An engagement party is as individual as a wedding—you can make it formal or casual, invite 15 guests or 150. The same applies to the menu. It can be an elegant dinner or a backyard barbecue. Just don't make it over-the-top: If you serve lobster at your engagement party, what will you serve for your wedding? That's not to say you should give guests hot dogs and beans (unless you're having a super-casual event!)—just save the culinary fireworks display for the wedding reception.
While you can serve just about anything you want, we're breaking down the food, drinks, and desserts options that are perfect your first pre-wedding celebration.
You have the same delicious choices that you'd have if you were throwing other types of parties (birthday, graduation, retirement). You could do a three-course meal at a restaurant, or appetizers at a bar, or a potluck-style gathering at someone's home, where guests sign up to bring an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. The food can also be catered and held in a community center. The options are endless.
If you can budget for an open bar, do it—everyone likes when the drinks pour freely, especially when someone else is paying for them! But it's also cool to have a limited bar, such as wine, beer, and a selection of nonalcoholic drinks. People will happily drink whatever is available as long as you give them options. If you're holding the engagement party away from home, the hosts should check in with the venue about any restrictions (what's allowed, what isn't).
You don't have to wait until the wedding day to have a gorgeous tiered cake. If one of your family members or friends has been eager to lend a hand with the wedding and this person has a way with flour and frosting, this might be the perfect opportunity to ask them to make you an engagement cake. But besides (or instead of) a cake, you could do platters of your favorite sweets like brownies and cupcakes. If you're holding the party at a restaurant, check to make sure it's okay to bring in outside food and if there's a charge for doing so.