Congratulations, you're engaged! At this time, when happiness and romance are in the air, why not throw a party and celebrate with the people you love?

An engagement party is the first of the pre-wedding celebrations. It's a great way to have fun before the flurry of planning begins, and it's also the perfect opportunity for close friends and family to get better acquainted.

Perfect planning

Engagement parties are generally more laid-back than other wedding-related events, however, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when organising the festivities. You thought coming up with proposal ideas was the hard part! Now that you're engaged you need to come up with engagement party ideas.

Ideally, the party is held one to three months after you become engaged and at least six months before the wedding. Tradition says one or both sets of the couple's parents host the event, however anyone can throw a party in the couple's honour, even the couple themselves!

Usually the guest list includes close family and friends who will be at the wedding, and gifts are definitely not expected. As far as planned activities go, you'll want to formally announce the engagement but you may also want to include other fun things such as telling the proposal story or anecdotes (first meeting, first date) and toasts.

Time to party

Whether it's a relaxed barbecue or formal restaurant dinner, the engagement party you plan will depend on your personal style and budget – remember, it shouldn't be the first in a long line of big expenses leading up to your wedding. Elaborate decorations, venue rental and hired musicians are not a requirement, and often a well-chosen location, appropriate food and fun entertainment are a great way to celebrate your new status.

Think about the style of party that would suit you and your family, and get creative. Here are some ideas for themes to get you started…

Cocktail party – Easy to organise and always a lot of fun, cocktail parties are a popular choice for an engagement soiree. Have guests bring their favourite bottle of liquor and you could concoct on drink and name it after yourselves.

Don't forget to offer some delicious virgin drinks as well as simple appetizers.

Outdoor extravaganza – Celebrate in a romantic outdoor setting such as a local park or in your own garden. Enjoy an afternoon tea in the sun, a barbecue, or lay down rugs and watch the sun set with bubbly and nibbles. Alternatively, relax at a beach or pool party, or if you're adventurous, get your friends together and take a trip to an amusement park, sports event, or see a romantic movie.

Theme party – If there is something you are both passionate about – it may be Elvis, the beach, St Valentine's Day, a time period, or a particular country – centre the party around it and make it your theme. You could include special food, decorations, costumes and activities to make it a truly memorable event that will have people excitedly anticipating your wedding day.

Wine-tasting party – For a fun and slightly more formal gathering, have a variety of different wines and champagnes available to tantalise your taste buds. It's a great way to choose your wedding wine, and if you're feeling extravagant, announce your engagement via personalised wine labels! Serve with plenty of tasty snacks.

Intimate affair – A traditional sit-down dinner is a popular way to formally announce your engagement. Go to your favourite restaurant, or host it in somebody's home for a more personal feel. How about organising a potluck dinner?

Back in time – Host your engagement party at a place with special meaning to you as a couple. It could be the place you met or where you went on your first date. A celebration at a café, ice-cream parlour, skating rink, the movies, a school or church hall would be truly unique.