An engagement party is an important event: not as big as the wedding itself, of course, but often the first time that a newly engaged couple appears together as fiancées. That said, planning any type of party can be stressful—and when it comes to a surprise engagement party, the secret element can make things even more so.
Whether you’re a bride or groom-to-be and want to surprise your partner with all their friends and family immediately after the proposal, or you’re a newly engaged couple and want to bask in the intimacy and bliss of keeping your proposal under wraps before surprising all your friends and family, here are 8 essentials to know when planning a surprise engagement party.
Consider your guest list carefully
Like posting about your engagement on Instagram, you might want the whole world to know about our engagement and be tempted to invite them all to your surprise engagement party, too. Bear in mind, however, that it’s best to invite guests that you are also going to want to invite to the actual wedding. Of course, other factors such as budget and capacity restrictions at your chosen venue will also be important factors when deciding who to invite. If numbers are a problem, consider hosting a “family only” party so no one feels snubbed.
Select a few friends who will keep their lips sealed, then delegate
Whether you’re planning a surprise engagement party for your fiancé or planning it together as a newly engaged couple, identify a few friends that you trust to keep your secret and delegate them a few tasks. From ordering food or organizing a menu to sending out invitations, blowing balloons, cleaning up, taking photos, or even giving a toast, not only will delegating help you to share the workload, but your friends can also add personal touches based on their own relationship with the couple.
Keep your ring a secret
It goes without saying, but no matter how much you love your ring, remember to take it off before all your surprise engagement party guests arrive.
Surprise them at the right moment
Once your guests are settled in with a drink and have had a few canapés, you can surprise them with your big news. The more you can catch them off-guard, the better—though feel free to drop a few subtle hints: even pouring champagne might be enough to have your guests wondering what they’re all gathered there to celebrate.
Capture the looks on all their faces
Don’t forget to arrange a photographer—or a designated friend—to capture the moment you reveal your engagement at your surprise party. You’ll definitely want to remember everyone’s looks of shock and delight! If you have a lot of guests attending, you might consider hiring a professional photographer or videographer. And who knows—you might even want them to take your wedding photos, so it’s a good way to test them out.
Consider the venue and dress code
Your venue will depend in large part on your budget and the number of guests you’re inviting, but beyond that, where you decide to host your surprise engagement party will affect the theme and dress code of your event. If you want your friends and family dressed to the nines, you’ll have to find a creative way to specify a black tie dress code when you send out invitations—a fancy venue such as a high-end hotel can help with that. Otherwise, you can expect your guests to dress in smart casual or cocktail attire for a surprise engagement party at a parent’s or friend’s home or a restaurant.
Don’t forget to feed your guests
Every good party has good food and snacks—that goes without saying. If you want your guests to mingle, go for bite-sized canapes or hors d’oeuvres that allow them to eat while moving around the room. If your surprise engagement party has a theme, you can serve snacks that work with it: think churros if you have a Mexican theme, dim sum for an Asian vibe, childhood candy for a nostalgic feel—you get the idea.
If you plan on having toasts, be sure to have some kind of bubbly on hand: think champagne, cava or prosecco, plus sparkling mineral water or apple juice for minors and those who don’t drink alcohol. For the rest of your surprise engagement party, you can serve drinks that work you’re your theme.
Be clear about gifts
There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to gifting etiquette at a surprise engagement party. A gift for the newly engaged couple isn’t strictly necessary or expected, but something to remember the day will always be welcome and is a great idea. An engraved photo frame, a guest book for everyone to sign, or personalized champagne flutes are some memorable suggestions that work if no one knows about the engagement; if you’re planning the party for your fiancé and don’t want anyone to feel pressured to bring a gift, do state this on the invite.