Congratulations! You’ve announced your engagement (and totally nailed it)! Now, the fun really begins. Read on for expert tips on how to throw the best engagement party ever.By: Perri O. Blumberg
Photo Credit: Becka Robinson for Studio222 Photography
Fun Activities That Will Dazzle Your Guests
Create a Prediction Vase
“Prediction boxes are a great way to make sure you bring all of the love in the room with you through your first few years of marriage. Use a decorative vase or box as a container, and have your guests write predictions about your lives together. For example, where you will live, how many kids you will have, etc.,” suggests Rachel Dodson, Wedding and Events Manager for The Nantucket Hotel and Winnetu Oceanside Resort. Guests gathered by the vase writing down their fortune tellings for the future is also a great icebreaker for everyone to get acquainted. “Bring the vase or box home as a keepsake and then open up the messages and read them on the one year anniversary of your engagement! There are a lot of ways to commemorate your wedding anniversary but this allows you to take a moment to remember the proposal and engagement as well.” If you choose, carve out time during the party to have your bridal party read out some of the best ones, and cue the tears of laughter.
Paint a Puzzle
Don’t worry, we’re not talking solo exploration with an 1,000 piece set. This fun game infuses some friendly competition into the part and gets people energized, while encouraging mingling with your various friend groups and family. “One thing that we’ve seen great success with here at Hilton Los Cabos is an activity where four to six teams each paint a piece of a ‘puzzle,’” says Erendira Carrillo, Weddings Coordinator at Hilton Los Cabos, a popular destination wedding resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. “This brings families and friends together as each team completes their art without knowing what it is that they are painting. Once all teams are finished they join their paintings to create a complete piece of art.” Enter: Instagram picture-perfect (be sure to let guests know the hashtag for the special day)! Even better: You and your future hubby get to take home the piece as a memory of your special celebration.
Create Your Own “Who Said It?” Game
“Give each guest a print out of 10-15 quotes from one of you about your relationship. (For example, ‘I saw him/her in the elevator of our building but didn’t strike up the nerve to talk to him/her until three weeks later!’) Next to each quote your guests will guess who said it,” recommends Dodson. “Add in some embarrassing moments and you will keep everyone laughing as they try to guess. Don’t forget to get a fun prize for the winner!” Another festive option is to play couples Trivia Pursuit. “It’s a great game that allows guests to guess different things about the couple. A couple questions could be…. Where did we meet? Where was our first date? At the end, you tally up the points and give away gifts to the winner,” suggests Shanoya Watson, Master Wedding Planner of Half Moon, A RockResort in picturesque Montego Bay, Jamaica. “You can very inexpensively create a questions card on cardstock that matches your wedding colors or engagement party color scheme so guests can quiz one another about ‘Who won third place in shot put at state their junior year in high school?’” adds Samantha Martin, Catering Sales Manager at the idyllic Wild Dunes Resort, A Destination Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.
Play Bingo to Battle Present Opening Boredom
Real talk: Watching folks open presents can be a bit of a buzzkill for other guests in attendance. But if you love the idea of being able to thank loved ones publicly and want to incorporate it into your engagement party, you can make it interactive and fun with this clever tip: “Play ‘Gift Opening’ Bingo to keep the attention of your guests while the guest or guests of honor are opening their presents. The first one to mark all of their boxes of gifts received [fill in the rows with common registry items] receives a special gift!” offer Erica Grauer, Maura Ryan, Emily DiBello, and Molly Emond of the charming Newport, Rhode Island Castle Hill Inn events team.
Stock the Bar Game
We’re all about a little festive bubbly to toast the newly engaged duo! “[Let guests know that in lieu of gifts] to bring your favorite wine, beer or spirit to fill up the newly engaged couples’ cabinet!” advise Lindsay Johnson, Senior Event Planner and Kaitlin Still, Junior Event Planner at the ART hotel in Denver, Colorado. Provide a notebook and your favorite mixers for guests and encourage them to mix up their favorite cocktail and leave the recipe behind for you to have as a memento."
Unique Places to Host Your Party
Photo Credit: Bryce Covey Photography
Rent an Airbnb
Available in nearly an endless variety of ambiences (“Netflix & Chill” room, anyone?) and price points, a furnished home is a great place to host an engagement celebration. Check your local listings on airbnb or OneFineStay (and make sure the owners know and are cool with your intentions). Houseboat? Treehouse? Minimalist loft? Grab a pen and start plotting!
Try a Tea House
“Historical towns around the country have Tea Houses and Tea rooms that can be reserved for an afternoon affair,” suggest the Castle Hill Inn team. “Keeping the cuisine in line with a light fare, will help keep the options affordable and fun!”
Host Your Soirée at a Culinary School
“Culinary schools are a fantastic place to host an engagement party — and you don't have to incur any additional costs for catering, because you cook your own meal. Just bring a case of champagne or wine and bon appetit!” offers Lauren Makk, co-host of ABC's The FABLife, interior designer and home expert. Work with a local culinary school to curate a menu that meets you and your better half’s culinary fantasies, or take a look through their public class offerings (many offer everything from vegetarian sushi to cake decoration) and see which speaks most to you as a couple.
Try a Vineyard Tasting
For a fun and affordable engagement party, arrange a group outing to you and your partner’s favorite vineyard (Beer enthusiasts: You may also want to consider brewery tours!). “If the couple loves wine and wants to share their passion, a vineyard with a wine tasting incorporated into the evening makes for an ideal setting,” suggests Debbie Hutchinson, a wedding expert from The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa. “Many people don’t realize the hidden gems in their local wineries. And after hosting a wine tasting for your guests, you can also incorporate their feedback in the wine selections for your wedding day. Add crudité and cheese displays, a charcuterie board and a selection of hors d’oeuvres to pair with the wine selections and end the night with a sparkling toast to the happy couple.” Oftentimes, you can also get a group party bus as part of the deal to take your guests to and from the event.”
Party on a Boat
Guests will be excited by this unique offering, and you’ll be happy that group rates allow you to charter your very own boat (or rent off a certain section of one) for a cost-effective celebration. “Whether you are in the Caribbean or in a major city, your options are endless,” says Hutchinson. “Tropical island bliss starts with a catamaran sail, and you can incorporate snorkeling along with a luncheon for a day trip; or keep things more formal with a sunset champagne sail. If you can’t make it to the tropics, cities offer great options for lunch and dinner cruises. Enjoy the cityscapes with their spectacular landmarks and points of interest from the water. A dinner cruise will best highlight your city’s charm and it will be an event to remember for your guests!”
Try a “Paint and Sip” Party
Creativity fiends, get excited! “These mobile parties are quickly becoming all the rage as participants become artists while indulging in a few glasses of wine. Hosting this private event for your guests is a wonderful alternative to the traditional party, and everyone gets to take home their very own art piece!” comments Makk.
Unique Tokens That Will Get Guests Jazzed for Your Wedding
Above All: Make it All About You
“Whatever it is, it should be you...all you. One couple I worked with had lemon trees so they made a huge batch of limoncello and bottled it for their guests to take home. Yellow was also the bride's favorite color so they incorporated it into their wedding as well,” says Stacey Chrisman, Senior Catering Manager & Wedding Specialist at Paradise Point Resort & Spa, A Destination Hotel, an island resort near San Diego, California.
Give Guests Personalized Prosecco Bottles
“Custom labels are fun, personal and inexpensive. Put your names, a favorite quote, or a sentiment to your guests like “thank you for being a part of our story” on the labels. Put the labels on a mini bottle of Prosecco and send each one home with your guests,” advises Dodson.
Enter: Koozie Patrol
“Here in South Carolina, koozies are amongst the most popular and affordable takeaways!” exclaims Martin. “ Every time your guest wants to keep their beverage cold, they are reminded of you! Other fun takeaways that won’t break the bank are edible ones! Cute snacks or sweet treats special to the wedding location or one or both of the couple’s hometowns are always a hit,” she adds.
Create Cozy Kits for Everyone.
“With so many engagements happening over the holidays, you can turn a winter engagement party into a cozy festive celebration. Take plain white mugs and write each guest’s name onto it with a sharpie and bake them in the oven so the writing will be permanent,” says Dodson. “Set up a hot chocolate bar for your guests with all of your favorite toppings and give the guests their new personalized mugs to use. Every time they use the mug they will think about your party!”
Tip a Hat to Your Wedding Location
“If you know where your wedding is going to be, send your guests home with something that will build anticipation for the wedding,” offers Dodson. “For example, if you are getting married on Nantucket Island or Martha’s Vineyard, you could send each guest home with a box of chocolate covered cranberries or weave in a coastal touch like sea glass.”
Personal Touches They'll Love
Leave Out a Journal
“Have a journal out on a table at the engagement party and have your guests stop by throughout the evening to write down their relationship/marriage advice,” offers Hutchinson. “Sure, there will be the funny anecdotes but there will also be some wise insights on how to build a successful marriage for the couple.”
Create a DIY Time Capsule Station
“It may be your big day, but that doesn't mean your guests can’t remember it for years to come!” exclaims Makk. The concept behind this affordable and special activity is simple: “Arrange a cool time capsule bar for your guests with fun trinkets, papers to write notes, coins with the year printed on them — something memorable and fun — then encourage your guests to make one to bury in their own back yard. Give them a time frame (say five years later) and send an email out on your anniversary to remind them to dig it up!
Fill the Room with Visuals of Your Love Story
“People love photos and the photos of you tell your love story to your guests. Putting pictures of the two of you in cool frames is a fun decorative way to do this,” says Dodson. “Photos from the trips you have taken together are great! It can also be fun to include photos that feature the two of you with some of your guests to remind them that they have been a part of your story. If you have been together a long time you can place the photos in chronological order to create a timeline of your lives together.” Or, try a slideshow: “Create a love story slideshow. Include a video of you and your partner in separate settings as well as together sharing your story of how you met and your life together. Then share a clip of this video during the party,” shares Watson.
Pin a Map to the Wall
Talk about a brilliant and cheap decor booster: “Create a personalized map of [your] first date as a couple to your engagement,” recommend Johnson and Still. Guests will love exploring all the interesting cities and places you’ve ticked off your list as a couple and you can even leave a special part blank for people to write in names of honeymoon suggestions. At the end of the night, throw a dart, and see where the wind will take you next!
Make a Lifesize Timeline the Tablecloth
“Seat your guests at one long table and use the table as a lifesize timeline. Use table card holders and place them down the middle of the table. In each holder, place a card that has a significant moment in your relationship on one side and the date it occurred on the other. It is a great way to share with your guests what got you to this point,” advises Dodson.
Foodie Ideas That Will Totally Raise The Bar
And yes, seasonal. “Choose appetizers with ingredients that are local and seasonal. Visiting a farmer’s market or a roadside vegetable stand to source is a great way to incorporate the local food scene and also avoid large grocery store bills,” recommend The Castle Hill Inn team.
Show off Your Personal Culinary Footprint
Whether that means whipping up a batch of Dad’s famous potato salad or creating a signature fusion dish combining the culture of you and your fiance’s, add a personal flourish to the night’s cuisine that will leave guests drooling and “awww”-ing for more. “If the couple is of Italian heritage, for instance, one of the oldest traditions is the giving of candy-coated Jordan almonds. Meant to represent the bittersweet nature of marriage, these treats are given to guests wrapped in tulle, or pretty pouches, in quantities of five or seven, which are lucky numbers. This is a fun way to show the couple's background while also being very cost effective.”
Create Custom Cocktails
Raise a glass in style with drinks inspired by you and your boo. “Custom cocktails inspired by the Bride and Groom’s favorite drinks are a great element to add to the party that don’t have to be too elaborate. For example, two Moscow Mules, one with vodka for the bride and one with bourbon for the groom,” offer Johnson and Still. Bloody Mary enthusiasts? Create a DIY Bloody Mary bar with a collection of fixins’ and signs that say “His Picks” and “Her Picks.”
Give ‘em a Cookbook
Nope, we’re not talking a “Joy of Cooking” sort of deal. “Are you and your groom-to-be big foodies? Create a cookbook of your favorite recipes for your guests to prepare at home by having them bound at your local copy store, or if you're cutting costs , do it yourself with decorative paper and pretty string,” offers Makk. Spotlight recipes from the cookbook throughout the party and let guests know they can find the recipes in the cookbook. People will love the thoughtful take away and the personal touch of the customized goodies.
Leave the Guests Smiling the Next Day
...with hangover bags. Now that the personalized cocktail and “Stock the Bar” game fun has wrapped, make sure all your guests leave armed with a customized hangover bag. “Include a pastry, mini orange juice and vodka shooter, along with an Advil packet,” say Johnson and Stlll.