Who Pays for an Engagement Dinner?

Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

An engagement brings floods of well wishes to the happy couple. While it isn’t commonplace, some newly engaged couples are given an engagement party, which can be a small affair for the parents to meet or a huge blow-out that rivals the wedding itself. Anyone wishing to honor the couple can hold an engagement dinner or party.

Who Hosts

Traditionally, the bride’s parents host an engagement dinner, but any family member or friend can hold a get-together to honor the couple. Normally, a couple would have one engagement party, but both the bride’s and the groom’s parents may opt to hold a dinner in their hometowns if they live far apart. The host is obligated to shoulder the expense for all guests. If the dinner is held at a restaurant or other venue, the host should pick up the tab.

Planning the Dinner

Cocktail parties for large groups or intimate dinners for just a few are two traditional ways to celebrate an engagement. Sometimes the party is a sort of “coming out” for the engaged couple in which they announce their engagement for the first time to friends and family, aside from the host. According to etiquette maven Emily Post, the groom’s father makes the announcement in the form of a toast. At a large dinner, the couple and their respective parents may hold a receiving line to greet their guests and introduce the fiance to friends and relatives.

Making the Guest List

The guest list for an engagement dinner can be as long or short as the hosts desire. The dinner can simply include the couple and their families, or the parents may invite a bevy of friends and family members. Exercise some foresight when making the list, however. It is considered very rude to invite someone to an engagement party who will not be invited to the wedding. A cursory consideration of the wedding budget and guest list is an important step in planning an engagement dinner.

Sending Invitations

You may feel the need to throw together an engagement party quickly, but the timeline isn’t set in stone. The amount of time needed for sending invitations depends on the guest list and formality of the dinner. Allow a minimum of 2 weeks from the time the invitations are received to the time of the party. If many of the guests have to travel, allow 4 to 6 weeks. If the dinner is formal, 4 to 6 weeks is also appropriate. If the dinner is an intimate gathering for just a few members, a phone call a week in advance or longer is acceptable.