The Engagement Party

Etiquette states that the bride's family has the option of hosting the first engagement party. Must you do this? No. These days, most people are eschewing tradition in favor of whatever's easiest, most practical, or least expensive. What that means to you is that the bride and groom may just decide to host a picnic-type engagement party to honor themselves, and if they do, chances are no one will think twice about the appropriateness of it.

The Host with the Most

However, if you decide you want to throw a party to celebrate the engaged couple's good fortune, your first step is to decide on the guest list. An engagement party can be an intimate affair with just immediate family members, or it can be a much larger event, including friends and relations from around the globe.

FACT

Formal invitations are usually not necessary for an engagement party (the exception is a very formal affair). Don't hire the printer until you absolutely need to — for the wedding invites. And remember: You should only invite people who will also be invited to the wedding.

Once the guest list is settled, you'll move on to the theme you're shooting for — and keep in mind, what you're really thinking about is the overall feel of the event. Do you want a very casual evening, or a very formal afternoon party (or a casual afternoon or a formal evening affair)? Obviously, this decision will affect the final cost of the party, possibly even more than the guest list will, as you could conceivably invite ninety-five friends and relatives to your home and feed them pizza and wings, which will cost you much less than hosting thirty chums at a fancy restaurant.

ESSENTIAL

You have complete discretion in choosing the location of the engagement party. You can choose a very formal setting, or you can string up some Japanese lanterns and make it a down-home affair.

As the host, your duties are to be very charming and sociable (no fair pulling your trademark disappearing act), and to make sure all your guests are enjoying themselves. Mingle 'til it hurts. And remember: This is a party to honor the young couple, so you'll want to think of some very nice things to say about them, especially when you're asked (and you will be) how you feel about your future son-in-law.

If one of your guests asks about bringing a gift for the engaged couple, do your best to discourage it. Presents aren't expected at this get-together. Friends and relatives will have plenty of other opportunities to shower the bride and groom with presents.

Giving the Toast

The host of any formal party is usually tasked with offering up the first toast. If you're having a sit-down dinner, be prepared to speak in the moments prior to everyone digging in; if you're having a less formal affair, wait until the party gets going and most of the guests have arrived. You'll ask for everyone's attention and then offer up your kind words. Tips for giving a successful toast at any wedding-related event are included at the end of this chapter.

If You're Not the Host

So you're not actually sponsoring the engagement party — but you are, of course, still waving your father of the bride flag. What are your duties if you're not the one officially honoring the happy couple?

One of your most important duties is not to overstep your boundaries. Everyone knows that you're very important in the whole scheme of this wedding — but this isn't your party. If the host asks for your help, jump right in and give a hand; in fact, there are certain helpful things you should be doing without being asked. If the party is being held at someone's home, for example, keep an eye on the bar. Make sure it's stocked with lemons, limes, cold bottles of wine, and the like. If you can plainly see that the hostess is having a hard time serving up the hors d'oeuvres, pop your head into the kitchen and offer some assistance.

ALERT!

What you shouldn't be doing is giving orders — to anyone. You should be chitchatting, wearing a happy face, and telling everyone how happy you are about this engagement and upcoming wedding.

Just because you're not the official host of the party doesn't mean that you're off the speech-giving hook. You may be expected to speak, to let everyone know that you really do approve of this union, or you might really want to toast the engaged couple. Be prepared, and feel free to offer up your own toast at the appropriate moment.

Don't forget that you should dress appropriately for this party, no matter who's hosting it. As the father of the bride, you're on display. A casual party doesn't mean that you can wear your grungy cutoff shorts and arrive unshaven. For a formal affair, wear a suit; for a less formal event, think khakis and a shirt with a collar, and bring your sports coat along — just in case.

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