inexpensive way of getting your pictures taken. If you decide to hire a professional photographer, shop around and once again, read reviews.
The most important part of your Engagement party is the BUDGET. From the very beginning of the planning process, you should decide on a budget and try not to sway from it. You can achieve this by making a list of every aspect of your party such as, venue, food, beverages, flowers and decor, photographer, entertainment and invitations. Keep your estimates realistic and you should be okay. If you want to save money you can choose to serve coffee and cake only or cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. If you decide to not serve a meal then you must indicate this on your invitation. You wouldn't want guests showing up hungry.
Finally, don't freak out over the Engagement party planning. It is not a bad idea to delegate some of the duties to family or friends. It takes the burden off of you and it makes them feel important and useful. Take a deep breath and enjoy it. Remember, this is a happy time and it is just the beginning of your journey towards the Wedding day.