1. Choose a host.
Traditionally, the bride's parents throw an engagement party, but there's no reason you can't host (and finance) one yourself if you prefer. If your parents live in two different cities, you might opt for two parties, so both sets of parents can celebrate with close family friends. If someone other than yourself is hosting, be clear about how involved you would like to be in the party planning.
2. Pick a date.
You're celebrating your engagement, so try to pick a date that's not too long after the fact…two to three months is ideal, enough time to plan and not enough time for the proposal glow to fade. You'll want a date that definitely works for parents, as well as grandparents and siblings if possible.
3. Make a guest list.
Engagement parties are typically small, convivial affairs where both sides of the family and close friends can to get to know each other in a relaxed environment. Invite only people you plan to invite to the wedding as well.
4. Decide on a gift game plan.
People will usually bring gifts to an engagement party, so if you don't want them to, make sure to specify "No gifts please" on the invite. If gifts are welcome, register for small-to medium-sized ones…and make sure to keep track of who gives you what so you can send thank-you cards.
5. Select a venue.
The venue you choose should depend on the size and vibe of the party you'd like to have…and the budget you're working with. The good news is anything goes, from a private room or banquet table at a restaurant to a backyard bash or intimate dinner party at home.
6. Set the scene.
Pick a theme (anything from tropical fiesta to garden party to starry night) or color palette if you want a cohesive look, or think about celebratory decorations or floral centerpieces.
7. Send invitations.
Mail or email invites three weeks to a month before the event if you can. If you decided to go with a theme, it's fun for the invitations to tie in, but a photo of the happy couple embedded into an email invite works just as well!
8. Plan a menu.
What's a party without eats and drinks? At a restaurant, you might have a set menu with a couple of options for each course, or at home, a mini buffet or an afternoon tea party spread. Set aside time to shop for ingredients and cook if you're not having the event catered. Have something sparkling on hand for impromptu toasts!
9. Think about a soundtrack.
Music isn't a must, but it's worthwhile thinking about, especially if you're having a party at home. Whether you go for a playlist, Pandora, old-school CD mixes, or nothing at all, make sure you've got the right speaker/electrical outlet setup for your venue.
10. Plan an activity.
Ice breakers aren't a must either, but if "get to know you" is part of the purpose, a little game or two, like a scavenger hunt or bride and groom trivia, can be fun, particularly if the group is smallish and teams can bring together family members from opposite sides.
11. Line up some help.
While some people will ask if there's anything they can do to help as they arrive, make sure to have specific helpers if you think you'll need them. Consider hiring a photography student to take pics so none of your guests have to.
12. Prep the venue.
Clean up your house, set up any extra tables and chairs, and decorate. If the party's not going to be at someone's home, make sure the restaurant or venue has an updated headcount and a place to stash gifts.