Engagement Party Guest Etiquette: What to Know Before You Celebrate

Engagement parties are typically laid-back events—but that doesn't mean you can forget your manners.
Guests mingling at engagement party
Photo: Drazen | Getty Images
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
The Knot Contributor
  • Jenn writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in planning advice and travel.
  • Jenn also writes for a myriad of other large-scale publications, including SELF, Women's Health, and more
  • Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Jenn worked as an on-staff editor at WhatToExpect.com, American Baby, Fit Pregnancy and FreshDirect.
Updated Jan 05, 2024

Once you've said "I do," the real celebrations start to begin, with the first large-scale event being your engagement party—a time-honored tradition that brings your friends and family together as a prelude to the rest of the wedding festivities. The engagement party is not always a necessary event, but one that many couples like to have as a way to include loved ones in the immediacy of the celebration.

Of course, the planning of any type of large-scale event involves a considerable amount of time, energy, thoughtfulness and engagement party etiquette—both as a guest and as the host(s). Engagement party etiquette as a guest is incredibly important and shouldn't be overlooked, notes Carmen Hinebaugh, owner of Evermore Occasions, who adds that engagement parties set the tone for the entire wedding journey. "Engagement parties not only provide an opportunity to make a positive impression on the host and guests (and gain some goodwill for future negotiations), but also reflect the couple's unique celebration style. It's important to start off on the right foot," she says.

Since an engagement party is not something that every couple has, you might have a few questions about how you should respond to the invitation, what you should bring to the event and even when the event will be held—and how close it will be to the wedding. If you're a guest looking forward to the engagement party of a loved one, but aren't quite sure what to expect, read on to get the 411 on engagement party etiquette as a guest from wedding professionals.

In this article:

Does Everyone Get Invited to the Engagement Party?

While every couple may have differing viewpoints on who should be invited to the engagement party, Sarah Anderson, consultant at Twickenham House and Hall points out that etiquette dictates that all guests invited to the engagement party also get an invite to the wedding. "Because of this etiquette rule, couples often keep their engagement parties to just their families and closest friends, who will undoubtedly receive a wedding invite," she says. "On the other hand, for a more lavish, large party, extending the list to the couple's social circles or family friends is permissible so long as the wedding day includes the same guests." The one exception, according to Anderson, is If the couple is opting to elope or have a micro wedding. In this case, communicating to the guests at the engagement party their value to the couple, but their plans for a small wedding day can prevent hurt feelings.

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When Will My Loved One Have Their Engagement Party?

If you're a family member or friend dying to know when your loved ones will have their engagement party, rest assured that it's very likely in the near future. An engagement party is often the first event held after the couple become officially engaged, typically anywhere between days or weeks of the engagement to a few months. "Some plan for the engagement party shortly after the proposal, while others offer more extended periods," says Sarah Chianese, owner of Mangia and Enjoy! "Social media also plays a role, as some couples are concerned that their loved ones will find out about the engagement over social media and may feel slighted for not hearing directly from the couple before the social media blast".

Do I Bring a Gift to an Engagement Party?

Traditionally, guests are not expected to bring gifts to the engagement party, according to Anderson, mainly because the guest list for the party, showers and wedding day significantly overlap. However, she does point out that a small present, such as a bottle of wine or a thoughtful handwritten card is always appreciated and speaks volumes to the family. "Although gifts are not required, an individual who knows they cannot attend a shower or the wedding day may bring a gift off the couple's registry to their engagement party to support their upcoming nuptials," she says. "Lower-ticket items on the couple's registry are perfect for those who choose to bring gifts to an engagement party." If the couple has created their wedding website or registry on The Knot, it's easy to find.

If you decide to provide a cash gift, you can offer whatever you feel comfortable with, so long as it is not so meager that it can be considered an insult, explains Chianese. "If you're unsure, it may be better to offer another type of gift, such as a personalized gift or gift card, to a store listed on their registry in an amount comparable to the prices of gifts listed on the registry," she says.

What Do You Do at an Engagement Party as a Guest?

Another question you might have about the engagement party is what activities are planned as part of an engagement party. Here, experts share some popular activities you can expect at a typical engagement party.

Wish the couple your best.

The most important element at an engagement party is ensuring that you have the opportunity to give your best wishes to the newly engaged couple, according to Janice Bungert, lead planner and designer of Won Love Events. "In order to do this, it is important to create a space where the couple may personally greet guests as they arrive for the festivities." This might be a cocktail area in the front of the venue or even a sweetheart-style table in the center of the event space.

Eat—and drink (responsibly)!

What's a party without delicious food and fun beverages? "While not all engagement parties, or weddings for that matter, have alcohol present, the majority still do," notes Chianese. "Depending on the time of day the engagement party takes place, the food and drink will usually correspond with what's expected: a daytime brunch or a nighttime cocktail hour."

Mingle with other guests.

Seeing as this is the first event of many as you get closer to the actual wedding, it's a great opportunity to get to know other guests—many of whom you will meet again at the wedding shower and/or wedding. "It's a beautiful opportunity to socialize and learn more about the union since it's one of the most relaxed elements of the pre-wedding day events," says Chianese. "Take time to introduce yourself and be open to asking and answering questions."

Toast to the couple.

Another fun and looked-forward-to element of any celebratory event leading up to the wedding is a toast to the couple. "Toasts may happen at any appropriate time after the father of the bride has toasted the engaged couple," says Bungert. "This will usually take place before dinner, or in between dinner and dessert—the engaged couple should also say a few words thanking their guests and those who are hosting the engagement party."

Play games.

Games are always a fun element to incorporate in an engagement party—and the laundry list of inspiring options are practically endless. Check out our list of games to play at your engagement party, from scattergories and bling hunting to Bingo and What's on Your Phone.

How Long Should You Stay at an Engagement Party?

Last but not least, you might be wondering how long you should stay at an engagement party. While it's optimal to stay for the entire time, some engagement parties can go on for 4-5 hours. Chianese points out that the longer you stay the better. "The hosts went through great effort and expense to provide all joining in the merriment of the announcement to miss out on certain elements, such as food, beverage and entertainment, which every headcount and hour of service time is billed for, it's best to honor the timeline," she says. "One thing to note is not to arrive early and not stay beyond the end time."

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