I'm with the majority - don't have an engagement party beforehand in lieu of the reception after the ceremony. Have a reception/party (days/weeks) after the ceremony where the majority of guests live. If I'm invited to an engagement party I expect a wedding invite will then be forthcoming in due course.
I live in Australia and did see a previous post about "large engagement parties, small weddings" being common/customary here. I have heard of couples doing similar - but I wouldn't say its the norm and I have always seen engagement parties as a prelude to the wedding. Although I have heard of many cases where people are invited to the ceremony and NOT the reception - which I think is potentially more awkward!
As another Australian, I can't say I've ever come across a large engagement part/small wedding situation. Barring some very strenuous circumstances (eg. huge falling out between a guest and HC), the engagement party guest list is usually seen as a precursor to the wedding guest list.
I don't understand the inviting people to the ceremony and not the reception part. How does that work? Are they held on separate days? Either way, it sounds incredibly rude. Dress up and come see us exchange vows, but get lost afterwards as we're not going to bother feeding you?
I think what's bothering me here is that (in my experience, anyway) "engagement parties" aren't given by the couple themselves, they are given by others for them. So if the invitation comes from the HC themselves, there is a real risk that it will be seen as, if not a gift grab, then sort of wanting to have your cake and eat it, too.
That may depend on where (general) you live. Here in Australia it's the norm for the couple and/or their guardians to pay for/host the party. I certainly couldn't imagine expecting a friend or more distant relative to pay for it. That seems extremely entitled.
Yeah, it would be so weird here for a friend to throw an engagement party or brunch or whatever for a couple. You do it yourself (or your parents do, but more often you throw it I think).
I'm increasingly seeing engagement parties (and for that matter, bridal showers and baby showers too), where the entire event is actually organised / paid for by the guest(s) of honour*, and in many cases held at the GOH's house, but the invitations are "sent" by parents or friends (that is, the invitations state that the parents or friend is hosting, despite the fact that the invitee is then asked to RSVP directly to the GOH).
*Not just speculation, as several of my friends/acquaintances have openly admitted this.