This Is Who Should Be Invited to An Engagement Party

Make the perfect prewedding guest list.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
by
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Jul 27, 2023

When planning your engagement party, you'll need to think hard about creating the perfect guest list. You'll need to know how many guests can be at the venue and, more importantly, who should be invited to an engagement party. Other "small" questions to consider are whether you should send invitations, do you invite partners to an engagement party or if the guest list must differ from your wedding day.

But before we dive in, let's answer two basic (but important) questions: What is an engagement party? And what is its purpose? "An engagement party is to announce, celebrate and officialize the happy couple's engagement," says Julie Blais Comeau, who has a decade of experience as an etiquette expert and is the founder of Etiquette Julie. "Its primary purpose is for the wedding guests to get to know each other and, most importantly, the two families."

Below, you'll find sage advice from several engagement party etiquette experts, who explain who is invited to an engagement party, who isn't, how to go about invitations and much more. For engaged couples, we guarantee this information will make the wedding guest list a breeze.

In this article:

Who Do You Invite to An Engagement Party?

If you decide to host an engagement party, there's good news for the guest list. According to Diane Gottsman, an international etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, "You can invite close friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues—basically whomever you would like." However, when drafting your guest list, it's important to remember: "Whoever is on the guest list to the engagement party must also make the guest list of the wedding," Gottsman says.

For this reason, Blais Comeau recommends that you think backward. This means you should consider who you'd like to have at your nuptials first. From there, choose the attendees for your engagement party. Anne Chertoff, Chief Operating Officer at Beaumont Etiquette and a Royal Expert, agrees with this line of thinking but adds that there are ways to work around this rule. "Couples can have multiple engagement parties. One with family and one with friends," Chertoff says. "Keep in mind that if someone is invited to a more formal party, they'll expect an invitation to the wedding. If you have a very casual celebration with friends at a local bar, you can feel less pressure to invite all of them to the wedding," Chertoff continues.

How Many People Should You Invite?

Couples often invite their wedding party, their parents, select family members and other near and dear loved ones. But how many people should you invite to an engagement party, and is there a limit? "An engagement party can be as intimate or grand as the engaged couple wants it to be," Chertoff says. "Traditionally, the guest list will include immediate and some extended family members of the couple and their friends." Jennifer Tolento, who's coordinated over 100 events and founded Jennifer Tolento Events, agrees. "There's no typical day when it comes to celebrations. That's what's great about celebrating a couple coming together because they bring their own unique ideas and traditions and spin them into what works for them."

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Party sizes can vary. For reference, Tolento says she's helped plan everything from a traditional 150-person engagement party to an elegant, intimate backyard dinner for 20. If you aren't sure about where to draw the line, Chertoff recommends keeping your budget in mind. "Don't over-invite people because you'll have to extend an invitation to the wedding." Moral of the story? Invite as many guests as you prefer, but keep your budget and wedding-day guest list in mind when deciding.

Who Should You Not Invite?

In the process of wondering, "Who to invite to an engagement party," you'll have to narrow down your guest list. Whether to invite colleagues, exes and children to your engagement party are questions you'll have to mull over. "Who you invite is a personal decision, and there should be a conversation between the two people getting married," Gottsman says. "There should be agreement on who is invited to the wedding celebrations, from the engagement party to the reception."

When considering inviting ex-partners, Gottsman says there are two ways to go about it. "Some people will invite their exes because they are still very close and share children, while others wouldn't dream of having an ex from your past attend. While it's not the standard, it's not a breach of protocol either." Another difficult choice is if you should invite work friends, and Tolento warns against it. "Depending on the length of your engagement, your work situation can change before the wedding date, and you may not still be friendly with some of these people," Tolento says.

And should you invite children to your engagement party? Tolento says it's also "a personal decision if you want to invite a couple as a family. Just be consistent and invite all or none of them." As a rule of thumb, "If it will cause angst or drama, skip the invitation," Gottsman says. "The guest list should be composed by the couple together, and there should be agreement."

How to Tell Someone They Aren't Invited to the Engagement Party

It's best to be as polite and straightforward as possible when telling someone they aren't invited to the engagement party. You could not invite someone because they're a distant friend or family member, coworker, boss, or you want a small celebration.

Thank the person or people for their well wishes for your engagement, but explain that because of limited venue capacity, budget constraints or wanting to keep it limited to immediate loved ones (insert whatever reason is relevant to your situation), you won't be able to extend an invitation. Tell them you appreciate their understanding––if you plan on inviting them to the wedding, mention how you're excited to see them then.

Do You Send Invitations?

Considering sending engagement party invites? Here is what experts say about if you need to send them, including different ways to go about if you do. "An invitation can be delivered by mail, email or word-of-mouth," Gottsman says. "The invitation will set the tone for the party, so if it's going to be a more formal affair at a restaurant or country club, a formal invitation should be used." For casual events, "you can send emailed invitations, such as Paperless Post or Evite," Chertoff says.

No matter what you decide, "ensure all your guests will receive it and can RSVP in the mode of communication you choose," Blais Comeau says. "Think of your grandparents and their capacities in dealing with technology." If you want to send "snail mail" invites for your engagement party, it's a "great time to collect guest addresses for the wedding invitations later on," Tolento says.

Who Decides the Engagement Party Guest List

No matter if you and your partner or someone else is hosting the event, you should be leading or a part of deciding who is invited to the engagement party. Since anyone invited to the engagement party needs a wedding invitation as well, everyone must be on the same page.

Who gets a plus one?

Usually, guests who are single, unmarried or have a partner they've been dating will want to have a plus-one. The best way to decide if they should have one for the party is if you would allow them a plus-one for the wedding, if not, tell guests it's going to be an intimate event for wedding guests only.

How to Decide Who to Invite

There's no doubt that deciding who to invite to, most likely, your first wedding-related party is hard. You want everyone you love to celebrate each moment with you, but sometimes everyone can't be at every event. Keep reading to see two ways you can create the final guest list.

Put your guest list into three categories.

Who should be invited to an engagement party? We recommend scheduling a productive date night with your soon-to-be spouse to talk about the engagement party guests. Write down a full list of all your best friends, family, associates, family friends, kids and possible plus-ones. It might be hard, but you'll need to add these people into one of three categories: "Need to Be There," "Maybe" and "See You Later." This should help you decide which guests are priorities.

Ask yourself how big or small you want the party to be.

If you know that your dream engagement party is a garden party with only 30 guests or has 100 of your favorite people at a winery, feel free to formulate your list based on your venue. At backyard or private residence parties, the space is typically small so your guest list will have to match. For other venues, like an entire restaurant, you'll have bigger capacity acceptances, so have fun inviting more people.

Guest Lists: Engagement Party vs. Wedding

Amid all the wedding planning, you may stop and wonder, "Wait, how should my engagement party guest list differ from my wedding? How do I invite people to the engagement party but not the wedding?" As we mentioned before, the golden etiquette rule is that those invited to the engagement party should always be invited to the wedding. But there are other considerations to take into account.

For example, Gottsman says the engagement party is often a smaller occasion with fewer people invited. "[It] may be a more personal celebration than a huge event," Gottsman says. Plus, "extended friends, work colleagues and friends of your parents don't need to be invited to the engagement party to get an invitation to the wedding," Tolento says. For your big day, you can grow the list to include a wider range of friends, family, associates and much more.

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