Planning your own engagement party is interesting…
Pros: you have full control over everything. If you’re anything like me, being in control is kinda like “your thing”. When you’re detail oriented, everything matters. Whether it’s deciding on all the important things like the food, drinks, and venue, and all the way to the most seemingly irrelevant little detail like what color chalk to use on the chalkboard sign. I kid you not, all these things mattered to me. So, planning it seemed like a no-brainer.
Cons: you have full control over everything. At first, planning my own engagement party seemed like a great idea. But, in hindsight, having full control of such an important occasion is a lot of responsibility! I remember at one point on the day of the party, we were walking to meet my family for brunch, just a few blocks away from our loft. And then, out of nowhere, I snapped. I nearly had a panic attack because it finally hit me—there was still so much to do and not nearly enough time to do it. I was overwhelmed with stress and anxiety and all I wanted to do was race over to the location of the party and finish everything right then and there. Needless to say, our brunch was relatively brief and involved a lot of mimosas.
Despite the stress of trying to get everything finished, I wouldn’t have been able to get it all put together in time if I didn’t have help. But, if I can give any brides out there a piece of advice it’s to ask for help and delegate tasks to reliable people if you’re planning and throwing your own engagement party! In the end, our engagement party was absolutely magical and Ryan and I both feel so loved, supported, and grateful that so many of our family and friends came to celebrate our engagement!
With that said, I’m so excited to finally share all the details from our elegant backyard engagement party with you!
Click any of the links below to jump to section:
- Venue & location
- Furniture rentals
- Shop our engagement party
Location: A private residence in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego.
When Ryan and I were on the hunt for a place to host our engagement party, we realized that venues are expensive. I’m not even talking about big wedding venues, no, I’m talking about simple venues for hosting small gatherings! Even hosting a private party at a restaurant will cost you an arm and a leg but offer very little wiggle room for personal touches. And when you consider the cost of booking a venue for an engagement party with all the other expenses, it can add up quickly. We reached out to a few different places we thought would be great options for us, but none of them were able to offer what we were looking for within our budget.
In the end, Ryan’s parents were so generous to offer up their home for the party, and boy was that the best decision we ever made! Not only did we save a ton of money on booking a venue, but we were able to maintain full control over every detail—from the date and time it would take place, the layout, the decor, the food and drinks, the flow of the evening, not to mention the privacy! That, above all, was the icing on the cake. Having a backyard engagement party was exactly what we wanted, we just didn’t realize it.
This may just be my opinion, but I think your food choice can really dictate the vibe of your engagement party. For example, Ryan and I really wanted to have an environment that was conducive for meeting new people and sparking quality conversation. Immediately, I ruled out buffet-style. Reason being, whenever I’ve gone to a buffet-style party, there’s always some people eating while others are still standing in line like herding cattle. I much prefer a family style dinner where everyone can sit together, break bread, and enjoy each other’s company. Here’s what we ended up going with.
Appetizers: Charcuterie table
For appetizers, we ended up going with a classic charcuterie table, of course! I personally love charcuterie and know so many of my guests loved it too. One thing I considered when deciding on appetizers was that I wanted people to graze freely. The charcuterie table was a perfect option because it provided enough variety and sustenance to keep everyone happy and satisfied until the main course. If you’ve never made a charcuterie table (or charcuterie board, for that matter), be sure to check out my blog post on how to make the perfect charcuterie board. I actually used my shopping list (included in the post) when I did all the grocery shopping for the charcuterie table. I just multiplied the list by 2 to ensure I had enough food for such a large crowd.
Dinner: Tender Greens
If you’ve never had Tender Greens catering before, let me enlighten you. Their food is AMAZING and their menu includes a variety of different types of chicken, beef, fish, and vegetarian dishes, salads, side dishes like mashed potatoes, rice, seasonal veggies, bread, and more! For us, this was the perfect variety of what I would consider a good ‘ol fashion family-style dinner. Meat, potatoes, salad, veggies, and bread. BOOM. What’s even better is the price! It’s only $12.50 per person for catering. This includes two choices of protein, two sides, and bread served family style. You can also order additional sides a la carte, which we did.
Dessert: Nothing Bundt Cakes Bundtinis
I mean, does this section even need an introduction? I can’t even tell you how much of a hit these little Bundtinis were. So much so, that I, the BRIDE, didn’t even get to enjoy one because they were demolished so quickly! If you’ve never had a Bundtini before, it’s basically a cupcake sized version of a bundt cake. Bundt cakes are super moist and come in a variety of different flavors with delicious cream cheese frosting. What’s great about ordering from Nothing Bundt Cakes, is they come by the dozen and you can essentially “create your own” dozen by selecting from up to 11 different flavors to be included in every order. The fact that the Bundtinis are cupcake sized bundt cakes, it made distributing them a breeze and people can grab them as they please. And for only $25 per dozen, it’s well worth it!
For our engagement party, we decided to go with a variety of beer, wine, hard seltzer, and margaritas! People often wonder how much alcohol to buy for an engagement party. I did! I actually found an alcoholic drink calculator online that helps determine how much you’ll need for a large party depending on the number of guests, how long the party is, what type of alcohol you plan on using, and how much your guests drink, on average. We had approximately 30 guests and this is what we got:
- 25 Sculpin IPA
- 25 Pacifico
- 6 (375 ml) bottles red
- 4 (750 ml) bottles—one red, one white
We made two jugs (6 qt jugs) of homemade margaritas—one was traditional flavor but we had diced jalapeños on the side, and one was a strawberry margarita with fresh strawberries. We used:
- 1 (750 ml) bottles of Kirkland Signature Tequila (used in both mixes)
- 4 bottles of margarita mix
- 24 White Claws
- 2 (650 ml) bottles of Kirkland Signature Vodka (we could have gone without this as none of our guests opted for vodka).
- 1 extra (750 ml) bottle of Kirkland tequila (for shots, duh),
- 24 soda waters
- Tap water
We also had a large drink bucket so guests can grab drinks around the dinner table without having to walk up to the bar.
Rentals: Farm and Fields Events
The minute we decided to have the engagement party at Ryan’s parents backyard, I immediately knew that I wanted the tables to be the focal point of the decor and that rustic farm tables wss the way to go. After a long search online, I came across Farm and Fields Events, located in Ramona. Their collection of table rentals was exactly what I was looking for and the prices were very reasonable considering the competition. What I loved about this place was they deliver the furniture for you (which was a pretty hefty fee, but it’s worth it for what I’m about to tell you). Okay, so the delivery fee is steep but they will drop off your rentals an entire day before your event and pick them up the day after your event! This was HUGE for me because I wanted to set as much of the party up the night before and, obviously, didn’t want to rush through the party in order to meet a pick up deadline. My experience with Farm and Table Events couldn’t have been any better! The total cost of the tables with the delivery fee was more than we were hoping to pay, but in the end it was well worth it for the quality, service, and aesthetic we were going for. For approximately 30 guests, we ordered:
- 4 Traditional Farm Tables (with 2 benches per table)
- 3 Farm Style Cocktail Tables
The decorations were definitely the biggest time-consumer when planning this party! In the end, it’s all about the details, so naturally, there were a lot of decorations. We were definitely going for more of a neutral color scheme so I stuck to white and gold. Mostly everything I ordered was on Amazon, believe it or not, and a few additional items I found at Target. Here is a list of everything I ordered and ill link everything at the end of the post:
- Table centerpieces
- Dinner table centerpieces
- Cocktail table centerpieces
- Table settings
- Signs & photos
- Photo backdrop—I think I may have to do an entire blog post on the photo backdrop because Ryan built it! Stay tuned for the step-by-step tutorial on how he built the frame for under $10!
If you’re planning or hosting an engagement party, trust me when I say to HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER! I can’t tell you how happy we are that decided to hire a professional to document our special day. When you’re hosting a large party, the last thing you want to do is not be present and enjoy yourself because you’re trying to document everything. And you also don’t want to be so caught up in your party that you forget to document anything at all. Both options are terrible if you ask me. The best way to ensure that not only are you and your guests are spending quality time together and are enjoying yourselves, but also have photos and memories of that night that you will cherish forever, is to hire a photographer.
My good friend Alexis is an amazing photographer so it was a no-brainer to ask her to shoot our engagement party! If you’re looking for a talented photographer who is super easy to work with, you should definitely hire her! Not to mention, she’s just as sweet as can be! For inquiries, you can visit her website or her social media to contact her.
Now, if you’ve ever attended a party of mine before, you know it isn’t a party unless a game is played! So, in true Liz fashion, we played a game. We ended up going with The Wedding Shoe Game that would be played after dinner. Here’s how you play.
Each party guest is given a paper with a list of different scenarios/behaviors. Beside each scenario is an option for them to circle either “Bride” or “Groom”. Now, depending on the scenario listed, they circle who they think that scenario applies to.
Here’s where it gets interesting. After everyone has circled their guesses, the Bride and Groom sit in two chairs facing back-to-back while each holding one of their shoes and the other’s shoe, and vice versa. The host of the game will then read each scenario out loud and the Bride and Groom will lift the shoe of the person they think that scenario best applies between the two of them. For example, if the scenario is “who initiated the first kiss?”, both Ryan and I would hold up his shoe. But, for whatever reason the Bride and Groom disagree and their responses don’t match, the question is a wash. For example, if the scenario was “who is the messiest?”, and we each chose each other, the question isn’t eligible for any points. At the end of the game, the guest with the most points wins a prize! For us, we gifted our top two winners with a nice bottle of red wine.
I found this pre-made Wedding Shoe Game printout on Etsy for just a few dollars which was super helpful because it saved me a bunch of time. It’s a digital download for the template and you just need to print them.