Engagement Party Basics: From The Party to The Photos

February 24, 2018
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Amy and Brandon could use their engagement photos for save-the-date postcards. Photo by Chris Kucinski

By Cassie Galasetti |

Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now what? Many brides and grooms-to-be start off with an engagement party. Among the many memorable stops along the road to the wedding, engagement parties are usually the first gathering to announce and celebrate the big news with your loved ones.

However, before the digital age, when news didn’t spread like wildfire with just one Facebook post, many countries had varying traditions when it came to engagements. In ancient Greece, an engagement party didn’t happen until a “commercial transaction” was put in place between the bride’s father and the groom- to-be. Even then, you weren’t allowed to celebrate with a party until the priest offered his blessings to the couple. While some of these traditions still hold true today, the main takeaway for any culture is that this engagement period represents two people’s commitment to spend the rest of their lives together – and that’s cause for a celebration!

Traditionally, the brides parents kick off the festivities by hosting the engagement party, but these days, friends, other family members and even the bride and grooms throw the party themselves. It’s important to keep in mind that engagement parties aren’t a necessity but they do offer the chance for both families and friends to meet and get acquainted before the big day.

Depending on your preference, your engagement party can be as low-key or as extravagant as you’d like. Newly engaged bride-to-be Jenna Rocca and her fiancé Louis threw an “impromptu open house” the night after their engagement. “Louis made homemade pizza and our guests were kind enough to bring champagne and desserts,” Rocca said. “Despite the last-minute nature of the event, everything fell together nicely and we had a great time.”

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You can make an engagement party work anywhere; in addition to an open house, you can host a backyard party (depending on the time of year) or a brunch or meet up at a bar/restaurant. When it comes to the list of people you invite, don’t invite everyone on your Facebook feed. Keeping the invite list to people you will actually invite to the wedding is your safest bet, so there’s no confusion or hard feelings. Requesting no gifts is also common; Rocca insisted “your presence is our present.” But, she said, “people were still kind enough to surprise us with a few wedding-themed gifts!”

Your engagement party should fall soon after your actual engagement took place and before the real wedding planning begins. Simple invites, even digital ones, are generally best and it’s not necessary to serve a five-course meal or even an open bar. Passed appetizers, buffets and cookouts are sufficient.

Once your party is planned, the next task on your to-do list during this engagement period should be your engagement photos. Nowadays, your engagement photos serve a multitude of purposes, from your save- the-date postcards to your wedding website. Chris Kucinski of Chris Kucinski Photography gives tips to the brides- and grooms-to-be: “Every shoot that I do involves taking different types of photos. Even if the couple only had one shot in mind, I will make sure we get a variety of different types of shots – walking together, standing, sitting etc. – for save-the-date postcards, social media announcements and other outlets. As much as the couple thought they might like one shot, it has turned out where they never even used the one they wanted and liked another one even better.”

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It’s important to meet with your photographer to get acquainted and to brainstorm ideas before your photo shoot. “I will usually speak with the couple ahead of time to get a feel for what types of shots they are looking for. Even if they initially say they have no preference and just want ‘nice shots,’ after speaking with them for a little while they will start to come up with more specific ideas.” Finding a photographer that you click with is key. He or she should be able to bring the best out in you, making the process a lot less stressful and a lot more fun.

Along with posed engagement shots, Kucinski has photographed actual proposal moments which is a fun way to get more playful, candid shots – definitely something to keep in mind.

In the end, remember that the engagement period is a time to really celebrate the engagement. Save the real planning for the big day!

This article was first published in the “I Do” wedding section of the Feb. 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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