Though our mainstay is and will always be weddings around here, we love celebrating the parties that come along with nuptials, too. After all, one of the best things about being engaged is that, between engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette adventures, crafternoons, and bridesmaid luncheons, there is no shortage of excuses to get together with loved ones. Just a few small details and a little careful planning can elevate a backyard get-together into a memorable celebration, as reader Meredith is demonstrating today! She and her husband threw an engagement party for his sister, and she kindly shared a few photos and tips to inspire your own wedding season celebrations.
We threw a backyard engagement party for my husband’s sister, Marielle. Marielle and Chris were recently engaged and we wanted to celebrate with family and friends in a big local party, since their wedding will be at the beach next year. We had lots of Southern garden party foods, like pimento cheese sandwiches, cucumber tea sandwiches, mac and cheese cups, and glazed ham biscuits. For drinks, I set up dispensers with lemonade, cucumber water, and sangria. A mimosa bar with an assortment of fresh juices and fruit was also available for guests to make their own concoctions. We had tables and chairs on the grass and lawn games to keep everyone entertained. There were some pretty competitive games of cornhole and giant Jenga! It was a fun afternoon of celebrating Marielle and Chris’ upcoming wedding! Here are a few tips I’d love to share from this experience:
1. Use what you have. When you start planning an event of any size, the first few decisions that you make will really influence the design and direction for the party. Once you know what kind of event you’re hosting, think of ways that you can use things you already have. Whether this is a big backyard space to host the party, like we did, tables and chairs you could borrow from family, cake stands or mason jars from your personal collection, or even friends that play in a band to provide entertainment, anything that you already have or can borrow will make life easier later.
2. Prioritize something. Pinterest is amazing for inspiration, but way too often it can be overwhelming when planning an event. Pin all of those gorgeous images as inspiration, but be sure to be realistic and don’t take on more projects than you can handle. Pick something to prioritize, too. Maybe you’re throwing a casual BBQ but you want to have an awesome dessert table set-up. Go for it! I find that it’s easier, especially during the planning phase, to pick a few projects I want to focus on, and keep everything else simple. For this engagement party, I wanted the atmosphere to be casual, bright and fun. Adding the fabric backdrop on our deck really added a lot to the ambiance. I also love flowers, so I really wanted the blooms to be bold and beautiful. I spent time picking flowers from local markets and had coral peonies delivered for use with my collection of vintage blue mason jars.
3. Know what to hire out. If cooking and baking for a bunch of guests isn’t your thing, don’t take it on for the party. Catering will save you time and energy that you can devote to other things. Enlist family or friends to help, if you can, but know your limitations. Maybe you’re into graphic design and you can design an invitation and logo or accessories for the party. If not, there are plenty of people on Etsy that will do it all for you! For this party, I set up a fun dessert table with a gorgeous cake from a local bakery and an assortment of homemade sweets that we made.
4. Choose your DIY projects. Save money and get crafty! One thing I loved about having the party in our backyard was that I had access to the space whenever I wanted. That meant that I could start projects as early as I wanted and I could start visualizing everything in advance. String up lights and streamers, make that cupcake display you saw on Pinterest, make those stir sticks for the cocktails. All of those details are sure to be appreciated by your guests! Personalization really takes everything the extra mile. I know our guests were really excited and impressed by all the little details that we worked on in advance! I loved the personalized stadium cups that I designed and had printed for the party, plus they served as favors and a save the date reminder for the wedding!
5. Be flexible. The biggest key to planning any party, or even wedding, is to be flexible. Don’t freak out if something has to change last minute. If the weather is bad, make a new plan and move on! Dwelling on what could have been won’t make you feel good and will make it harder to solve problems as they come up.