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The Presumption of an Invitation to an Engagement Party

I was pleasantly surprised with an engagement party in my honor last Saturday.  Right after he gave me the ring, he whisked me into the reserved backroom of a lovely wine and cheese bar where my parents (from out of state) and his family along with some friends were waiting.  This was a wonderful affair, and I felt very lucky.  However, I’ve since received some messages from a few friends of mine who were upset they were not invited to the engagement party, and want to know when the next one is.  The next one?  I didn’t realize I should have multiple parties, and I’m fairly certain I can’t throw one for myself without looking like I’m aiming for gifts (no gifts were given at the surprise one, and my fiance and I do not believe in registries).  However, I’m sorry I inadvertently offended my friends by not including them, even though I didn’t know about it myself.  Would you please guide me in the appropriate etiquette regarding engagement parties, or how to have a nice engagement party without sounding like the guests need to bring a gift?

In case this fact will play into your suggestion, because I’m new to the area, I don’t have any close female friends who will be throwing a bridal shower, so there will be no other parties commemorating our impending nuptials.  I don’t mean to suggest that there should be more parties; only that there won’t be.   0607-10

You were the guest of honor at a surprise engagement party therefore lay to rest any thoughts that you offended anyone.   It simply wasn’t in your sphere of responsibility to invite these friends.   Your friends are being boorish in their presumptions that they deserve to be invited to a party and that you owe them an invitation to any future events.  Rather, there is nothing that prevents them from hosting a party in you and your fiance’s honor if they feel some partying is in order.    Why wouldn’t these “friends” host a bridal shower?

Engagement Party Etiquette:

1.  It is mucho tacky to host a party in your own honor.  Engagement parties should be hosted by parents, close friends, siblings, or relatives.

2.  Invite only those guests you know will also be invited to the wedding.

3.  Gifts are not to be given for engagement parties and if someone happens to bring one, it is discreetly put away and opened at a later time.  It is appropriate for parents to give personal gifts such as jewelry,  a watch, etc.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • gramma dishes July 1, 2010, 9:16 am

    While I agree that it was a nice touch for her fiance’ to have arranged this engagement party, obviously in advance, the outcome might have been far different and quite uncomfortable had the bride-to-be said “no”.

  • AS July 1, 2010, 10:32 am

    OP, I agree with the etiquette lady – your friends are being quite unreasonable expecting an engagement party. Especially given the fact that you mentioned you are new to the area, and don’t have a close female friend. A lot of our close friends have gotten engaged, but we never expect a party from them!

    @Gramma dishes – many men go great extent to plan how they are going to propose to their girl friends. Usually by the time people decide to propose, they know that their girl friend (or boyfriend in some cases) is going to accept and he’d want to make the moment extra special. It is true that it would have been uncomfortable if the OP had said a “no”. But I don’t see why her fiancé should not go that extra mile to invite people close to both of them, if he was sure she’ll accept, just because there might be a minute probability that she might reject. Negative thinking is bad for a healthy relationship.

  • Kelly July 1, 2010, 10:48 am

    What a romantic guy this is! I am sure he was quite confident that she would say yes. I don’t get why the friends are now offended that they didn’t get invited. As is said, engagement parties are given by family and friends so why can’t these friends who feel slighted give an engagement party?

  • Serenity July 1, 2010, 11:50 am

    I think, in general, surprise parties are a well intentioned, but bad idea. Every one that I have been to, at least one or two people that are important to the guest of honor, have been overlooked by the planners. In fact, I wasn’t included in my bf’s bday party last year!! Since we tend to either go out, or relax at my house, as we have more privacy there, his friends and family had no way to reach me, didn’t really know me, and had no valid excuse to ask for my info without ruining the surprise. Needless to say, this resulted in extremely hurt feelings, and disappointment at missing his special day. It also nearly resulted in us breaking up, as I was so hurt, I didn’t even give the poor guy a chance to explain it was a surprise and that he truly had no clue they were planning a party for him!

  • TychaBrahe July 1, 2010, 11:59 am

    @gramma dishes – First of all, these days, a proposal is rarely a surprise. Couples frequently discuss getting married long before there is an official proposal and a ring. I’m sure the poster knew that a proposal was forthcoming, just not when and where.

  • yarngirl July 1, 2010, 12:45 pm

    I think the appropriate response is “I’m sorry, you must have been misinformed. This was a surprise party, and I don’t know of anyone else throwing me a party.”

  • Sumi July 1, 2010, 1:47 pm

    I was going to say, the groom must have been pretty confident of an acceptance if he planned all this…am just glad for everyone that this went well..wheeeeew..

  • geekgirl July 1, 2010, 1:56 pm

    I have to agree with gramma dishes – I hate this assumption that a woman will automatically say yes when asked. It’s like all those proposals that happen in public places, like at sporting events, where the woman has to say yes or let down a whole roomful of peole not just her boyfriend. The party would have have incredibly embarressing if she had said no, not just for the couple but all the party-goers too.

  • Powers July 1, 2010, 2:42 pm

    The wise gentleman has usually explored the topic of marriage before investing so much effort and risk into such a proposal, gramma. =)

    I’m not so sure, though, that engagement parties should follow the same invitation etiquette as bridal showers (that is, no one who isn’t invited to the wedding). As a non-gift-giving occasion, an engagement party holds none of the air of “you’re good enough to give us a present but not good enough to attend the wedding/reception”. Indeed, it seems an engagement party would be a lovely way to introduce one’s new fiance to one’s extended family, even if they cannot be invited to the wedding for whatever reason.

  • Elizabeth Bunting July 1, 2010, 2:45 pm

    The presumptions of people who think hosts and hostesses of parties “owe” them an invitation. My family held a beautiful dinner for our 50th wedding anniversary at the Liza Lounge, Whitby Marina, this past April. It was a glorious day and there were 60 people in attendance. Some people made it known that they should have been invited and these are cousins who never invite us to anything. My children were hosting this event, so we tried to keep the guest list within reason. My granddaughter designed the invitations and I had her put “Best Wishes Only” at the bottom. Nonetheless, we received many monetary gifts which were not expected nor solicited.

    I don’t know about any of the contributors here, but I would not dream of expecting an invitation if I was not a member of the immediate family. I have many, many cousins and would love to have had them, but a line in the sand has to be drawn somewhere unfortunately.

    Respectfully submitted,

  • OP (Laura) July 1, 2010, 3:10 pm

    First of all, when he returned from Iraq last year, he asked me to move across the country to be with him. Before quitting my job in the Northeast and moving to OK, I made certain that we were both heading in the same direction, so to speak (at 28 yrs old, I’m young, but not young enough to move around the country on a lark). So yes, I knew he would ask me, but I didn’t know when/where/how. Personally, I would not quit a job and leave my friends for a guy I did not intend to marry, and I believe he knew that.

    I felt he was very thoughtful, and that I am a lucky woman. I know that not all women say ‘yes’ to proposals, as I am one of those who has had the unfortunate job of saying ‘no’ before (many years ago). But I like to believe that a truly thoughtful man has made certain of the answer before making plans, as Powers mentioned. Thank you for your comments.

  • Jellie July 1, 2010, 3:15 pm

    Gramma, your comment toward the end was a little unclear to me. Are you trying to say that the fiance should have predicted the future, and went up to her fiance and said, ”honey, I know that you are trying to plan a surprise engagement party for me/us, but…don’t. I think it’s rude that you won’t invite my firends, and they will feel left out and would try and demand another engagement party to be thrown so that they can come. So instead of embarrssing me like that, just don’t do it at all.”


    Are you saying that she should say no to her firends as to if there will be another engagement party?

    If I’m reading the same story right; the party was a surprise party for her/his engagement, RIGHT after he gave her the ring, they went to the party, of which she didn’t know about, and it was kind of a small gathering of family and friends, which were probably mutual friends that they had and maybe some of his own. He probably didn’t think to invite some of her friends that were ‘left out’. There are some men who have a habit of doing that(keyword: SOME).

    I wonder if she pointed out that it was a SURPRISE party to her firends? Part of surprise partys is that the person who is getting the surprise party usually DON’T know about the party before hand. And I think it’s kinda rude to try and demand or imply that there should be another party just because they weren’t invited to the first one. The party was in celebration of the future union of a couple, the HTB decided to invite those who he felt needed to know. The BTB had no idea what was going on. She could day to her friends who want to party, “I’m sorry you felt left out, but I had no control in the matter, I had no idea that there was going to even BE a party! There’s still the wedding that I would like you to attend, which is WAY more important than some engagement party.” I don’t know, I’m different, and just would set them stright on the issue, and if they still are gonna throw their hissy-fit, then too bad, go right ahead, ain’t gonna change my mind or make thing magically different.

  • Jellie July 1, 2010, 3:22 pm

    Ok, so I did read it wrong, she ment the proposal…Which would make it kind of akward…

    BUT she did say yes, so that kinda doesn’t matter at this point.

  • salsera July 1, 2010, 3:47 pm

    I find the actual engagement party, which had to have been set up before the poster said ‘yes’, to be the most presumptuous thing about this story, funnily enough.

    In Ireland, it’s normal to go and choose the ring together. After all, the woman has to wear the ring and her fiance’s taste may not be the same as hers.
    I find the American tradition of proposing with a ring oddly presumptuous, and as for already having people hiding for a surprise party…words fail me. What on earth would he have done if she’d said no? And shouldn’t an engagement be a private affair, at least for a little while?

    PS: Excuse me if that isn’t the American tradition; my view may be slightly skewed by American films.

  • Princesssimmi July 1, 2010, 4:28 pm

    I’m fairly sure you aren’t obligated to find out if you’re having a surprise party so you can invite everyone who might be slightly offended. But hey, look on the bright side- at least nobody called you the day before to confirm or give their regrets. That would have been a shocker.

    Congratulations on your engagement, I hope you have a long, happy marriage.

  • Queenofallthings July 1, 2010, 5:12 pm

    I think, OP, that your fiance really thought this out, and invited a small group that was special to both of you. How wonderful! I imagine he didn’t WANT a big group (and/or thought you wouldn’t either) and that’s probably smart, given the emotion of the moment. I would hope that your friends, once they’ve gotten over themselves a bit, would recognize this and be thrilled for you. I doubt that they mean harm – they just want to help celebrate and are young enough to find all of this terribly thrilling (which it is, for you, of course). A simple “you’ll be the first to know if any parties are planned!” should suffice – or, if appropriate, “You’re so sweet to want to celebrate with us! We’re thinking just immediate family right now. Bean dip?”
    I was once invited to a christmas party by a long ago HS friend who I adore but rarely see; the season was frantic, so we regretted. Found out afterwards that it was a surprise wedding! Do I regret missing it? You bet! Do I blame her for not telling me? Nope – her day, her way.

  • Tara July 1, 2010, 5:12 pm

    When my ex and I had just started dating, I had moved across the state to live with him. I missed my friends from high school (I was just out of high school). So he invited one of them, the one he talked to online, to come stay with us as a surprise for my birthday.

    The other friend stopped talking to me shortly after this, and after a year or so, I found out that she was mad at ME for not inviting her. It was a surprise party! I didn’t know anyone would be coming over for my birthday, and she was excluded simply because she didn’t talk to my ex.

    I don’t understand why people get mad at the guest of honor for not being invited to a party that was a surprise!

  • Cooler Becky July 1, 2010, 7:36 pm

    I would totally go with what Jellie said.

    Tell your friends that the party was a surprise but that you’d remember them for the wedding. And then, just remember to send invites for the wedding to them when you’ve decided when it happens.

  • gingertwinge July 1, 2010, 11:06 pm

    Why was this called an “engagment party”? Just because it happened immediately after a proposal? It just sounds like a nice celebration for a few folks who would be the most appreciative of the event. A groom-to-be doesn’t invite people for an engagement party (does he? that would be a faux pas, right? I can’t even imagine he knew the term “engagment party” to have invited people for it) So perhaps the misunderstanding amongst the friends of the OP was in leading them to believe that this was an engagement party, in which case it would make sense that they would have been invited and thus offended not to have been invited.

  • Twik July 2, 2010, 9:54 am

    I’d have to laugh and say, “I should have invited you to a surprise party that other people threw for me? How do you think THAT would have worked?”

  • Gloria Shiner July 2, 2010, 12:01 pm

    I’m a little confused. If you are new to the area and don’t have any friends, who are the “friends” who are upset about not being invited to the party? And who are the friends who were invited to the party? I agree that someone expecting to be invited to a surprise party is being silly, but I don’t understand the players in the story.

  • Bint July 5, 2010, 5:52 am

    How mean-spirited of people to actually complain to you when someone did something so lovely. They should keep their complaints (or hurt feelings) to themselves, since common sense tells them a surprise party means you had no hand in it.

    Everyone here making comments about ‘lucky she didn’t say no’ – what’s the need for that? The OP is clearly very happy to be engaged. Why assume her fiance took her consent for granted? Why be so negative – is this really any better than the negative friends?

    Congratulations, OP, on your engagement – enjoy the run-up to marriage!

  • gramma dishes July 5, 2010, 1:05 pm

    Oh Bint, I agree. Clearly the original OP is happy and excited — as she should be!!! I too am very happy for both of them and want her to have tons of fun from this point to the big event!!! (And of course beyond!)

    But: I have known two guys, one in college, one a much later colleague, who confidently bought rings and asked girls that they seemed quite sure shared their feelings, only to learn that in fact the girl didn’t want to get married at all, at least not to him! It was a very embarrassing situation both times because the young men had each told friends they were going to pop the question and in one case, yes, a “She said yes” party had been planned. I was one of the invitees. It was one of the saddest and most awkward occasions I’ve ever experienced.

  • Bint July 6, 2010, 2:57 am

    Ooh, eek indeed. I agree, how awful and embarrassing.

    I’m just surprised anyone would assume that might have been the case here though. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t discussed marriage and children long before a proposal was even close.

  • yarngirl July 6, 2010, 10:02 am

    Bint- I have…and sadly, the folks who aren’t reasonable enough to have discussed it are the same folks who aren’t conservative enough to know not to plan an immediate celebration. Glad that was clearly not the case here, though.

  • Rei July 11, 2010, 4:02 pm

    If it were me, I would try the following:
    “Well, it was a surprise engagement party, and I’ve heard it’s bad form to throw one for myself. However, I would love to see all of my friends at once, so why don’t I just have a regular party at home so I can see you all?”

    If you specify that it is not an engagement party and you merely would like your friends to bring themselves and some positive energy, I can hardly see that any engagement related actions (such as bringing gifts) or discussions (such as asking a million questions about your impending nuptials) by your guests would be your concern.

  • badkitty July 28, 2010, 3:26 pm

    I had similar reactions to my elopement. As a former wedding planner with a traumatic broken engagement in her past, I was not ever going to get married, period. My wonderful husband finally convinced me only by making it as simple as leaving work a little early and spending $10 for the license. All of our friends and family were informed after the fact and this saved me a tremendous amount of anxiety. (I had actually suffered several panic attacks on occasions where somebody would try to discuss my wedding with me, even in the hypothetical.) Some people were genuinely hurt that they were not invited to “the wedding,” which literally did not occur. I responded to each pout by playfully reminding the person that my own mother said the same thing. My new mother-in-law was put out enough to ask if she could host a reception for that side of the family, and they were allowed to do so and I even managed to show up, but I maintain that my choice to form a new family unit did not in any way obligate me to feed and entertain others. Stand firm: you did nothing wrong. Congratulations!

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