Who Pays for an Engagement Party? We've Got the Answers You Need.
If you plan to have an engagement party ahead of your wedding, you're in good company. According to The Knot Real Wedding Study, a quarter of soon-to-be-married couples have an engagement party, which is an event often held in addition to the more traditional bridal shower. Since this kind of pre-wedding event is not something every couple has, the decision over who traditionally pays for the engagement party is often left up to the individual couple.
As the name suggests, an engagement party is a celebratory event where friends and family come together to celebrate the newly engaged couple. It is often the first celebration of the proposal and kicks off a season of several celebrations following (bach parties, bridal luncheon, rehearsal party, your wedding!), explains Sandy Stringer, founder of Strings & Champagne Events. "Families and friends that haven't met use this opportunity to get acquainted with each other," she says. "During this small gathering that often resembles a cocktail party with a few toasts, traditions suggest that the parents of the bride are the hosts, but today's couples make their own rules and decide the parameters of those types of logistics."
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Who Pays for an Engagement Party?
According to tradition, the bride's parents were the ones responsible for the major events leading up to the wedding, including, of course, the wedding itself, as well as the engagement party, according to Jessica Ralph, owner of Parties A' La Carte. However, she points out that, in modern times it can be anything goes—there are many different people who may pay for the engagement party.
A big trend Ralph has seen is surprise parties directly following the proposal, which is typically hosted by the groom. "Funds have been seen sometimes split between hosts or covered by one," she says. "The couple themselves can also be the ones that host or fund their engagement party, which is a great opportunity for them to bring their families together to get to know one another."
Sometimes the bride's or groom's parents, either separately or together—plan the engagement party. When this is the case, it is often a family celebration where sometimes friends are also included, but the guest list tends to be on the smaller side.
If the couple has a group of wonderful friends, sometimes it is them who get together to throw the couple an engagement party—and sometimes it's a fun surprise. These celebrations can be a range of formal—such as at a nice restaurant or venue—or informal, such as at a friend's house or apartment.
Engagement Party Expenses
Of course, as with any event, engagement party expenses can run the gamut—from affordable to expensive. Here's a look at some of the major expenses involved in hosting an engagement party.
There are so many different venues that could work for an engagement party, including a local restaurant, bar or even a family member or friend's home. When choosing your venue, Bogs recommends first coming up with the budget you can afford to allocate towards the venue and how much you want to put into creating the space. "If you want to secure a venue that provides all the food, beverages, tables, chairs and linens, we generally recommend booking a private room with a restaurant or a venue that also provides catering," she says. "The cost for these varies in region, but in general, you will expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 plus." It's also worth pointing out that some venues will have a booking fee in addition to a minimum that you need to spend on food and beverage. Make sure you read the contract carefully before you sign.
Food and Beverage
What's a celebration without food and drinks? You can choose to have light bites and appetizers or a heartier meal—or both. "Small bites—typically $15-$20 per guest—make it less informal, and people can come and go as they please," says Melissa Pelletier, owner of Jubilee Weddings and Events. "Creating a menu together with your fiance and picking items that are more personal to you and your relationship is a fun time to really show each of your personalities.
Decor for an engagement party can include any expense that adds to the look and feel of the party, including items such as signage, florals, linens, candles and paper goods. Investing in these items helps to set an ambiance that is festive and celebratory, explains Marci Bogs, founder of One Fine Day Events. "While you don't need to go all out on decor, some simple items such as florals and candles for tablescapes and serving tables (think beverage station, buffet, desserts), paper signage to welcome guests to the engagement party, place cards for a seated dinner, labels for buffet and beverages, and possibly even some fun custom cocktail napkins can really go a long way," she says. "A typical cost for these items can vary, but will usually fall in the $1,000 to $3,000 range." A great way to save on decor is to DIY your own florals and signage.
As with any celebration, games always up the fun ante at a party and help guests mingle, interact and partake in some friendly competition. "We love when couples are celebrated with a simple trivia game for guests to fill out, seeing who knows the couple and their love story the best," says Bogs. She recommends creating a beautiful printout or purchasing a template on Etsy. "The printing costs and pens, usually less than $40, and a few prizes for the winners, and this is a winning activity during an engagement party," she says. "We also love a little game of charades centered around getting engaged, wedding planning, and their love story!"
For entertainment, Bogs recommend either hiring a live instrumentalist, a DJ or simply having a PA (public address) system connected to a playlist. "Having some sort of amplification is a good idea in case guests like to propose a toast to the newly engaged couple—and having a DJ/MC will help guests know when certain elements of the night are taking place," she says. "Plus, they can lead that trivia game." The average cost for a DJ, according to Bogs, is $700-$1000 and the average cost for a rented PA system is about $150.
Favors are not necessary for engagement parties, but are always a nice gesture for any party. Popular favors are koozies, custom matches and candles, but Ralph has even seen couples let guests pot a plant (provided by the same shop the couple got engaged in) to take home to remember the celebration. "This was a huge hit as well as unique to the couple and their story," she adds.
"If you are hosting at a private home or a venue that doesn't provide tables and chairs, consider investing in some tables and chairs to provide comfortable seating for guests," says Bogs. "You can anticipate spending around $1000 for this category, but this will vary widely depending on region, the items you choose, how many of each you'll need, and delivery fees, etc."
What Is a Reasonable Budget for an Engagement Party?
An engagement party budget can truly run the gamut, ranging from low-cost and affordable to super expensive and elaborate—but they usually run several thousand dollars. The driving factors that determine the budget are venue, guest count, food and beverage, notes Ralph, as well as the level of detail you wish to incorporate.
The biggest influence on the budget is the guest count, as it is with pretty much any party you wind up planning, as many of the cost factors are on a per-person basis. "In regards to the venue, it is important to keep in mind any food and beverage minimums, service fees, and taxes," Ralph says. "Your vendor selections will also be a place where the budget can fluctuate so it is important to calculate your numbers as your first step in the planning process so you can reference this as you gather quotes." She recommends prioritizing the top three most important elements to you when it comes to planning your budget to make sure you don't spend more than you'd like.