Engagement parties usher in a whole slew of fun times meant to celebrate the couple of honor. Receiving an invitation to an engagement party can come with a lot of excitement—and maybe a bit of confusion, too. Many guests can be unsure about the proper gift etiquette around engagement parties—what to buy the couple and whether to get a gift at all.
The short answer is that it’s up to you. It’s always a good idea to get something to celebrate friends or family who are entering this next life stage, but it’s not totally necessary.
Proper Engagement Gift Etiquette
There are two schools of thought when it comes to whether or not presents are necessary for engagement parties. On one hand, it’s fun to buy gifts for any occasion, and a couple pledging to spend their life together certainly is a reason to celebrate. On the other hand, there are many times throughout the wedding planning process (including showers, bachelorette or bachelor parties, and the wedding itself) where you may be gifting the couple, and many think that’s more than enough.
As it turns out, both of these arguments are correct. The current etiquette policy for engagement party gift-giving is open to whatever you’re comfortable with—you can spend a lot, a little, or nothing at all. Just remember, no one expects you to make a major purchase for this event. Here are some other things to think about when deciding whether to buy a gift for an engagement party.
Honoring the Couple’s Wishes
It’s important to consider the wishes of the newly engaged couple when debating whether to buy an engagement gift. Many couples ask guests not to bring gifts to their party—all they want is your presence, not presents. If they mention this specifically (either to you personally or on a formal invitation), don’t bring a gift. Doing otherwise may embarrass the hosts and other guests. If you’re determined to bring something to the party anyway, make it a host or hostess gift—a signature party dish (nachos, anyone?) or beverage that the hosts can enjoy later is always a welcome idea.
If you don’t purchase a gift to comply with their wishes, it’s still a good idea to give the couple of honor something special, even if it doesn’t cost a thing. Write a sweet poem about how they fell in love or a note about your friendship with the couple. You can also present them with a personalized coupon book with offers to help with wedding planning, house sit while they’re on their honeymoon, or babysit their pet while they’re tying the knot.
Choosing an Appropriate Gift
If the invitation doesn’t specifically mention not to bring a gift and you’d like to treat the couple, you’re free to pick out something small but meaningful to help them celebrate their engagement. Remember, you’ll likely also be purchasing a wedding gift and possibly a shower gift, so don’t bust your budget on the engagement offering.
At this point in their engagement, the couple probably hasn’t had time to register for gifts. However, if they have, it can be a helpful tool to use and ensure you get them something they want. If not, shop with the idea of a celebration in mind, and gift the pair something they can either use to plan their upcoming wedding or celebrate it. Some thoughtful ideas include:
- A decorative picture frame for them to place an engagement or wedding photo in
- A set of champagne glasses and a bottle of bubbly
- A pair of coffee mugs with their new last initial on them
- A pretty vase for all the special occasion flowers that will follow
- A thematic book of love poems, romantic stories, or wedding planning advice
Opting for a Host and Hostess Gift
You might have been asked not to bring an engagement gift, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring anything. Since it’s normally nice to show up at a hosted event with a little something, select something small that the host can use later.
A good rule of thumb: Bring whatever you would to a dinner party. If you know the hosts well (it may be the couple, their family members, or even close friends), 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. If you’re not sure of the hosts’ interests, a pre-made dessert, nice bottle of wine, or pleasant-smelling candle is a great neutral option.
Advice for Engaged Couples
If you are the couple of honor at an engagement party, it’s nice to keep in mind how much your guests will be spending over the next several months as they celebrate your upcoming nuptials. Not only will they purchase bridal shower gifts and wedding presents, but they’ll also have the expense of something to wear and potentially lodging at your event.
Never expect anything from your guests, since the purpose of this event is to share the news with the people you care about most. If you’d like to dissuade guests from bringing a gift, a simple “No gifts, please!” message on your invitations can go a long way. If you are still treated to presents by your guests, make sure to send a timely thank you note to everyone who brought a gift, following the same basic guidelines as you would for wedding and shower gifts.
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