Here's Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Surprise Engagement Party

The only thing better than an engagement party? A surprise engagement party.
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
The Knot Contributor
  • Jessica contributes wedding planning, wedding etiquette and relationship content to The Knot.
  • She also covers lifestyle and wellness topics for print and digital publications such Refinery29, Bustle, Well + Good, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, The Cut and more.
  • Jessica has a journalism degree from Cal State University, Northridge and is certified as a life and success coach.
Updated May 10, 2023

Engagement parties are a fun and special way to celebrate the newly engaged couple. One way to make it even more memorable? Make it a surprise engagement party. Whether you're planning a surprise engagement party for the couple or you're planning to surprise your partner with a party now that you're engaged, there are some nuances to remember when planning to ensure the surprise aspect goes off without a hitch. To help with this, we chatted with Stephanie Teague, owner and creative director of Teague Events, to answer your pressing questions on planning a surprise engagement party.

Surprise Engagement Party Etiquette

There are a few things to consider when it comes to surprise engagement party etiquette. Here's what you need to know.

Who hosts a surprise engagement party?

Most commonly, Teague says a family member or a close friend of the couple may offer to plan the surprise engagement party. Due to the surprising nature of the party, she adds that it must be a person who knows the couple very well to ensure that they know how to make the party exactly what the couple would want.

When should we throw a surprise engagement party?

According to Teague, the best time to throw a surprise engagement party is two to three months after the proposal. "During this period, the excitement is still fresh but not yet saturated by wedding planning," she says.

Who should we invite to a surprise engagement party?

The guest list is always tricky for any wedding-related event, including the surprise engagement party. Here's what Teague recommends: "Since the engagement party is a surprise, and the host may not know the wedding guest list, keep the engagement party guest list to just close family and friends who will definitely be invited to the wedding."

And if the couple has already chosen their wedding party, she recommends inviting them too or people they think might be considered if the couple still needs to select their wedding party members.

In general, Teague recommends keeping the surprise engagement party guest list small. "The [fewer] people that know, the higher the chance the party will stay a surprise," she says.

Who pays for a surprise engagement party?

"Most often, the bride's parents pay for the engagement party," Teague says. "It's not uncommon, however, for the host of the party to pay for the costs or for the costs to be split between a few different parties."

Do you bring a gift to a surprise engagement party?

Teague says gifts are optional if you're a guest heading to a surprise engagement party. "Because the party is a surprise, the couple may not have set up a registry yet," she says. "It is probably best to reserve the gifts for the wedding itself."

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In other words, it's really up to you as the guest whether or not you want to bring an engagement party gift. It's also helpful to consider the event's formality and if your budget allows it to assess whether or not to get a gift. And when in doubt, writing an engagement card is always a thoughtful gesture.

How to Plan a Surprise Engagement Party

Planning a surprise engagement party, in particular, requires keeping in mind additional details. Here are the key points Teague recommends to ensure no one or nothing spoils the surprise.

Hire the vendors.

As with most wedding-related planning, you have two options: go the DIY route or hire an event planner to do most of the heavy lifting. Going with the latter will, of course, make the process easier and stress-free, Teague says, and they can help with hiring other vendors and ensuring everything runs smoothly on the day of the party.

Other essential vendors for a great surprise engagement party include a venue. "This can be someone's home, a restaurant, or an event venue," Teague says.

Catering food, beverages, and alcohol are also vital. Teague says how much of those things you'll need depends on the time of day of the event. For instance, a brunch may need less alcohol than a cocktail party.

Next are vendors to help with the surprise engagement party decorations, such as balloons, flowers, and centerpieces. Each party is different, Teague says, so how elaborate the decorations are is up to the host. Entertainment, such as a DJ or band, may also be on your list of vendors to hire. And lastly, to ensure the very special surprise moment (especially the look on the couple's faces) is captured, Teague also suggests hiring a photographer or videographer for the event.

Be discrete with invites.

To avoid the risk of the couple accidentally stumbling upon an invitation to their surprise engagement party, Teague suggests opting for digital invitations (such as those from Paperless Post).

Ensure the couple is dressed up.

Another key element of planning a surprise engagement is ensuring the couple arrives at the party dressed to impress. "The couple should be in party attire and looking their best when they arrive at their engagement party," Teague says. "When planning what the couple will be doing before they arrive at the party, try and set something up that ensures they are dressed up. Consider dinner at a nice restaurant or maybe even trick them into thinking they are going to a party for someone else."

Make sure the families have met.

"The surprise engagement party should be a surprise for the couple, but it should never be a surprise for the families meeting for the first time," Teague says. "Both sides of the family should plan to get together (or work together on the planning) so there are no awkward moments on the party day."

Surprise Engagement Party Ideas

As for what to do for a surprise engagement party, some creativity will be required to bring the vision to life. For starters, Teague recommends picking an engagement party theme for the event. "Think of the couple and what they love to do," she says. "Then try and weave their passions into the event."

Teague also suggests making the surprise engagement party as personal as possible. Just because it's a surprise for the couple, that doesn't mean it can't be sprinkled with details about them and their love story. For example, Teague suggests incorporating photos of the couple throughout their relationship as decor at the party. "This allows the attendees to have a visual roadmap of what led up to this joyous affair," she says. You can also make the party personal with fun engagement party games you know the couple would enjoy and unique engagement party favors. The possibilities are endless.

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