As you may very well know, an engagement party is a celebration of your or a friend’s recent commitment to marriage. But what exactly do you wear to such an event? Well, it depends on the person hosting the engagement party and their particular dress code preferences. We compiled this guide to help you navigate the process of finding the perfect outfit so that you can worry less about what you’re wearing and more about enjoying yourself at your bestie’s pre-wedding festivities.
To start with, we should go over some basic information about who gets invited to engagement parties, who hosts them and what kind of dress code goes along with these types of events. This will help determine which outfit route is best for you: conservative or casual? Let’s dive in!
The short answer: It depends on the formality of the party.
When you receive an invitation to an engagement party, pay attention to the details. If you’re going to wear a dress to the party, be sure that it fits with the theme of the event.
The short answer: It depends on the formality of the party. Note whether it’s listed as black-tie or semi-formal and err on the side of being overdressed even if it’s not listed as formal. The same goes for weddings where no dress code is indicated: skip cocktail attire when in doubt and go with a floor-length gown (if you’re comfortable wearing one).
If this is a fancy affair, dress for a wedding.
You might have heard an engagement party described as a “mini wedding.” While this can be true in some cases, it’s important to remember that not all engagement parties are black-tie affairs. Think of an engagement party as an occasion that calls for a fun but slightly more subdued dress than one you’d wear to an actual wedding.
If the invitation explicitly says “black-tie,” or something similar, then by all means wear your fanciest frock! If the event is less formal, however, you probably do not need to go full-on gown—instead look for a cocktail dress or short dress that’s equal parts festive and classy. Make sure your hemline is long enough so you’re comfortable sitting down and dancing without flashing anyone (a good rule of thumb: if you’re having trouble walking in the dress because it’s so tight or short—choose something else).
Or if you’re going to the venue of the couple’s wedding, take cues from them.
You can also look at the wedding venue if you know where it will be held to get a sense of what kind of attire is appropriate. For example, if it’s going to be in a backyard, you can probably dress a little more casually than if it were going to be in an elegant ballroom.
Wear something that feels festive without being too over-the-top.
You’ll want to wear something that feels festive, but not too over-the-top. For example, you don’t want to wear something you’d wear to a wedding—but you also don’t want to look like you just came from work.
It’s best to think of an engagement party as a dress rehearsal for the wedding. This means that your outfit should lean slightly more formal than what’s typically optional for a wedding (like if it’s city hall, or super casual), and slightly less formal than what would most definitely be required for the actual event (like if it’s black tie).
Dresses tend to be the easiest way to navigate this tricky middle ground. If you’re looking at dresses that are actually tight or strapless, they’re probably going to be too much on the cocktail side of things. A-line dresses tend to work really well.
Focus on dresses that aren’t super-tight or strapless.
Unless the engagement party is a black-tie affair, you should avoid anything that’s too formal. Keep your dress shape classic and your silhouette modest. Avoid dresses that are super-tight or strapless. You may be engaged, but this is not your night to shine.
Shift dresses and A-line silhouettes tend to work really well for engagement parties.
As far as dress choice, consider the theme or location of the party. If you’re going to an engagement party with a beach theme, then you can get away with wearing something less formal. But if it’s being held at a restaurant or inside someone’s house, stick with a dress that’s more formal than what you’d wear to a dinner party, but not as formal as what you’d wear to a wedding.
A black and white outfit is always appropriate for an engagement party. However, don’t go overboard on the black if you want to show that this is an occasion for celebration. A nice shift dress is perfect for any engagement reception where drinks will be served and dancing might occur later in the evening. Your fiancé should be dressed in something that complements your outfit—for example, if you’re wearing a black lace cocktail dress then he should also be dressed formally in slacks and button-down shirt or dark suit jacket and trousers.
Avoid anything too revealing or colorful unless it’s mentioned in advance that guests are invited to wear “creative” outfits (which tends to mean some kind of costume). Also avoid high heels unless they have rubber soles so you won’t slip on any dance floor tiles (if there even is one).
Engagement parties are traditionally only attended by close friends and family members of the couple who will be getting married soon after the engagement has been announced (although some couples choose not to have either type of pre-wedding event).
For an outdoor summer bash, try a sundress or polka dot number (which have never gone out of style).
In the warmer months, you can’t go wrong in a sundress. The summery number is an elegant option for any daytime, outdoor engagement party.
For an extra playful touch, throw on a polka dot outfit. The spots are classic and chic all at once—and it’s never been easier to wear them since they’ve come back in full force this season. Try pairing a polka dot dress with strappy sandals and a belt to accentuate your waistline. You can also break up the print by throwing on a plain tank or blouse underneath your favorite midi or maxi skirt or culottes.
But when it comes to color and pattern, it’s all about what you feel your best in!
When it comes to choosing colors and patterns for your outfit, the best thing is to pick something that you feel your most confident in. This may be a simple solid (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but if you’re feeling like letting your fashion flag fly, why not try stripes or a floral pattern? A bold color will make sure all eyes are on you when you enter the room.
A great rule of thumb for an engagement party is to wear colors and patterns that flatter your skin tone while also accentuating what makes you unique and fabulous. If it’s a formal event, try wearing something less traditional than the usual shades of black or white, such as deep reds or burnt oranges. You can even opt for animal prints if they’re done tastefully! Just remember: when in doubt, go with whatever makes you feel good about yourself—and will allow everyone else at the party see just how amazing of a person are!
Opt for black accessories, like a pair of heels and a clutch, as opposed to navy so you don’t steal the bride’s thunder.
Black accessories are a safer bet for an engagement party than navy, which can blend in with the bride’s ensemble if she wears blue. Opt for a pair of black shoes and a clutch so you don’t steal the spotlight from her, even if it is subconsciously.
Think of an engagement party as an occasion that calls for a fun but slightly more subdued dress than one you’d wear to an actual wedding.
The engagement party is a celebration of the love between two people and also a good excuse to show off your outfit. If you’re going with an LBD (little black dress), try to find one that has some texture or detailing that sets it apart from cocktail attire for other occasions.
Pro tip: if you want to bring some added depth and texture to your look, try layering your necklaces. The daintiness of layering several different delicate chains will bring balance and add feminine dimension to your ensemble.
So you’re ready to party! Whether you choose a flirty cocktail dress, a sleek jumpsuit, or a chic romper is up to you. The important thing is that your outfit’s style and its fit are the best they can be. With the right dress, you’ll feel like the belle of the ball at your engagement party.