Celebration Occasion: What is the purpose of an engagement party and are gifts expected?

Q: What is the purpose of an engagement party?  Are invited guests expected to bring a gift to the engagement party?



A: The purpose of an engagement party is to celebrate the couple’s engagement.  An engagement present is not a requirement.  Particularly if you are going to a large party, gifts are not expected, although lately, many people believe a gift is expected so more gifts are being taken, even though they aren’t required.  If you are invited to a small dinner party or other intimate gathering in honor of an engagement, then those invited are presumed to be very close and would likely take a gift.


  1. bride

    My fiance and I are having an intimate destination wedding with close family and friends. My soon to be in-laws would like to host a party in our honor to announce our engagement for people not invited to the wedding. Is there a way to have a party and not call it an engagement party or shower? I would want to put a note on the invitation for the party about not bringing gifts. Is this inappropriate? Thank you –

    • Jody

      Congratulations on your wedding. Maybe your new in-laws could just call it a party — not mentioning the engagement or wedding — and if anybody asks the reason they could say it’s so all their friends can meet their soon-to-be daughter-in-law. I do agree that “no gifts” should not be put on the invitation, but if people ask your in-laws can tell them “no gifts” at that time. If the invitation just references a regular party it should lessen the chances that people will think they need to bring a gift.

      I think David is missing a major point here — you’re not planning the party, your future in-laws are. You’re intentionally keeping your wedding small and limiting it to close family and friends. I applaud you for doing the kind of wedding you want and can afford.

      • Alicia

        If you ask your in laws to do it post wedding then you avoid hurt feelings.
        A prewedding party is generally only for those invited to the wedding.
        I agree in calling it just a party with then maybe a toast to the two of you

      • Bride

        Thank you, Jody. We are both in our early 30s, this is the 4th wedding in my fiance’s family, and his parents are in their early 70s. Since it is a destination wedding, his parents don’t want their friends to feel obligated to make the trip when they’ve already attended 3 other weddings. It’s a bit of a tricky situation!

        The idea to have the party after the wedding might solve the problem.

        Thank you!

  2. David

    A no-gift statement on any invitation is usually frowned upon, though it has become more common, however tasteless. Let the no-gift request spread word of mouth, if you’d rather.
    What puzzles me is that you are planning a party for people not worthy of a wedding invitation. If you decide to print the invitations with a no-gifts request, you may as well include the equally tasteless “You won’t be invited to the wedding.”

  3. Kathy

    My daughter is getting married out of state. She sent STD cards to those living in her area and a few friends and family in our state. We are hosting a reception for her later in the month. My sister would like to host a shower for those relatives and other women (not invited to the wedding but will be for the reception later in the month). Do we send the reception invites to the local women before the shower so they know they are invited to the reception?

    • Alicia

      Only those invited to the wedding should be invited to the shower. Those not invited to the wedding only the later party should not be invited to a shower anyway.

    • Elizabeth

      Yes, Alicia is correct that one is not invited to a shower if one is not invited to the wedding. I can see how you might feel that the reception is a kind of substitute for the wedding. However, I don’t think it is. It would probably be best for the bride’s sister not to hold a “shower” if the majority of the prospective guests are not invited to the wedding. However she might hold a different kind of event, one that does not come with the expectations of gift-giving. One could call it a “bridal tea” or “bridal luncheon”.

    • Lori C

      I am presuming there will be a reception after your daughter’s wedding. I am also presuming you are hosting a second reception for your daughter and her husband later in the same month after they are married.

      You cannot invite people to a wedding shower or second reception if they are not invited to the wedding. If these friends and relatives don’t make the cut to be invited to the wedding, you would not invite them to a wedding shower or the second reception. The second reception invitation list should only include the people unable to attend the wedding. A second reception is not held for people NOT invited to the wedding.

      • Elizabeth

        The topic of the “second reception” has been debated here in the past. The consensus seems to have been more about nomenclature than the actual event. A “reception” is indeed something that happens after a wedding, so to call a second event, a month later and in a different location, a “Reception” is not correct. However, it is perfectly fine to have an event that is reception-like (let’s call it a “party” to introduce the new couple) for people that were not invited to the wedding. These most often take place because of distance or speed–the wedding takes place elsewhere or had to happen very quickly (as is the case with some military weddings), but there’s still a small hometown full of people eager to receive the couple. It is not inappropriate to have a party in this case, though many will argue to avoid calling it a reception.

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