Engagement Party Recap: My Pics & Advice

My fiancé Chris and I recently celebrated our engagement party and we both had a permanent grin for the entire day — it gave us a great glimpse into what our wedding will be like! My amazing mom handled everything and she just told us when and where to show up. 

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(Note: As soon as we got engaged, we made it clear to my mother that we didn't want her to pay for our wedding. She's always been extremely generous — including paying for college tuition and helping me with bills when my early reporting gigs paid minimum wage — so I owe her big-time. Chris and I are in our early 30's and we both work hard so we feel we can cover the costs that correspond with our dream wedding. Instead of having her contribute to wedding costs, we agreed to let my mom host our engagement party for most of my family who lives in Southern California.)

Mom reserved a room for us at Darya, an elegant Persian restaurant in Santa Ana. She lives in San Diego but many of my relatives reside in Newport Beach and Los Angeles, so this was the perfect meeting spot. We had the party at 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday so that guests would be able to drive home afterwards.

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An engagement party is a good time for all of your family members to meet in a fun, pressure-free environment. This was the first time our moms had ever met but we knew they would get along. Both ladies are lovely, kind and super cute!

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We picked up the cake my mom had ordered from Balboa Dessert Company and arrived early to make sure that everything was all set for our 50+ guests. When we arrived at the restaurant, the servers had arranged two long rows of tables for us and it took a while for all of us to figure out where everyone should sit. For a large gathering, it might be easier to have assigned seating and use place cards.

But once everyone got situated, the room was filled with love. My mother-in-law, Vickie, had a chance to see what Persian culture is all about: We hug A LOT and we have no volume control. As I was introducing her to everyone, they all complimented her on her youthful looks and wonderful son. She told me that it was a blessing to have the unconditional love and support of so many people who encouraged me to pursue my dreams in life. It was a bonding moment for us; now our families will combine into one, and for that, Chris and I are truly grateful.

Another highlight was my mom's hilarious speech. She thanked everyone for coming and included a couple of jokes about marriage (her cute Persian accent made them even funnier!). She even handed out a copy of her speech to the "audience." The mood was happy and fun and the laughter was contagious.

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After the speech, our guests dug into a family-style lunch with Persian specialties like hummus, pita bread with feta and greens, ground lamb kabob and beef shank. The chicken kabobs were absolutely mouth-watering; I couldn't stop eating them! The roasted tomatoes and rice reminded me of home-cooked meals that I would enjoy as a child. My fiancé and I were in food (and family) heaven.

Your engagement party, like your wedding, can be a chance to share unique pieces of your life that make up who you are as a couple. Your guests will appreciate learning more about you two, along with different cultures and traditions. For example, we explained to my MIL what most of the food was and my fiancé even named the food in Farsi. My family was impressed that he's been making the effort to learn this new language because it demonstrates to them that he's open to learning their lifestyle.

Another tip I have is to consider hiring a photographer or designating a guest to take photos at your engagement party so that you can focus on hosting. Farshad, a good friend and family member of mine, is also a professional photographer, so instead of relying on iPhone pics, he sent us great images from the party. It was so nice having someone capture images that we were too busy to get.

A couple of my dear friends who I’ve known since elementary school also came to the engagement party and it was so cool to reminisce and see how far we’ve all come throughout the decades. Also, a few tears were shed when we thought of the family members who couldn't attend, like my father (he passed away during high school), my grandparents and my sweet cousin Arshia. I know they were all there in spirit with us.

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We can’t thank my mom enough for throwing us such a wonderful party. We're also grateful to our guests for attending and for all of their generous gifts (we don't have a bridal registry set up yet so friends and relatives brought cards, cash, and beautiful flower arrangements). It was a truly special and memorable day.

Did you have an engagement party? Tell us what it was like!

P.S. On top of all this engagement party and wedding planning, I have more life-changing news! I just got my dream job: I'll be the evening anchor for San Diego 6 every weeknight at 10 p.m. I've wanted this job for years and the stars finally aligned. They say everything always happens at once, right?

—Neda Iranpour

P.S. Have an interesting wedding planning story to share? Apply to become a real bride blogger here ►

neda iranpourNeda Iranpour's fiancé, Chris, proposed to her after she ran three marathons in three days around Lake Tahoe. In keeping with the couple's adventurous spirit, they plan to have a four-day destination wedding somewhere in the United States. They can't wait to enjoy a fun-filled wedding experience with their guests, complete with paddleboarding, kayaking, running, dancing, sipping fine wine and drinking craft beer. Chris is a fun-loving, dedicated police officer and Neda is an Emmy-award winning news anchor who loves to share stories, even her own.

Featured: David Tutera on How to Keep Your Reception Fun. See more Q&As with David