The Broke Girl’s Guide: Engagement Parties

Over the past few weeks I have been asked to be a bridesmaid and attended an engagement party (I also attended an elopement, but that gets it’s own post), and the wedding stuff just keeps coming! But as I am preparing for my first two weddings “on my own” and not as a part of my family, I’ve been doing a lot of research into what is “acceptable.” Needless to say, all the guidelines I’ve read have been for people with way more money than me, or catering to an older crowd of readers, so I’m here to give you reality according to Rachel–engagement party edition.

Outfits and gift giving. These are the two things that I struggled with most for this engagement party. I absolutely hate to feel under dressed and overdressed can sometimes be bad too. I wanted to make a positive impression on the groom’s family, since I was meeting them for the first time and his fiance is my best friend. So to Pintrest I went to find inspiration for what to wear to this engagement party. All the research I did said dress according to the dress code given on the invite.

Great, no dress code on my invitation.

Without a dress code, I figured the next best thing to do was consider the time of day, venue, and the guests of honor. The party I was attending was for a few hours on a weekend afternoon at a bed and breakfast. Afternoon options allow for less formal, so I went with a step up from a sundress, dress. I felt like my choice of a dress was good, especially since the venue was cute and quaint, but not fancy. Now, the guests of honor was the biggest motivator for my style choice. My best friend who is the bride-to-be is very well-dressed all the time. I figured she’d be in a Lily Pulitzer dress with Jack Rodgers on—and I was pretty much spot on. So my choice of nicer dress with wedges made me feel 100% comfortable, especially standing next to her for photos!


Classic selfie with the bride-to-be!

Now gifts. This is where I’m sure I’m not socially correct, but this is where this 24 year old broke as hell girl stands. I got  the couple a card. That’s it. A beautiful card with a handwritten note. Many of the gifts that they received at the party were cute, not super expensive gifts, including a corny “how to be a good husband/wife” book, couples mugs, and even a vase with their couples monogram. Nothing seemed to be outrageously expensive or lavish, but I want to explain why I opted to go with my card and nothing else.

#1. I drove 3 hours each way to get to this party. I am not bitter about the drive at all, but I spent roughly $50 on gas just to get to the party and back. Had I been less far from home, I would have been more inclined to spend that $50 on a gift rather than gas. I hate the saying “my presence is your gift,” but in this instance it was kind of the case.

#2. I am one of three people who attended their elopement literally a week after this party and this too was a financial commitment since the elopement was in New York City.

Now, do I want you to think that you should punish the bride and groom for having an engagement party (and then elopement) far away from where you live? No, absolutely not! But I do think you need to seriously consider the financial commitment you’re making by traveling to whatever gathering you are and evaluate your gift giving choices accordingly.

Gift giving for engagement parties, what is really “right”?

If I could do things differently, I would have at least purchased a bottle of wine or champagne for them…maybe. I do believe in the heart put into a handmade gift, so that’s also something I would suggest if your budget is tight for an engagement party gift. I will say though, I know that I wasn’t the only guest who showed up without a gift. And those who didn’t bring a gift were also my age. So maybe we just aren’t properly educated about the etiquette of engagement parties? I mean they don’t teach this stuff in college.

No one tells you what is absolutely right or wrong for engagement parties, or anything to do with weddings for that matter, and I don’t think there’s an end all be all answer. But I believe a big part of the decisions you make in regards to wedding-related events is knowing your bride and groom. Obviously, you want to make a good impression on their other family and friends you might be meeting for the first time. Ultimately, though, the party is for the couple so whatever you do, always do it with them in mind.

This wedding saga will continue since I’ve already got two on the books in the next year. I hope this gives all you other broke 20-somethings out there like me with friends who have their shit together and are getting married, a little guide of sorts. The broke girl’s guide to weddings, maybe?

In my own little world,

1 Comment

Leave a Reply