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Engagement Party Etiquette

I’ll cut right to the chase with the thesis of this post: how do you invite people to an informal, no-gifts engagement party and convince them that you really mean informal and no-gifts?

My fiance and I are planning an engagement party for next month, and we would like it to be exactly that. No big hoopla, no gifts, don’t bother flying across the country for it, just if you happen to be in town and free that night, come hang out with us and celebrate. We’re trying to get invitations (evites) out this week, and we’ve run into so many problems.

After the jump, I need some advice from anyone who has had or been to a similar engagement party!

1) Can we invite people that may not be invited to the wedding?

Everything we read says that you should only invite people who will be invited to your wedding. But our wedding is still over a year away and we don’t know the venue yet, so we have no idea who is going to be on our guest list. Our rationale is that since the engagement party will be informal and we’re asking people to not bring gifts, we should be able to invite everyone.

2) Should we invite out-of-towners?

We are planning our engagement party to be so informal that it seems ludicrous to ask anyone to pay for a plane ticket to come. I don’t want an invitation to make our out-of-town relatives feel like they have any obligation to come, but I also don’t want to hurt their feelings by not inviting them. I think the right strategy here is to send them an invite, but make it abundantly clear that while we would love their company, we do not expect anyone to fly across the country for this. I’ve been mulling over how exactly to phrase that sentiment, and nothing sounds quite right to me.

3) Should we register somewhere even though we don’t want gifts?

Some of our friends told us that even though we stipulate no gifts, some people will want to bring gifts anyway, and out-of-towners will want to send gifts. (That’s another reason I’m hesitant to invite out-of-towners; I don’t want them to feel like if they can’t come, they should send a gift.) I don’t want the presence of a registry to cause anyone who would not otherwise have bought us a gift to buy us something. I worry that registering somewhere sends the message that we’re just trying to be polite by saying no gifts, but we really do want you to get us something.

2 Responses to Engagement Party Etiquette

  1. May I make a suggestion on the topic of weddings: don’t buy in to the “hoopla!” I know exactly where you are coming from. I also did not want people to feel obligated to give me gifts. Therefore, I had no engagement party, no shower, no bachelorette party, and only immediate family invited to the wedding. In retrospect, I would take it even further and have my “wedding” at the courthouse for $50 if I could do it over again. Spending any amount of money on a wedding is the antithesis of what you are preaching! I also loathe registries…marching around a store with a scanner gun to pick out what people should gift you?!? I can’t think of anything more tacky than that.

    As a very frugal person, I was incredibly happy over not making people spend money on me (unfortunately I have now become bitter over people who go all out and cause me to spend thousands being in THEIR weddings!) Since you are frugal like me, the choice is clear. You will not regret keeping your money instead of getting ripped off on wedding activities.

    • Well it’s not just about what will save us the most money. My fiance and I both love getting together with friends and family, so we know we want to have a celebration. But it’s important to us to figure out how to have that celebration in a frugal manner.

      I also hate registries, but everyone keeps telling me I must have one. I completely agree that walking through a store picking out items for people to give me is ridiculously tacky. It’s not my style. But registries have become so pervasive that you don’t see anyone having a wedding without them any more. What kind of response will we get from our guests if we don’t have one?

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