Wedding planning season is in full swing. As a newly engaged woman myself, I am opting for a two-year engagement so my fiance and I can take our time with wedding preparations.
Although we are in no rush to select invitation fonts or table arrangements, one of the first tasks couples are supposed to complete post-proposal is hosting an engagement party. At least that is according to a dozen or so “wedding checklists” on various bridal blogs I have wasted too much time perusing.
Traditionally, the engagement party takes place no later than three months after the big announcement. It is intended to be an icebreaker of sorts: You share the news of your upcoming union with future wedding guests and introduce families to each other. It is basically an opening act for the main event.
In the age of viral proposals and Instagram-ready photos, is an engagement party necessary? After mulling over this question with friends and acquaintances, I have decided that no, it is not. Social media is largely to blame.
These days, everyone can know about your significant life updates with a quick click or a casual scroll. My fiance and I held off on making The Announcement for nearly a week; I was adamant that we have a few days to privately bask in our new betrothed status. When the time came for the big reveal, I shared the news on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, yes, even Snapchat. Just like that, thousands were informed of our intent to marry — no overpriced confetti cake or glittery balloons required.
Bizarrely enough, there was something ceremonious about making our engagement official on social media. My fiance was on the floor with his phone, I was at my desk in front of my computer. We each typed out our individual announcements, took a deep breath and clicked “post” at the same time. We were instantly inundated with congratulatory messages, from close friends and from people we hadn’t seen in years. Scouring through all of the well wishes felt like a party in and of itself. Sure, it was taking place in the digital world — but so does so much of our daily lives.
“I definitely think that social media has changed how we process major events,” said Addie Tsai, a Houston-based English professor. “In some ways, I see it as a positive thing. But I also think it creates a bit of competition and insecurity around having to have the event that can be posted to social media for outward approval.”
Chavonn Shen, a graduate student in Minnesota, said she agrees social media has forever altered the landscape of sharing life events.
“Changing a relationship status could be monitored by 3,000-plus people, close friends and family,” Shen said. “Even happy events like engagements can be intimidating. Going ‘Facebook official’ or going public on other forms of social media comes with a slew expectations. Besides, the Internet has a perfect memory, which can be devastating depending on how events play out.”
Tsai said she and her partner did not have an engagement party for “a number of reasons,” including their penchant for privacy.
“We are very private creatures, so a big production of an engagement seemed strange for us,” Tsai said. “My partner certainly prefers not to host big parties, but I think he would have gone with what I wanted either way. I don’t think it even occurred to him that this was a thing people do.”
I did not know engagement parties were a thing until I saw them on TV and in movies. (Who can forget Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne facing off in “Bridesmaids,” each trying to prove they are the better friend to Maya Rudolph?)
Even in pop culture, engagement parties are depicted as events that are less for the couple and more for everyone else. After all, an engagement party is supposed to be an opportunity for the bride and groom’s respective worlds to collide. With families and friends staying increasingly connected online, formal introductions now seem inessential if not passé.
“It wasn’t a necessity,” Katie Kidwell, a higher education administrator in Boston, said of her decision not to host an engagement party. “We live away from both of our families. A few days after the engagement, [he] left for the summer to film his first documentary feature, so we wouldn’t be in the same city for months. We celebrated the momentous occasion in other ways with loved ones over the course of our engagement.”
With the price of weddings soaring above $30,000 — according to the Knot, the national average cost of a wedding was $33,391 in 2017 — many couples are looking to cut costs wherever possible. Skipping the engagement party is not a bad place to start.
“What we often don’t see in these lavish photos is all the stress and expense that goes into organizing large events like this,” said Sezin Koehler, a writer in Florida. “When you chat privately with people, the overwhelming feeling they have is relief that it’s over. It makes me feel grateful that my husband and I just dived into our marriage without adding extra party-organizing stress into it.”
I, for one, was shocked to learn that hosting a small engagement soiree at any given event space in Washington, D.C., would set us back at least $1,000. That is assuming we truly kept it small with fewer than 10 to 15 friends, tops. I cannot imagine how much a “Bridesmaids”-inspired engagement party would cost.
I still do not know if my fiance and I will end up hosting one. If we do, it will likely be a relaxed dinner-and-drinks thing back in our home state of Nebraska, where we can get a lot more bang for our buck.