The Rules of Engagement

A couple's engagement should be one of the happiest times in their lives. However, after the question has been asked and you've bounced around with happiness, you may be unsure of what to do next. The rules of engagement are a combination of tradition, you and your partner's personalities, the nature of your relationship and the expectations of the people in your lives. With some careful planning, you can avoid mid-wedding blow-ups and start your wedding planning on a positive note.

The Big Announcement

Tradition dictates that parents should be told first, then immediate or close family members, relatives, friends, and then acquaintances and co-workers. If either of you have any children, they should be the next to know after you tell your parents.

In many cases, the groom is also expected to contact the bride's father or father figure to schedule a meeting to ask their permission to wed their daughter. This may not apply to you and your loved one, but it's still important to know what traditional etiquette states even if you decide it doesn't apply to you and your situation.

You want to announce your engagement as soon as possible. If friends and family hear the news from anyone but you and your partner, they may feel upset and betrayed. Also, you will want to see people's reactions to the news. Who wouldn't want to see someone's mouth drop or a friend's laughter and hand clapping?

Regarding timing, don't break the news at someone else's get-together, and especially not at someone else's wedding; that day should be all about them, not you. Also, don't announce the engagement in awkward settings like a funeral or when talking to someone who is going through a break-up.

Engagement Length

An engagement is an agreement between two people that they will marry. You want to make sure that this agreement does not last too long or not long enough. Additionally, you need to make sure that you and your loved one are ready for marriage. You may want to be married, but you and your partner need to make sure the timing is right and to discuss what marriage means to both of you.

Consequently, when you decide that an engagement is the next step for your relationship, set a timeframe for how long this engagement should last. Some people will want to wait until they finish a major milestone in their lives, such as law school or college, and others may want to wait until they are sure all friends and family can be gathered in one spot for the ceremony.

Having a timeframe for your engagement will make telling people easier. One the first things people will want to know is when to expect the wedding. If you and your partner can come to an agreement about the general timing of things, it will make telling people and planning the wedding even easier.

If your engagement has lasted more than two years, this may be a sign that your loved one has fears about marriage. Additionally, if you or your partner is unenthusiastic about planning the wedding or telling people about the engagement, this is also a sign that something might be wrong. You may have valid reasons for a long engagement, but, if you don't have a reason for putting it off, then it's time to talk.

How to Spend Your Engagement

Most people spend the engagement period planning the wedding. You may need as much as a year to plan for everything. This is the time to decide the kind of wedding you will have, who will officiate it, where it will be held, who's invited, what you will wear, the kind of invitations to send and catering options, among other decisions and preparations.


Even if your future spouse is not as interested in spending the engagement thinking about wedding plans or has said that everything is up to you, consult with them. No matter how busy your partner is, they should at least be updated on the progress of the wedding planning.

This is a big day for both of you, and they should be a relatively active participant. At the same time, involvement in wedding planning can be a sticking point for couples. If your partner isn't interested in the planning, don't insist that they go to every single tasting or every single flower shop. The wedding planning shouldn't take over either of your lives. Just saying you made a decision is often enough, except for major issues, such as the venue.

You may not decide to throw an engagement party, but, if you do, know that tradition states that the family of the bride (or a close friend of the bride) is supposed to be its host. The purpose of an engagement party is to make the official announcement and toast to the news.

Following the engagement party, it is time for you and your loved one to make engagement announcements. Start by announcing your engagement in a local newspaper. Make sure that you use proper engagement announcement wording, so that no one is embarrassed by the publication. The Web is also a great tool to use. You and your partner can set up a Web site as a means of telling people about the engagement.

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