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Top tips for getting your engagement party just right

Congratulations! You've decided to take the plunge and you’ve said yes to your sweetheart's marriage proposal. Unless you’re royalty, you're probably planning a long engagement – time to prepare for the most important day in your life. But after you’ve bought your engagement rings, most newly engaged couples want to celebrate the announcement and share the news with their family and closest friends. What to do? Have a party, of course.

Engagement parties are a lot less prescriptive than the main event. They can be formal or informal, and can take place spontaneously on the evening of your engagement or can be planned – for tradition states – up to three months after the announcement.

Who should be on the invite list for your engagement party? That's entirely up to you. While a quiet family dinner at a chic restaurant might be to one person's tastes, another couple will swear that unless they invite their 300 closest friends, they won't be happy. Since the style of party you can have is wide open, we've come up with some ideas for engagement party's that will have everybody looking forward to celebrating your wedding with you.

• Go back in time: Did you meet on a rock-climbing trek in Namibia? Or at a funky bar on the other side of town? Why not take a trip down memory lane and re-enact the day or night when you first met. If your hair was blonde back then and you were five pounds lighter, it’s a great excuse for a makeover. If, however, you met behind the bike sheds at school, it might be better to pass on this idea and choose one of the other options.

• Buddy up: Do you and your partner share a mutual hobby or interest (we hope so, if you're getting married!)? Whether it’s scuba-diving or golf, clay-pigeon shooting or line dancing, why not make that the theme of your engagement party? You'll be spending a lot more time indulging each other's interests in the future, so why not start now?

• Beach babes: If you're lucky enough to live in sunny climes, there’s no better location for an engagement party than at the beach. It’s the diametric opposite of the perfectionism that occupies all wedding preparations. You'll need to leave your diamond rings in the safe at home if you plan to swim in the sea, but your guests can see the ring some other time. Why not organise a ‘men versus woman’ or ‘couples versus singles’ volleyball game to get the party going?

• Act out: Bonnie and Clyde, Sid and Nancy, Romeo and Juliet: Famous lovers have inspired our dreams, fantasies and aspirations about romance since we were children. Why not celebrate the influence of these old romantics with a costume party for famous lovers? Everybody loves dressing up and you never know who you might meet! Older couples might find it a good excuse to rekindle their affection and swap eternity rings.

• If music be the food of love... Well, yes, music is essential for every party, but food perhaps more so. Most people adore cheese and wine, so why don’t you organise a tasting evening introducing a dozen or so of your friends and family to a carefully curated selection of handmade cheeses and hand selected wines?

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