I’m pretty sure engagement parties are more of an East Coast thing. I had never heard of them growing up in Hawaii, and neither has my Californian fiancé. When some of our New York friends found out that we got engaged, they asked if we were having an engagement party. (New Yorkers sure love their parties!) After flirting with the concept for a few days, I decided that – hey, we’re semi-New Yorkers; let’s have an engagement party. Anthony, always a good sport about my whims, agreed that it would be nice to announce and celebrate our engagement to our few New York friends, especially since our wedding is so far from now and on the other side of the country.
Anthony and I racked our brains for all possible venues around the city. We sent out emails to our favorite restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Our budget, though, seemed too small for the types of places we desired. I know this shouldn’t have been a surprise, but we quickly learned that renting space in New York is obscenely expensive.
Finally, one surprising bakery fit our budget: Dominique Ansel. Anthony and I were both shocked, as Dominique Ansel is easily the trendiest pastry chef around, and his bakery is located in the pricey West Village. However, a gracious contact at the bakery said their Greenhouse would be perfect for a party of our size, and would fit our budget. We were ecstatic. The Greenhouse is an enclosed, air-conditioned room in the back of the main bakery, with seating for up to 20 people. The next weekend, we met with our contact at the bakery, which gave us the perfect excuse to eat some Dominique Ansel goodies. The Greenhouse is very sleek, with metal furniture, a glass ceiling that fills the room with light, and hints of bright orange. After eagerly pre-ordering enough pastries for our menu, we were given an updated invoice. I finally understood what “sticker shock” is. While the initial price of renting out the Greenhouse fit our budget, the pastries and beverages added up quickly. Plus, I had forgotten about gratuity and tax. In the end, the final total was twice as much as what we had planned to pay. We woefully had to decline Dominique Ansel and look elsewhere.
Fortunately, I received an email from the owner of one of our neighborhood coffee shops. Max apologized for taking long to respond and said we could host our party at Milk + Honey. The following weekend, we walked down to Newkirk Avenue to discuss the details. Milk + Honey is a beautiful coffee shop that I’ve been to a few times before. It feels very Brooklyn, with exposed brick walls, a vertical plant growing on one side, a wall of French doors open up to the bustling neighborhood, and fantastic Counter Culture drinks. When I had first emailed Milk + Honey about hosting our party there, I immediately wrote the place off because it was so spacious that I assumed it would easily be out of our price range. However, when we visited, Max said he could work with our budget – which would include the cost of food and drinks, even though he usually charges three times as much for the space. I’m still not sure if it was because he pitied us, or because he found us charming, but we were eager to work with him. With the venue finally set, I could go forward with the rest of the planning. I ordered our invitations from Paper Source, which has stationary shops all over the country. We chose a simple design called “Ampersand” in the color “Peacock.” I appreciated that our names were the focus of the invitation – not flowers or diamonds or birds. And while we weren’t really thinking of what our wedding colors might be, Peacock sure is pretty…The rest of the party planning was easy, thanks to years of practice hosting Christmas parties for my dad’s office at my house in Honolulu. Back then, I was always in charge of entertainment. I would create Christmas-themed games and play Christmas carols on our grand piano to which our guests could sing along. For our engagement party, Anthony and I came up with three games: one to play in the beginning so our friends could finally get to know each other; a matching game called “Jenn or Anthony?”; and one that involves creating captions for goofy photos of us. While we couldn’t host our actual party at Dominique Ansel, we did return to the famous chef for individually-wrapped cannelés as party favors. Although I’m not a fan of roses, I passed a bouquet of white roses on my way home and thought it fit the occasion perfectly.The days leading up to our party have been a whirlwind of last-minute decorations, such as photos and balloons. In the end, I’ve learned that everything will usually work out, even for a somewhat naïve, hopelessly-in-love couple trying to plan a party in an overpriced city. We’re excited, and we hope this Saturday is a success!