Bride-to-be Blogger Carly: Our Engagement Party—And What I Learned

Carly and Sean at their engagement party.

I love, love, love parties. I love planning birthday parties, surprise parties, theme parties and, not to toot my own horn, I think I’m pretty good at it! I love going to all of the above types of parties too! There is really only one kind of party that just isn’t my cup of tea, though—parties for me.

Oddly, this is something that seems to slip my mind each August when my birthday rolls around and I begin planning festivities to celebrate me. I have fun creating a theme or signature cocktail—then the big day comes and I’m all stress and worry. It is becoming increasingly more evident, however, that this is something I am going to need to get over, as the next year will bring a few occasions at which I am going to be the (reluctant) center of attention. Therefore, as I share this week’s story, I’m also going to share some tidbits that I recently learned at our engagement party. (Selfishly, I am hoping these tidbits serve more as reminders to myself, but if you can benefit as well—even better!)

Last Saturday, Sean and I officially celebrated our engagement with 50 of our closest friends and family. Since getting engaged, we have wanted to get these close friends together to meet, mingle and share a celebratory drink. Lucky for us, very few were unable to make it.

I had tons of fun planning the party with my sister (and maid-of-honor), Claire. We sat at Cuba Libre and, over sangria and plantain chips, brainstormed a theme and accompanying details. Since Sean and I (as I’ve mentioned before) are shore/beach lovers, Claire and I decided that a beachy-BBQ would be perfect. From there, we thought about all of our beloved things about Stone Harbor (Johnson’s popcorn, Springer’s Ice Cream, 110th St. beach, Fred’s Tavern, etc.), Sean’s favorites from the Delaware beaches (Dolle’s popcorn, Dewey Beach, the Starboard, and more) and thought about creative ways to incorporate these into our decorations and menu. Once we had that all set, we sent out our Evites and started getting everything together.

In addition to Claire, we had lots of help putting this party together. My dad, the pastor of Old St George’s Methodist Church in Old City, was gracious enough to let us use the Church’s beautiful garden as the setting for the party, and arrived early on the morning of to cut the grass and make sure the landscaping was in order. Both my mom and Sean’s pitched in by taking pictures of Stone Harbor/Lewes landmarks, which we framed and placed on the table as part of the party décor. My wonderful girlfriends volunteered to bring appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. Sean’s friends helped with set-up. Sean’s brother-in-law made a washer-toss set, and other friends brought games to help keep the guests entertained. Sean and I are so very blessed with the most amazing family and friends who not only came to celebrate with us, but also helped us pull this party off!

I am told that the party was a huge success. We had perfect weather, great food, and incredible company. But would you believe it if I told you that I really can’t remember any of it? The party, quite honestly, is a complete blur for me. I have been told by some of my married friends that bridal blackout is common—you are so busy greeting and thanking guests that the night can go by in a whirl wind, leaving you asking yourself, “What happened?” (I guess this is why couples are willing to shell out so much money for photographers and videographers—to help them remember what they seem to have missed!) But while I knew about this phenomenon, I had no idea it would affect me at my engagement party! Hence, as promised, my aforementioned tidbits:

Tidbit #1: You can’t do it all.

Being somewhat of a party-planning perfectionist (I have definitely inherited this from my dad, who won’t let us sneak a nibble off his appetizer display on Christmas Eve before it has all been properly set out), I wanted to be the one to set up the centerpieces, design the tablescapes, and put out the food. But, I also needed to look the part of the bride-to-be hostess, which meant changing out of my jean shorts and putting on my make-up. Thankfully, some of my girlfriends arrived early to take over the set-up and allow me to run (the three blocks) home so that my amazing stylist sister could make me up! I know that on my wedding day I will not be the one coordinating table placement, worrying about centerpieces, or scheduling enough time to get prettied-up, but I also recognize that I can’t do it all and am so lucky to have great people around me that are not only willing to help, but also want to! While it might be tough for me to relinquish control, I also (need to) know that it is completely necessary for this big day.


Tidbit #2: There is never enough time.

It meant so much to me (and Sean) that 50 people, many of whom live over an hour away, traveled to celebrate our engagement with us. Looking back, I realize that, because of this, it was very important to me that I spend time with each of those friends, hoping they would see how much I love and appreciate that they came. In the days following the party, I struggled some with the feeling that I hadn’t succeeded with that, and I worried that some of these friends left the party feeling unappreciated or disappointed that I hadn’t shared my time evenly. But, to the credit of my friends, this wasn’t the case at all. Being the wonderful people that they are, they have expressed to me not only that they had a really fun time, but also that I did a great job of making my way around to visit with all of my guests. I did the math, and with three times as many people at my four-hour reception, I will have approximately one-and-a-half minutes per guest without leaving time for dancing, toasts, and cake. So, I need to go into my wedding day knowing that it is unrealistic to think that I will get to spend copious amounts of time with each guest, understand that they realize this too and that they are there because they love me and want to give me a hug (but it’s gotta be a quick hug because I’ve got to hit that dance floor!)


Tidbit #3: Stop and smell the roses.

I have a tendency to become overwhelmed. I definitely had some moments at our engagement party where I let this get the best of me. With so many people to talk with, I barely found time for a sip of sangria or bite of Jill’s famous Buffalo Chicken Dip. Lucky for me, those closest to me know this very well and try to help me stop and take a deep breath (or gulp of Blue Moon). So for these future events in which I am going to be center-stage, I need to remember that the purpose is to celebrate something amazing that is happening in my life, and that I should pause, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. Shouldn’t I, too, celebrate the very thing all these wonderful people came out for?

Did you, or do you plan to, have an engagement party? Did you experience bridal-blackout or were you able to completely let loose and have fun?

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