Will your friends and family feel happier, more loved and valued, if you cut them out completely? No? Well, what on earth makes you think that Emily Post was in the business of making people feel left out and snubbed?
I have good news for you. The rule that you can only invite people to a given party if you agree to invite them to every other party thereafter — does not in fact exist. The made-up rule that if you ever invite anyone to a pre-wedding party — such as your first-grade birthday gig — you then have to invite them to your wedding as well? That’s made-up etiquette (or as I like to call it, “knot-really etiquette”). Of course, that doesn’t mean that you then get to do whatever you please, but I didn’t really think you would: after all, you’re fretting about this because you *care* about your friends’ feelings, not because you couldn’t care less. So, here are the thoughtful considerations you need to take into account in doing what you want to do:
First, you never invite anyone to only part of something, and you never flaunt a party or event in front of someone who isn’t invited to it. So you can’t have any “pre-wedding” parties. You can have “parties”. Instead of sharing with your guests your excitement about the coming Big Event that they won’t be invited to and the Dress that they won’t get to see and the Venue that won’t accomodate them; share with them your excitement about your plans for your coming married life, which you *will* be sharing with them (I presume) as you will continue to welcome them as guests in your marital home.
Second, you never throw a party in honour of yourself. (Properly, even the wedding reception should not be given by the bride and groom in honour of themselves: either it’s hosted by the bride’s nearest willing female relative in honour of the bride and groom; or if hosted by the bride and groom they should make a point of honouring their guests of honour, which most appropriately are their parents but which might simply be all of their guests.) So, at any parties you have leading up to your wedding, make sure you are not pointing the spotlight at yourselves. Make your parties celebrations of friendship and the resilience of such friendships as can survive big life-changes such as marriage.
Third, despite what you might read on this and other wedding boards, neither getting married nor giving a party entitle you to homage in the form of mandatory gifts. Don’t drop any hints about what you want or where you are registered. If people ask you what you want, tell them that you appreciate their generous spirit but that you have everything you need. Actually, this is the gracious approach even for brides who are able to invite everyone to their wedding; but since you are appealing to traditional etiquette for the right to host separate parties, you cannot then appeal to modern etiquette for the right to publish your wish-list. Along the same line, don’t get involved in planning a shower for yourself — you can host exactly the same style of party minus the mandatory gifts by calling it a “tea”. But if any of your friends offer to host a shower for you, repeat the “we have everything we need” phrase and then, if they insist on hosting one anyway, go along graciously with *their* plans while continuing to insist that they keep things small as you are not out for material aggrandisement.
Now, all that being said, grant me two quibbles. You are, so, engaged. “Engaged” is not about having had a fancy staged proposal, or even about receiving a diamond ring. When you have an agreement to marry someone, you’re engaged.
And second, the simplest solution to your desire to celebrate with everyone, is to choose a big enough venue. Traditional brides didn’t adjust their guestlist to their “dream venue” but chose a venue that would accommodate their “dream guestlist” — because traditional etiquette holds that people matter more than venues. Don’t misunderstand — I am fine with you having your dream venue, as long as you make the point that it is the “intimate” aspect that is driving your cuts, not the “super-duper nice, in-budget” place. People really will understand that they are less intimate than a parent or sibling; they should not have to understand that they are less important than nice architecture or a good view or whatever makes one venue super-duper nice in comparison to, say, the rec-center gym that would accomodate everyone.