Newly engaged and planning an engagement party on a budget? Is the cost of wedding planning overwhelming you? Consider these money-saving ideas for a party that'll provide all the fun but won’t break the bank.
The best part about being engaged (read about my fiancé's sweet proposal!) is all the celebration. After Lawrence and I got engaged in November, I pretty much went straight into engagement party planning mode. And we ended up having two parties, but that's a story for another day!
While we wanted to celebrating our upcoming nuptials with our family and closest friends, Lawrence and I didn’t want to blow a big portion of our wedding budget on a party that was happening more than a year before the wedding.
In my many hours (and hours!) of Googling about all things weddings and parties, the No. 1 thing I’ve seen come up is budget. Many wedding-related services are way overpriced. I’m a researcher at heart, so figured I’d share my many hours of looking into option after option. Hey, if this info helps anyone, I’m happy to share.
We're also grateful that Lawrence's parents helped us with the catering. And while we definitely didn't expect anyone to bring anything, we were most appreciative when friends helped out with the appetizers and booze.
So here’s how we hosted an engagement party on a budget, for less than $600.
Cake and cupcakes
Cake is the most important part of a party, right?! So I'll start here. Back when we were considering a local wedding, I found a great deal: You can buy a three-tier wedding cake at Sam’s Club for just $60. This got me thinking that the store’s bakery must sell two-tier cakes, as well. I placed an order for one, for just $40, then bought a "future Mr. and Mrs." cake topper on Amazon.
My sister is gluten-free, so I wanted to have something for her, and I picked up two dozen gluten-free cupcakes from Trader Joe's for $8.
We have a Party City pretty close by, so that’s where I headed to buy decorations. I bought an “Always & Forever” banner, wedding-themed confetti, and glitzy diamond ring cupcake toppers (although I stuck most of the toppers in the cheese platter!). Our friend Tara gifted us a matching hanging decoration with hearts and engagement rings. I also love this "Forever & Always" banner, diamond ring confetti, and pink-and-diamond cupcake toppers from Amazon.
Awhile back, Lawrence had gifted me a framed chalkboard that hangs in our kitchen, along with a set of chalkboard markers. We'd also recently purchased an adhesive chalkboard to use as a grocery shopping list in our kitchen because the front of our fridge is not magnetic. (Oy!) These two chalkboards were perfect to use for custom art at our party.
I found cute “Love Always & Forever” cocktail and dinner napkins at Party City (Amazon sells the same design). Of course, these napkins are much pricier than plain napkins, so I bought plain pink napkins to add to the stack. You can find similar cocktail napkins and dinner napkins on Amazon.
For plates, I knew we already had a giant stack of white paper dinner plates from Costco, so I bought a 50 pack of paper cake plates from Party City to match. I can’t help but seek out deals, so I headed to Big Lots next and bought a giant pack of plasticware for just $8. And score! I found plastic pink cups on sale for just $3 for a pack of 50. I put out paper straws I'd previously purchased to make everything more colorful.
The morning of the party, we took a drive over to Sam’s Club to pick up the cake, as well as a fruit-and-cheese platter, crackers, and a crudité platter. I'd already purchased gluten-free crackers from Trader Joe's.
At the Dollar Tree, I also found a fab "Love" sign, such a find for our budget engagement party, that I placed on the appetizer table. And because I love to get crafty, I also made a collage name sign for Lawrence and I, as well as a "Love is sweet" sign to go with the engagement favors. I used paper and stickers I already had to make these. To frame the signs, I bought one gold frame on sale at Michael's and another frame from the dollar store.
The food was a big consideration of hosting an engagement party on a budget, because food can quickly make or break your budget. I spent hours researching local catering options. I’m never striving for perfection; I just really enjoy investigating things and also love finding a good (and tasty!) deal. We’d considered renting out a local hall or having our party at a restaurant. But being in the midst of planning our wedding, we didn’t have it in us to plan another party with so many logistical pieces.
After a good amount of searching, Lawrence and I all of a sudden thought of a local restaurant we enjoy eating at. Our neighborhood has a lot of amazingly delicious and authentic Dominican food, and we figured we might as well embrace this for our party.
So one Sunday afternoon, we headed to the restaurant for lunch and placed an order as we were finishing up. We had about two dozen people RSVP’d, plus a few maybes, so we ordered for 30 people just to be safe. On the menu: salad, rice and beans, grilled chicken, grilled pork, plantains, cheese empanadas, and guava-and-cheese empanadas.
The afternoon of the party, the restaurant called to let us know they were out of plantains and asked if it was OK to substitute yuca. We ordered the yuca but also ended up getting plantains from another local restaurant.
Even though we got a good price for catering, this is the one area where we realize we could have seriously scaled back. Even though we ordered food for 30 people, the food that arrived was more like food for 60 and we sent many of our guests home with leftovers!
We’d already been gifted a “He asked, she said yes” picture frame, and I figured this would serve as one decoration. I wanted to put up additional photos of us and the friends and family who'd be at the party. With a Snapfish coupon code I found, I ordered 99 prints for a little less than $8. I hung these on a mantel, with an arrangement I'd set up around the holidays for displaying cards, with ribbon from a craft store and mini clothespins.
Booze and drinks
We have a pretty extensive wine collection, and we were lucky enough to receive six bottles of sparkling wine as an engagement present. So we served these bottles at our party, along with a couple of dozen bottles of beer and cider we had on hand from a previous party. We also put out bottles of soda we’d never opened at a previous party, as well as our large supply of liquor. We headed to the neighborhood bodega to buy a bag of ice to keep everything cool.
I like to serve flavored water, so I picked up lemons and limes and filled a mason jar drink dispenser with citrus water.
Of course, favors are optional. But they’re such a fun touch, make people feel loved, and can cost very little. I made these DIY engagement favors for about $15 for 25 favors.
We proposed to our wedding party at our engagement party! Check out my ideas for what to put in a bridesmaid box and a maid of honor box, as well as groomsmen proposal ideas and an awesome will-you-be-my-best-man gift.
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