Did your BFF just get engaged? It’s time to start celebrating! First up on the pre-wedding party list: the engagement party. Engagement parties vary widely from couple to couple—and some might even have a few before they walk down the aisle. Whether it’s super formal or laid-back, the etiquette around this first bash can be a little bit fuzzy, especially when it comes to whether or not you’re supposed to bring a gift. Anything from casual drinks at a bar to a cocktail reception with waiters in white gloves goes—which can add to the confusion.
The time between saying “Yes” and saying “I do” is filled with thrills and happiness for couples and their families, but for everyone else, it’s usually a time that’s brimming with questions: What’s the etiquette for this? Should I ask if I can wear that? Can I help in this way or make suggestions for that option? While engagements and weddings follow a lot of strictly-choreographed phases, the etiquette for some elements of a wedding season is a little unclear—and perhaps growing murkier by the year as traditions change and couples adapt.
Traditional wedding protocol states that guests should bring a gift to any event. Still, you may not have to depend on the formality of the get-together, who’s hosting it, and where it is—and also when it is, if other events might happen, and the preferences of the couple—confused yet? It’s hard not to be. Let’s look at a few scenarios that can hopefully illuminate when you should purchase a gift and when maybe something a little more sentimental (and perhaps free) is appropriate.
After you receive an engagement announcement party invitation, you might have some questions. First of all, should you bring a gift? If so, will you be expected also to get a bridal shower and wedding gifts? What type of gift should you bring if you choose to get one?
The short answer is that it’s up to you. It’s always a good idea to get something, even if it’s small, so you don’t arrive empty-handed. However, it’s not necessary.
Table of Contents
- 1 Should I bring a gift to an engagement party?
- 2 What’s Proper
- 3 Honour the Couple’s Wishes
- 4 Appropriate Gifts
- 5 Host and Hostess Gift
- 6 Recommendations for the Engaged Couple
- 7 When You Attend an Engagement Party
- 8 When You Want to Say “Congratulations” in Person
- 9 Make It Personal
Should I bring a gift to an engagement party?
No, engagement parties are just joyous occasions to celebrate the newly betrothed couple and kick off their wedding season. They’re usually so early in the timeline that couples have not even started a registry.
If you feel inclined to bring something—and really, it is up to you, and your closeness with the couple—something small would be a nice gesture. A bottle of wine, a gift certificate to a favourite restaurant, or even a sentimental token like a Christmas ornament with their engagement date on it would be warmly appreciated.
There are two schools of thought on this: One side claims it’s fun to buy gifts for any occasion, but on the other side of the argument is that the shower and wedding gifts are enough. Both of these arguments are correct. The current etiquette policy for engagement party gift-giving is open to whatever you’re comfortable with. Just remember that no one expects you to make a major purchase for this event.
Honour the Couple’s Wishes
Many newly engaged couples ask guests not to bring gifts. All they want is your presence, not presents. If they mention this specifically, don’t bring a gift. Doing otherwise may embarrass the hosts and other guests. If you are determined to bring something to the party anyway, make it a host or hostess gift. Special food or beverage that the hosts can enjoy later is always proper.
If you don’t purchase a gift to comply with their wishes, it’s still a good idea to give them something special, even if it doesn’t cost anything. You can write a sweet or funny poem about how they fell in love or a note about your friendship with the couple. You can also present a personalized coupon book with offers to house sit while they’re on their honeymoon, a special dinner you’ll cook and deliver when they return, or an offer to babysit if one or both of them have small children.
If the invitation doesn’t specifically mention gifts, you have a choice. Remember that you’ll also be purchasing a wedding gift and possibly a shower gift, so don’t bust your budget on the engagement offering.
Chances are at this point in the engagement the couple hasn’t had time to register for gifts. However, if they have, you might select one of the lower-priced items. At least you’ll know it’s something they want.
Here are some things that are appropriate for engagement party gifts:
- Decorative picture frames – with or without a photo of the couple
- Photo albums – for engagement photos
- Stemware – a pair of wine glasses with their names etched
- Coffee or tea mugs — with cute sayings that are appropriate for the couple
- Coasters — a set of coasters that either goes with their decor or shows their interests
- Vase – for all the special occasion flowers that will follow
- Book – love poems, romantic stories, wedding planner, or engagement guide
Couples’ cooking class
This can be a great activity for an engaged (or newlywed) couple. Not only will a cooking class help them bond, but the experience also gives the couple new ideas for entertaining and homemade meals. Most classes include hands-on instruction for making all courses of a meal and even allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labour!
If this sounds like a good match for your newly-engaged couple, find a restaurant or resort near them that offers cooking classes. Or contact a local cooking or kitchen supply store; many offer classes, as do chains like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table.
Because cooking classes can be expensive you may want to consider giving it as a joint gift with the other bridesmaids/groomsmen or with your siblings or co-workers.
A Wine Club Membership
For the wine-loving couple, a membership to a wine club is a gift that they’ll continue to enjoy during their first few months of marriage (and pairs well with cooking classes!).
Most wine clubs charge by the month, so choose a membership that fits your budget. Wine.com offers a variety of packages at different prices and allows you to choose a 3-month, 6-month or 12-month subscription.
Spa Gift Certificate
Pampering at the spa isn’t just for the ladies. A newly engaged couple will appreciate a relaxing day to take their mind off the stress of wedding planning.
Couples’ massages often include a suite for the pair, complete with fireplace, steam shower and a place to lounge and unwind together after the massage.
Since couples’ massages can be pricey – usually starting at $200 and going up from there – you may want to go in with others for a joint gift.
Dinner-for-Two Gift Certificate
Find out what the couple’s favourite restaurant is or research local restaurant ratings to find a quiet, romantic restaurant that offers gourmet food. Make sure the value of the gift certificate will allow the recipients to order appetizers, a main course, dessert and a glass of wine for both the bride- and groom-to-be.
For an extra special dinner date, arrange for a musician to serenade them during the meal or for the table to be adorned with fresh-cut flowers.
A Wedding Planner or Organizer
Brides especially will appreciate a book to keep her organized as she plans her big day. Choose a book or calendar specifically for wedding planning or make your colour-coded binder.
A Subscription to a Bridal Magazine
If the couple is having a long engagement (a year or more), consider giving the bride a subscription to a bridal magazine.
She’ll love hearing stories of other brides-to-be and can use tips and advice from the magazine to make her wedding extra-special.
Something Old, Something Blue…
The old wedding adage, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” offers plenty of ideas for engagement gifts.
These are especially appropriate for parents or grandparents of the bride and groom and maybe the perfect opportunity to pass on a treasured family heirloom.
You may consider wrapping up a pearl necklace or diamond earrings that have been in your family for generations, or maybe you have a vintage purse stashed away that would be the perfect complement to the bride’s dress.
Host and Hostess Gift
You might have been asked not to bring an engagement gift, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring something. Since it’s usually not a good idea to show up at any hosted event up empty-handed, make it something small that the host can use later.
Bring whatever you would to a dinner party. If you know the couple well, consider choosing something related to what they enjoy doing together. For example, if they are weekend cyclists, bring personalized matching water bottles. A couple that enjoys cooking together might enjoy a new set of culinary tools.
Here are some other ideas for host and hostess gifts:
- Cheese and cracker basket
- Box of favourite chocolates
- Wine and a pair of wine glasses
- Coffee or tea and a pair of mugs
- Floral bouquet
Recommendations for the Engaged Couple
If you are the one throwing the engagement party, keep in mind how much your guests will be spending over the next several months since they’re likely to be the first ones on your guest list. Not only will they purchase bridal shower gifts and wedding presents, they’ll have the expense of something to wear and transportation to the event.
When You Attend an Engagement Party
Never show up to a party empty-handed; however, newly engaged couples probably haven’t registered yet, so it is better to stay away from personal items like candles, vases and picture frames, that may or may not fit their style. Plus, engagement parties are increasingly becoming more casual with the focus on the fun—think backyard barbecues and even bowling parties—so more formal gifts are not required. Instead, we recommend presenting the couple with a nice bottle of champagne or a plant that will continue to bloom long after they begin their new life together.
When You Want to Say “Congratulations” in Person
One of the best ways to celebrate a newly engaged couple’s big news is to invite them to brunch or dinner. Choose their favourite restaurant or host an intimate dinner party in your home. The important thing is to spend time together and share in their excitement. If you do want to surprise the couple with a little extra something, opt for a gift that focuses on experiences they can share—like a couple’s massage, movie tickets or even a whole year of fruit and cheese duos delivered.
When Words Are Worth a Thousand Gifts
Handwritten notes are not as prevalent as they once were, but a beautiful card with a personal, handwritten note of congratulations could mean the world to the special couple. In addition, when your words are handwritten, it provides something they can hold on to and treasure for years to come. Say something from the heart, share a special story or simply reiterate how happy you are for them. Letters are an emotional and permanent way to show the beauty of human connection.
Make It Personal
If you do feel inspired to present a newly engaged couple with a gift, get creative. Think personalized holiday ornament engraved with the date of their engagement (or wedding date if that has been determined), a custom-labelled bottle of wine, or his and her coffee mugs.
As the wedding day draws near, gift-buying opportunities will abound. Check out Gifts.com for the latest in bridal shower, bachelor, bachelorette, bridesmaid, groomsman and wedding gifts for every taste and budget.
The good news is, engagement gifts are not required, no matter how fancy the celebration. Even if the pair already set up their registry, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to click “buy” before they’ve even sent out invitations. Oftentimes, close relatives and friends of the couple will show up with a gift, ranging from a book of wedding inspiration to a traditional wedding gift like a pretty frame or serving platter.
Nowadays, it’s common for guests to bring a gift to an engagement party, but it’s usually something small and sentimental. Don’t feel pressured to give an elaborate or expensive gift. If you wish to bring a gift, you can, but bring it to the gathering itself. At the very least, you can bring a congratulatory card to leave for the couple, letting them know how happy you are and that you’re excited to celebrate this milestone with them.
Whether you bring a gift is totally up to you, but if you’re worried about showing up empty-handed, consider something budget-friendly like a bottle of wine or a pretty bouquet. If you do decide to get a gift for the couple, there is also some flexibility when it comes to how it’s delivered. And of course, gift or no gift, make sure you congratulate your friends in person—and thank the host for having you!