Getting engaged involves 2 core practices a man must follow. The first is, of course, ask the wifey-to-be’s parents if they can marry their daughter. The second and most important one is: consult the wifey-to-be’s BFF and coordinate a nail appointment. Who wants to have crusty finger nails when everyone will be asking “let’s see that ring!"
ANYWAY - My bff Audrey was apparently assigned this mission. "Let's get nail appointments for this week," she suggested. Her asking me this triggered a “I’m totally getting engaged this weekend” mode. Audrey was a rockstar actress and a total vault as she insisted “it’s happening soon but not this weekend,” but I remained skeptical as I accepted her reassurance, yet still packed my whole closet of clothes just to be safe.
Flash forward to that exact weekend & Nick getting down on one knee and sobbing my eyes, feeling so much love and happiness that I’ve never felt before. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world!
At the time, Nick and I had “only” been dating a year and some change. So to outsiders it may have seemed “soon” -- I even considered captioning my picture, “Im engaged and no I’m not pregnant!” but I figured, eh, it would be more fun letting them think whatever they wanted to think. But what people dont know, besides our dads being best friends, is Nick and I literally grew up together. My big brother’s first dirt-bike was passed down to Nick when he was 7, and that was his first dirt-bike. So reconnecting with Nick and learning our childhood history, timeframe of dating wasn’t really a factor for us. When you know, you know!
PRE-PLANNING INITAL THOUGHTS
My first Google searches approx. 3.5 hours of being engaged: “Should I have an engagement party? “I just got engaged. When should I have my engagement party?"
And basically I learned 3 things. 1.) Engagement parties are a relatively newer concept 2.) If you are waiting a longer time to have a wedding, an engagement party is nice to have to have families mingle and keep the excitement momentum 3.) 3 months after you are engaged is the perfect time to have your engagement party
*counting the months using my fingers* August, September, October...October it is. I knew it had to be outside due to Covid Restrictions and I was hopeful for warmer fall weather
Nick was laying next to me probably thinking:
First night as a fiancée and I already was party planning in my head. Then I put those thoughts to bed because I wanted to be in the moment.
The first concern was, for both of us, is that since both of our families are divorced, a lot of people attending could potentially be "uncomfy" in the presence of others, so we wanted to be mindful of this. In reality, nobody was, but still, my heart was in the right spot. Therefore, I decided not to have a “sit down” or a “buffet” because I didn’t want anyone who felt uncomfortable (between Covid and other situations and so on) to feel like they had to endure a state of anxiousness long enough just to be able to eat. I wanted constant flowing appetizers and bites. So in case anyone wanted to just stop in then dip, they could leave with a happy belly!
THE VENUE SEARCH:
I was searching local venues/breweries/wineries and stumbled across The White Chapel Projects in Long Branch, NJ. I immediately knew, without even seeing the place in person, this was the spot. It’s a restored warehouse turned modern brewery, with this gorgeous brick-walled courtyard without a ceiling, finished with bistro lights. It seemed like the perfect vibe. Even more so and on an honest note, It seemed like it would be very reasonably priced (spoiler alert, boy was I wrong). I knew my mom and stepdad were generously treating us to this party, so I wanted to be hyper-conscious of that.
(photo by: Red Bank Pulse)
They had one date available at the time we called for October, so without my mom or myself seeing the place, we agreed we will secure that date, then soon we will meet with the party managers and tour the venue.
With the green light for a date, I cracked the code for the most inexpensive invites ever.
I designed the invite myself and duplicated it on 1 sheet. Here’s a crappy screen grab for visuals:
2. I sent 20 copies to staples (WHICH I SHOULD HAVE ONLY SENT, LIKE, 12. (The venue max. guest amount was 30-40 people for covid reasons) I didn’t realize most of the invitations were being sent to 1 household that included couples, etc. So learn from my rookie mistake. Regardless, it was only $15 and I had a few extra invites for memories. I took a paper cutter and split the invites, ordered some envelopes in bulk on amazon and we were ready to roll!
THE (FIRST) BUMP IN THE ROAD:
My mom finally secured a time to meet up with the White Chapel’s party manager and everything seemed perfect EXCEPT that this “cute, quaint, inexpensive” event I had in mind turned out to be $100 a head and that was just to feed people. So, of course I felt awful because If we had knew in advance, we probably/maybe would have shopped around a bit more. I mean, those are basically prices for guests attending an actual wedding. And at that point, the invites were already in the mail. Luckily my mom and stepdad just rolled with the punches and said, "it is what it is". They really made it the most special day ever for me and Nick.
Before I even BEGIN this section, I need to shout-out my MOH's mom and brother (who I consider my immediate family). Ann Marie & Michael spent hours upon hours baking from scratch homemade desserts for the most amazing Viennese dessert table. I need to mention, too, that their oven even died out in the process, so they had to migrate to another kitchen to finish the project; they didn't even tell me because they didn't want to worry me! I am still blown away at both their talent and generosity. I love you both!
Luckily, the ambiance of a brick-walled brewery didn't call for much décor. However, there was still some work to be done. Here are a few examples:
When I saw came across a pretzel display, I immediately knew I needed it at our party. Nick was assigned this job and even added a light to incorporate his profession of Electrician into the project. We tested some Reese’s cups on it the night before.
These Centerpieces that (sadly) didn’t stand a chance against the wind that day, in which Sydney and I slaved over:
I printed out like 20 pictures of Nick and I and inserted them into frames from the dollar store. People ended up bringing them home as they thought they were favors; I liked the way that idea turned out! I didn't want to bring home 20 pictures of us, anyway.
Although this event was a DIY kind of project, as you can see, I definitely did not do it alone. Dont be afraid to ask for help! I couldn’t have done it without the help from so many people that I love and who I am so grateful for, I was overwhelmed, in a good way, with those who wanted to be involved. Also, shoutout to the real homies: Dollar Tree, Amazon, Zazzle & Canva.
While at work one day, my mind wandered to the day of my party. I envisioned the day and what it would look like. And that's when I realized, "I should probably have some music." I then pictured myself lugging in a speaker and curating a playlist...but then my mind shifted to a much better idea. Ty Mares played at an engagement party I went to years ago and he also plays frequently at Captain's Inn. He is AMAZING and I knew the last thing the party needed was not just live music, it needed Ty. And now your next party needs him because he was amazing; the songs he played were perfect and he did not miss a beat.
THE DAY OF:
I was so nervous and had no idea how the day would pan out! It was so much fun and was so relieved that the day went so smoothly.
Since the point of an engagement party is mixing and mingling family members and friends, a great common ground to laugh and bond over is a game! My cousin Briana who recently got married asked the day of if we had any games planned. I immediately panicked and didn't even think of it! She immediately thought of something she had done at her engagement party which required basically no planning or props: the shoe game. Her and Audrey grabbed the mic and lead the game, asking questions like, "Who is the worst driver?" I had one of Nick's shoe and he had mine while we each had one of ours and we would hold whoever's shoe based on who we thought related best to the question.
All in all, if you have a while to wait for your wedding, I would definitely recommend having an engagement party! It can be as big or small as you'd like it to be! Go simple or go big, it's up to you.