Engagement parties are a wonderful celebration and a great place to show off your style, but what to wear to an engagement party can feel like a bit of a minefield.
Weddings place a lot of stress on the outfits, both for the happy couple and for guests, and the pre-wedding events are no different. With dress codes ranging from cocktail to beach to white to casual, it can be a challenge to fit the dress code and look stylish at the same time.
Depending on the engagement party, you could go for a dressed-up cardigan, a classic grey suit or jeans and a blazer. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to engagement party style, as long as you feel comfortable and confident, and respect the wishes of the happy couple. However cryptic the dress code might seem, we’ve got you covered.
Casual Engagement Party Outfits
More and more couples are choosing to have more casual engagement parties and save the formal wear for the wedding. But it’s vital to remember that this is an important event in the couple’s lives, so make sure you dress with respect to that.
Casual for an engagement party definitely doesn’t mean a hoodie and a baggy t-shirt. You can wear jeans or chinos, but dress it up with a button-up shirt or a t-shirt and blazer combo. Accessorising well is key to any casual outfit, but particularly for an event like an engagement party. If you feel like you’re too casual, don’t be afraid to dress it up with a casual waistcoat, a necklace, or even a hat if it’s outdoors (think wide-brimmed pork pie hat, not a baseball cap).
Similarly, shoes are an easy way to dress an outfit up or down. If you’re wearing a more tailored look, wear a sleek pair of white trainers to balance it out. Alternatively, if you’ve chosen more casual jeans and a t-shirt, think about a pair of deck shoes or brogues to dress it up.
If you’re still not sure what to wear for an engagement party with a casual dress code, speak to people in the wedding party or one of your close friends that is also attending. That way, you can be confident that you’ll fit in with the other guests.
Mastering Smart Casual
Smart casual is a notoriously unclear dress code with wild variations on what is expected of you. Engagement party smart casual is no different. However, in many ways this makes it easier to mould to your personal style. If you want to wear a suit, keep it on the casual side. Avoid wearing a tie or bow-tie, as this will look too formal. Choose a shirt you might not wear to the office – something in a fun print or colour, or something short-sleeved are always great options.
We suggest you take pieces from a suit and pair it with more casual pieces for the perfect smart-casual balance. For example, if it’s hot, wear your suit trousers with a button up shirt but no blazer or jumper. Keep the neck open and consider wearing a necklace as a stylish extra detail. If it’s cooler, opt for a shirt and tie with a jumper over the top. This can be styled either with smart jeans or tailored trousers, and a trusty pair of chelsea boots or desert boots.
First and foremost, make sure to match your outfit to the venue. If the engagement party is on a beach, dress shoes are a fashion choice you will certainly regret. Instead, wear white linen pieces and boat shoes that will look chic in that environment. If it’s a more formal environment, wear a pair of monk shoes or your favourite wingtip brogues.
The Cocktail Party
Cocktail parties are probably the most common format of an engagement party. It will often be hosted at a venue, such as a restaurant, country house or hall. If there is a dress code on the invitation, it will likely be ‘smart’, ‘semi-formal’ or (unhelpfully) just have ‘cocktail party’ as the dress code. While it’s simpler for women, many of whom have an engagement party dress for these occasions, for men it’s a little less clear.
The best strategy is to dress according to the venue and the season. Cocktail engagement parties always call for a suit, but it’s not the wedding, so you can opt to not wear a tie if you like. If you feel like a shirt and suit isn’t quite formal enough, think about accessorising with a statement pocket square to elevate the outfit.
We all know you can’t wear white to a wedding, but this doesn’t apply to engagement parties – particularly for men. If it’s a summer engagement party, an outfit that’s lighter in colour is perfect. Think about a white linen suit or simply a blazer in a pale blue or lilac. If you’re wearing a coloured blazer, you can choose black, navy or grey trousers if you’re worried about your outfit being too loud. This look can be made bolder and more fun with a patterned blazer. Florals in summer are always a great choice.
If it’s an autumn or winter wedding, you can wear a darker coloured suit. But remember, above all an engagement party is a celebration, so keep your look fun and add a pop of colour.
A Party With A Theme
It’s becoming more and more common for couples to have a themed engagement party. They’re a way for people to get creative and save the formal dress for the wedding, and make the night really memorable. If there’s a theme, it will definitely be mentioned on the invite, so make sure you have a close read of what the couple want. While themed dress can get more complicated it’s also a great opportunity to get creative and wear something you wouldn’t usually go for.
Many couples stick to a simple theme to make it easier for guests. Themes such as wear white, which has become a common one, are pretty straightforward. Just wear white! Some themes are a little more complicated, like the roaring twenties, winter wonderland or even a glitter theme! For some more complex themes, pop into your local fancy dress shop and get something that fits. But with many themes, you can dress up clothes you already own to fit into the theme. For example, with a roaring twenties theme, you can pick up some patterned braces and a trilby, and suddenly your favourite suit screams Great Gatsby.
There is only one rule for themed engagement parties: respect the theme. Some men aren’t fancy dress fans, which is absolutely fine, but if it’s what the couple wants you have to respect that. So give it a go – who knows, you might even have fun with it!
Dress Code: Unspecified
Many couples now choose not to set a specific dress code for their engagement party. Or, they’ll say something like ‘Be Yourself!’. While it’s admirable that couples want their guests to feel comfortable and not be constrained in their choice of outfit, this can also make it difficult to know where to start. Many women will simply wear their favourite party dress, it can be more difficult for men trying to find the balance between too casual and too formal. As we’ve said, there are a few contextual cues you can use to make sure you’re in the right ballpark.
First is the venue. Different venues for an engagement party imply different levels of formality. The most casual venues are backyards, pubs or someone’s home. For these locations, you can err on the casual side and wear jeans with an Oxford shirt or a chic jumper. If it’s outdoors, dress according to that as well. Wear a pair of tailored shorts with a white shirt, or trousers that have a more relaxed fit. Venues on the more formal side are posh restaurants, country manors or estates, or halls. If it’s a sit-down dinner, rather than a traditional engagement party, it’s likely to be on the more formal side, so dress in line with that.
Second is the couple. If you’re invited to the engagement party, likelihood is you know at least one person in the couple fairly well. What are they like? Do they enjoy getting dressed up to the nines, or are they a more laid back person? Do they come from a very traditional family or do they like putting their own spin on things? The engagement party is about the couple first and foremost, and is likely to be a reflection of their tastes and personality. If you’re not that close to the couple, speak to their close friends or people you do know well that can give you some direction on what’s likely to be expected of you in terms of how you dress.
Finally is the weather and time of year. No matter the occasion, the weather always partially influences how we dress. As we’ve mentioned, if the engagement party is in the summer or a hot time of year, people tend to dress slightly more relaxed as that’s more comfortable. Wear pastel colours or white and go for a look that’s appropriate to the weather. If it’s a winter party, layer up! Get a close knit jumper or cardigan to wear with your suit. Or accessorise with a coloured scarf or hat.
The Perfect Engagement Party Outfit
The key to the perfect outfit for any engagement party is context. Think about the venue, the season and what the couple are generally like. If it’s a smarter venue, dress smarter to match. Engagement parties hosted at home, at a pub or in a garden are likely to be more casual. The heat of summer calls for suits in lighter colours and fabrics, so think about finding one in linen. Whereas winter engagement parties allow for dressed up jumpers and cardigans.
No matter the dress code, think about colours and accessories wisely. It’s a celebration after all, so try to add a pop of colour to your engagement party outfit. Above all else, make sure you feel confident and comfortable, and you’ll look great.
Feature image: @crystalxshaw via Unsplash