Forget weddings, some couples are throwing lavish engagement parties

Manpreet Kooner and Sagar Modi's engagement party last summer had 250 guests. Courtesy of Manpreet Kooner

Forget planning a wedding, some couples are turning the age-old tradition of throwing engagement parties into a modern, and sometimes pricey, affair.

Wedding planner Rebecca Chan of Toronto says couples and their families typically like to throw these parties to announce the intent to get married. In some cultures, there can also be religious aspects of getting engaged.

“It’s a nice excuse to see the ones you love and share the good news in person. It’s also a great chance to formally introduce your families to each other if they haven’t met yet,” she tells Global News.

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Traditionally, Chan adds, the bride’s parents would host the engagement party, but these days, both families get involved.

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“If you have close family and friends willing to throw the party for you, you should graciously accept and enjoy the celebration. Among the many events along the way to the wedding, this is the first.”

Family affair

Manpreet Kooner and her fiancé Sagar Modi. Courtesy of Manpreet Kooner

And for couples who do throw large engagement parties, it’s often about a union between two families. This was the case for Manpreet Kooner, a 30-year-old bride-to-be from Montreal who got engaged in August 2016.

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“For us this was following the tradition in both our families. We exchanged gifts between the families at the party,” she tells Global News.

Courtesy: Manpreet Kooner

Kooner’s and her fiancé Sagar Modi’s budget was $20,000, and the guest list included 250 close family and friends. And because they are having a destination wedding later this year, an engagement party in their hometown was a way to celebrate with those who couldn’t attend.

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The decor at Kooner and Modi’s engagement party. Courtesy of Manpreet Kooner

Planning an engagement party

Sharon Rai of Toronto is currently in the midst of planning an engagement party for 300 to 350 people in November. The 26-year-old of Mississauga, Ont., said her and her fiancé’s parents were adamant about throwing a party.

“It means a lot to them,” she tells Global News. “It also allows family from out-of-town to have an excuse to come stay with us and celebrate the occasion.”

Sharon Rai and her fiancé Gurbaz Sidhu. Courtesy of Sharon Rai

Working with a budget of $8,000 (she says it can easily exceed $10,000), her engagement party will include a DJ, videographer, decor and an open bar. Rai is paying for half of the party and her fiancé’s parents are also pitching in.

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Parties are getting more lavish

In Chan’s experience, half of the couples she works with throw engagement parties and many of them throw lavish ones.

Rai says while engagement parties have been a custom in her South Asian family for a long time, these days they are getting more lavish.

Couples will hire live performances, offer guest favours, include personalized Snapchat filters, concept videos and wear designer outfits to their parties — mimicking full-blown weddings and receptions.

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“Engagements I attended five years ago were much simpler — simple centrepieces, a simple stage with a love seat and some drapery for a backdrop and usually no favours, performances, or professional photographers,” she says.

Jennifer Lewis of Toronto on the other hand is planning for something quite smaller. And Kooner says in her friend circle in particular, some couples are only throwing small dinners for family and friends.

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For Lewis’ August engagement party with a guest list of 30 people, she says the goal is to have a night for family and friends to hang out.

“It’s an exciting time, and we’d love a fun, but laid back celebration to kick-off the wedding excitement leading up over the next year. It’s also a great way for our bridal party to get to know each other,” she tells Global News.

Should guests bring gifts?

Chan says it is not customary to bring a gift to an engagement party.

“Some guests might want to bring something if it is a formal event… it is a party after all and it’s natural to want to not come empty-handed,” she says. “It’s a good idea to start a preliminary gift registry in case anyone feels inclined to give something.”

Rai says there is no gift-giving policy at her engagement party, but often, guests will give monetary gifts. At Kooner’s engagement party, all of her guests gave cash.

The role of social media

And for brides-to-be like Rai, social media can be quite the pressure. She often sees couples creating hashtags, custom Instagram accounts and posting professional photos before their actual wedding date. It has become less about the intimacy of the wedding and more about throwing grand affairs.

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“It’s not a bad or good thing, it just depends on what couples want,” Rai says. “Engagements are bigger than they once used to be [especially after] social media came along.”

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Either way, Chan says just like planning a wedding or any other social party, enjoy the time you have engaged.

“You are in celebration mode from now until the wedding day and it only comes once. If there is any family tension, now is a great time to address it or bring in a wedding planner who isn’t emotionally involved to help with planning.”

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