Engagement parties can be tricky to plan. Not everyone has one, and there aren't as many established rules. But, with longer engagements and more brides and grooms wanting to celebrate their engagement with ALL of their friends (not just girls at bridal showers and men at bachelor parties) engagement parties have become a more important part of the wedding party season.

The shower is typically held a few months after the engagement and as much as a year before the wedding, the engagement party is a great way for family and friends to begin to meet each other and interact. Unlike the fancy country club event in Bridesmaids, most engagement parties are casual events. This allows the bride and groom to mix and mingle with friends and family. Cocktail parties and brunches both make better settings for this low-key, intimate affair than sit down dinners. Anything from the bride and groom's college colors to their shared love of Paris or video games can make a fun and unifying decorating theme that lets guests know a little bit more about the couple. If no theme comes to mind, and the bride and groom haven't chosen wedding colors yet, then a simple seasonal theme works well, too.

Only guests invited to the wedding should be invited to the engagement party, but if the bride and groom are from different cities, or are planning a wedding in a far off location the engagement party can bring the wedding to those who can't make it. For example, if the couple is planning a destination wedding, hula dancersbelly dancers and steel drum bands can all bring a tropical or exotic vibe to the event, while nothing screams "Vegas Wedding" like an Elvis impersonator.

An acoustic guitar player is the most frequently booked entertainment for an engagement party, for good reason. The guitarist can serve as background music, but also play special requests and dedications. Other soloists such as singers, pianists, harpists one man bands and violinists are also popular for the same reason, as are string quartets and other small groups. If your guest list includes a lot of people who don't really know each other, consider entertainment that helps to break the ice. Strolling Magicians, Tarot Card Readers, and Psychics can all work in small, quiet spaces, giving people something to talk about both during the party and for all the time leading up to the wedding!