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Marianna, the Bewildered Bride-to-BeI’m not sure if this is the case for most newly engaged ladies out there, but one of the first things that came to mind when I started wedding planning was whether or not to have an engagement party.  On the one hand, an engagement party is a opportunity to get your families to meet if they don’t already know each other, or spend a little more time together if they do.  And even though your family and close friends probably know that you’re getting married, a party is a nice way to make your engagement seem more “official.”  On the other hand,  an engagement party represents one more thing to plan…and one more expense in an already expensive undertaking.

I was conflicted on this one for a long time.  The idea of an engagement party seemed a little old-fashioned (I mean, most of my friends found out I was engaged through Facebook), and a little like saying, “Hey keep congratulating me because I can’t get enough!”  I didn’t want to spend the time, the money, and the effort to put something together that might be a waste of time.

Well, after a lot of doubt and going back and forth on the issue, my fiance and I  ended up deciding to throw one.  We thought that we might as well use our engagement as en excuse to have a party and spend a little quality time with our nearest and dearest.  Let me tell you what I learned: engagement parties can be amazing, meaningful, and cheap.  Intrigued?  This is how we did it:

Invitations: We eschewed traditional invitations, which seemed too formal and expensive, and opted for an online invitation service called Paperless Post.  With Paperless Post making a basic invitation is free, but you need to buy stamps in order to send your invitations.  Fortunately, when you sign up you get 20 or so free stamps, so we were able to invite all of our guests for free.  The invitations were super cute and we got to track RSVPs and comments from our guests.  So easy!

Setting: Rather than going to a restaurant for a sit-down meal, we opted for a backyard cocktail-type party with finger foods and fun drinks.  This allowed our guests to mingle and talk and ultimately created a more lively, informal atmosphere.

Backyard engagement party

The backyard, almost all set up

Theme: Your engagement party doesn’t necessarily have to have a theme, but themes can be a fun way to incorporate some of your personality and story into the evening.  My fiance and I love, love, love sushi, so we decided on a Japanese theme with red and blue as our main colors.  We served sushi and Japanese beer and created a “Sake Tasting” station, which was a big hit with our guests.  We made red cocktails and gave them names like “Death by Samurai” and “Red Dragon”.  My brother’s baker-extraordinaire girlfriend baked red velvet cupcakes for dessert, and wrote “Husband” and “Wife” in Japanese characters on the tops.  All of these little elements added up to make our backyard party stand out from normal  summer BBQs and family get-togethers, and they gave our guests something to talk about.

Husband and Wife red velvet cupcakes

The red one says "wife," the blue one says "husband"

Decorations: We borrowed things like candles and vases from family members, and made our own floral arrangements with bouquets from Costco.  We strung lights from the fence, hung lanterns around the patio, and set up a mister to make sure our guests stayed cool.  To keep our party looking cohesive, we  ended up renting chairs for our guests and linens for our food table and bar, but for just those few things the cost was minimal.

DIY Centerpieces

Just finished putting together our centerpieces

DIY: Since there was no DJ we created a playlist of upbeat music, lugged our stereo outside and hooked our iPod up to it.  Since we had no bartender, we pre-mixed cocktails and poured them into self-serve carafes, and set out cute ice buckets for beer and wine.   Just remember, if you’re going to  set up a completely self-sufficient bar, make sure to place signs out identifying unlabeled drinks, provide a trash can, and designate a place for dirty glasses.

The result?  A cool, comfortable, stylish party for 35 people for about $500.  Our guests had a blast, and we ended up feeling like an officially engaged couple.  Yay!  So, to all the Brides-to-Be who are considering the pros and cons of the whole engagement party thing, I say go for it!  For a pretty small amount of time and money, you can throw a great event that celebrates the fact that your lives are about to change…big time.  And seriously, with all this planning who doesn’t want an excuse to party?

Friends at our backyard engagement party

Enjoying the evening with great friends!

Go ahead, throw yourself a party!!

Your Bewildered Bride-to-Be, Marianna

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