I am a bit of an Etiquette Snob, so lets see if I can’t answer some of your Questions and set the record straight.
When it comes to Engagement Parties (much like a Shower) someone else has to throw it for you (Host it). It can be any sort of party… but most often is a Dinner, Cocktail Party or “House Party”. IF the party is thrown by the Brides Family, then the FOB typically makes a toast to the happy couple “thereby showing his blessing of the betrothal / impending marriage”
Guests can be made up of Relatives and Good Friends of BOTH families, but truly the list can be made up of anyone you choose (friends, neighbours, co-workers etc). Usually those invited to the Engagement Party will be “high priority” Guests at your Wedding (but in the same instant, it is understood that normally Wedding Plans are a way off, so it is possible, that for a Destination Wedding, Elopement etc, that not everyone will be Invited).
Another format is to just have an “Open House” Engagement Party… where the word is put out in a far more casual way that there is a get-together on such-and-such a date to mark the couple’s engagement (this method, is loose enough to forego many of the pitfalls of etiquette on who is invited etc)
Engagement Gifts are not obligatory, and actually rarely expected… although those closest to the couple can provide a gift if they choose (Cards however with Best Wishes are the norm). One of the ways to ensure that there is no “feelings of obligation” surrounding an Engagement, is to make the Annoucement a SURPRISE at the party.
As always, any Gifts received should be put aside and opened by the couple in private, and Thank You Notes should be sent in a timely fashion.
Engagements can also be announced in the Social Pages of a local Newspaper.
If an Engagement is broken, then any Engagement Presents received, should be returned to the Gift Giver… and a notice that the Engagement has been broken should appear in the Newspaper (if one was published for the Engagement)… but this is indeed optional.
If one of the couple should pass away, prior to the Wedding, then Engagement Gifts should be offered up to the Giver (they can be accepted or declined, as the Giver sees fit)
Again, this is a Hosted Event… usually by someone in the Bridal Party, or by someone in the Brides immediate Family. Invites go out to the closest Relatives and Bride’s Friends. As noted, the standard is that Invites only go to those who are invited to the Wedding.
However, in some cultural groups, or by regional customs Showers can be thrown for the Bride by some of her friends or acquaintances who may not be invited to the wedding… such as local Church Ladies, Co-Workers, or those the Bride otherwise socializes with (such as a Sports Team / Volunteer Group etc)
Bridal Showers are not typically thrown for those who are Eloping… nor having a Destination Wedding… but if someone should organize one, and you get whiff of it, it is most polite to suggest it may not be the best thing to do. However, if you don’t know about it beforehand, and it ends up as a surprise, be gracious. Surprise Showers by well-meaning loved ones are always appropriate.
Gifts are the norm at a Shower… and the Host typically gives the Guests an idea of what the Bride might like by selecting a theme (Kitchen Shower – Linen Shower etc). And indeed it is acceptable for a Shower Invite to also include relative info, such as where the Bride is registered (this is partly because, it is someone else who is acting on behalf of the Bride / Couple… so not seen as the Bride asking herself… which is very rude / crass
BACK HOME RECEPTIONS
As another Bee pointed out for those who Elope or have a Destination Wedding… a Back-Home Reception / Party is a nice way to get together with everyone to celebrate. The nice thing about B-HRs is there are not a whole lot of Rules of Etiquette … it can be a Formal or Informal Event, BIG or small, and be as wedding-like as you wish (wear your Wedding Attire / Gown – Have a full-blown Reception with Sit-Down Dinner, or just Cake & Champagne – Toss the Bouquet – DJ & Dancing etc) the choice is yours.
This should cover the basics on Etiquette in regards to Elopements / Destination Weddings… if you have more Questions… just ask.
PS… As noted St Thomas is a very busy island… and a popular Caribbean Destination (certainly one of Mr TTR’s and my favourites). It will be a lovely spot for a Destination Wedding & Honeymoon. CONGRATULATIONS !!