Our version of how to throw an Engagement Party

chalk board names engagement party

So the first of our (two… yes two – one in Australia and one in the UK… )  engagement parties was now nearly a month ago – I started blogging this during the week leading up to the big(gish) day (this is what I’m renaming it – it’s the secondary big day right?)!

OK, so I’m pretty excited! It’s like the first thing we’ve done as an ‘us’ as a celebration – I mean, birthday’s are always  ‘me’ or ‘someone else’ and there is something kind of scary about being the ONE whose birthday it is that means you usually enjoy everyone else’s birthdays a lot more than your own… right? So, it’s nice. But as well as that, it’s like a preview – a mini version of hopefully how we will feel on our wedding day. I am so enthusiastic about the whole “hey, let’s celebrate us because we love ‘us’ and we want to have everyone join in our happiness.”

However, I have to say, I’m already getting a preview of some of the things that are inevitably going to be wedding ‘issues’ too!

To party or not to party? ~

Firstly there was the whole dilemma about whether to even have an engagement party. I always said I wouldn’t and of course I get the usual smart cookies who when I’m getting a little frantic about the details smugly say “Yes well that’s why when I’m engaged I won’t be having an engagement party”. Respect for that. But yeah, I said that too.

Solution – go with your heart. Something just felt right for us in doing ‘something’ to commemorate this occasion. I mean – we waited 30 years to find each other so it’s pretty special. Plus we felt it was going to be sometime before our wedding (nearly two years). We wanted an excuse to celebrate with our loved ones because we were so happy about getting engaged.

How big do we go? ~

Then there is the well how much of an occasion do we make it? – And the answer went from let’s maybe just do a bbq at the beach to let’s casually look into areas we can reserve in some of our local  bars, to we should probably do one in the local pub when we’re back in the UK too! The extremes we avoided going to were paying for a venue, sit down meals and no proper fancy invites.

Solution – we reserved an area (at no cost) in the pubs just local to us in both the UK and here in Aussie – the one here is one of my fave places to be. I mean, I love our local neighbourhood so it’s great. And for the invites we just kept it as an email/Facebook invite basis for both parties.

Eat, drink and be merry? ~

Food and drink was part of our question over ‘how big do we go?’ and… well we had some real dilemmas over this – the whole idea was not to be extravagant, but we ended up feeling we wanted to provide for those special people we’d invited as guests. The funniest part about that was that Mr OC would be all I would rather put more money behind the bar and I was like well I would rather put more of our budget into food because we can’t have a party kicking off at 6pm and not provide some form of nibbles. And of course then you have to consider budget – we had a set amount to spend and we couldn’t tip the scales because we have a three week holiday to NZ and the UK coming up in a few weeks!

Solution – sit down with your venue (or some caterers) and look at your options and you might be surprised by what your money will buy you. Whilst you don’t want to underfeed people and make it look like a poor show you don’t have to go overboard – especially in a place where food is served and if guests are still hungry (people have different appetites and routines for eating) then they can order themselves something more. Of course this is not applicable in a sit-down meal style environment and if you don’t have the budget to feed people – stick to a BYO style event is my advice. You can do a party at a venue like a bar and NOT do food but if you’re the kind of person who at all worries about being the hostess with the mostess my advice only do that if you can afford to put something on for your guests. I’m definitely one of those worriers and Mr OC was keen to treat people too so we decided to save some pennies away for it.

Who is on the invite list? ~

Not only is this the point you have to start whittling down your list in prep for your wedding invitation list but it is also the point at which you realise how hard it is to not have that whole ‘the more the merrier’ mentality. Well for me anyways. Most wedding etiquette type articles will tell you that you shouldn’t be inviting anyone to this party that isn’t going to get an invite to the wedding. Jeez. Mind you, we went to an engagement party not so long ago where the couple were using it as the only opportunity to do the celebration of their wedding because they were really limited on guest numbers for the big day. So, a lot of the people invited to the engagement party were in fact not invited to the wedding but you could see that the guest list was as it would be if they were able to have a larger number at the wedding.  I think that’s understandable – better to be able to celebrate with those you want to at some point.

Solution – with regards weddings, they say to only invite people you can imagine being friends with in ten years time or something like that. I don’t think we quite used that filter for our invite list for the engagement party, but we did carefully pick people who we socialize with regularly or who are long-standing friends/family friends. So, as a rough guide – you could say no one you haven’t had at least five social outings with in some capacity or another. We invited people who we felt were invested in us as a couple – those who care about us and our future and we them. In the week leading up to the party we did get friends of ours asking if they could bring friends with them – they were supposed to staying with them that weekend. We had to politely explain this wasn’t really possible – whilst we normally like to fall on the side of being generous-the-more-the-merrier hosts, this was a different scenario because we were spending money on our guests and wanted that money to spent on people we knew and love. If there were additional people we didn’t know then there was a risk that others of our guests would miss out on food or drink and that didn’t seem fair. Our friends being the good friends they are were totally understanding – they hadn’t realised we’d made it into a semi-formal affair.

Deck the halls? ~

Ah this is the bit I love about planning a party – the decor! So the only challenge with me is reining myself in… I wanted there to be a beach house type feel to the decor because we were having the party at Deck bar upstairs where you can see the waves breaking out at our local beach. It’s a stunning place and I love going there for casual drinks occasionally so it felt very right to be having our party there, and very us.

I decided straight away that I was going to have fresh flowers and balloons. And then the rest was just little things I came across that I wanted to include. I had also decided I wanted to make cupcakes as favours for all our guests so we had a kind of ‘cake’ table that I needed to decorate. I did that with one of those white word ‘Love’ signs, and I also bought a frame and put a decorative print of our initials in it – I did it myself on Photoshop so that was nice to stick to the budget. I ended up realising my theme was going to be blue and white because I’d picked out the print for the frame in those colours. I would describe the blue as beach blue! Not aqua, but in that palette! I bought cupcake stand and cases in blues and turquoises. Then I had bought a few starfish shells to decorate the tables – white – I really liked how they looked. I ordered the balloons in silver and blue and we had a ‘happy engagement’ balloon in each bunch that luckily were in a silver and white. Lovely! Finally I found some cute little white paper bags in one of my crafty boxes – I purchased some electric tealights and then, using a darning needle I punctured holes in the sides of the bags in the shape of our initials. Then popped the tealights in each bag and placed on the tables.

Favour gift table engagement party decor

The skull painting is the bars – not ours. But you can see my cupcake favours and some of the table decorations as well as our framed initials

Table decor blue and white engagement party

Balloons and paper bag lanterns

chalk board names engagement party

That’s us! The bar did this… cute.

Bright and early on Saturday morning (5am) I got out of bed and drove 45 minutes to the other side of the city to Sydney Flower Markets! I am a typical girl because I really was in my element there – it is hard to contain oneself and not just buy everything you like the look of! I had originally wanted to go to get an idea of prices and also flowers I’d not seen before or thought of, for the wedding. But I also realised it would be a great practise run to go and get some for the engagement party – I wasn’t disappointed. I found a lot of flowers a lot of which I didn’t know what they were – if anyone can tell me that’d be great. I love tulips A LOT but over here they’re very expensive and hard to come across so I had to limit myself to one bunch of white tulips which beautifully broke up the other mauve, blue and violet flowers I had.

blue white flowers engagement party

At this point I had forgotten to trim the stems of leaves – but I did eventually!

blue white flower arrangements engagement party

The best part about the decorations were it didn’t cost a great deal – around $100 but it filled the space and made it a bit more special. I was totally surprised that it came off as well as it did. I didn’t want the party to be a fussy formal affair and it seemed to create that nice happy medium – effort but not too much.

The art of giving ~

A few weeks before the party people started asking us if we had a gift registry – and I was not prepared. It sounds very silly to say this now but we had NOT expected presents at all. So we went down the road of saying – no presents thank you. But some people are very insistent right? So we would say vouchers or money – we need garden furniture or we want to buy a futon for the spare room or Mr OC wants some weights and me, well I want a watch to wear for training.

On the day we were given a host of wonderful gifts – and the problem actually came afterwards if there wasn’t a card with the gift or if the card had got separated from the gift. As much as I tried to tidy the presents away at the end of the night in good order, I had had a few glasses of bubbles and there were some unidentified givers of gifts the next day when we unwrapped out pressies. We were amazed by the generosity from everyone. And by process of elimination we did eventually work out who gave us what. But! You have been warned!!

Final notes to all you other engagement party hosts prior to your big(gish) day ~

Well, the sea turned on a great show with a great ocean swell meaning we had beautiful waves to watch from the bar, and the weather was blissfully warm (if not a little humid – dang the hair did not stay in the loose curls I did! Never does if it’s humid!) and we both had an AMAZING night on our engagement party and seemingly all our guests did too. Which was all we could really have asked for.

But we did take away a few small lessons other than the ones above. One is to find a trustworthy/reliable mate to be honorary photographer for the evening and use a proper camera not a phone because while phone cameras are so great in quality you forget you were aiming to do photos and your brain tells you you were just walking around with your phone. As a result of NOT paying heed to this we barely got any photos as we were so busy with our guests, plus we didn’t get a single photo of the two of us.

If you want to do speeches make sure you also assign someone to manage getting the attention of the guests and taking control of proceedings – we didn’t do speeches but afterwards I wished we had done something very small.

Most of the things we forgot (giving out the cupcake favours to some guests?!) were due to us just being the host/ess and not having the time to think about it. No wonder on your wedding you pay a photographer, wedding co-ordinator and have bridesmaids etc. Good god, we’re going to need all the help we can get – because the main thing we wanted on our engagement party was and WILL want to be doing on our wedding is celebrating with our guests and each other. One thing I know for sure is it’s going to fly by.

Now… here’s to our UK engagement party in just a couple of weeks!

How did you engagement party go – or are you planning one? What have you been learning along the way that you think will help you with your wedding too?

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