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The Wedding Guide - The Engagement
The Engagement

The Engagement Ring
The Engagement Party
Newspaper Announcements
How Long is Long Enough?

In medieval Brittany, a man wishing to marry left a hawthorn branch at the door of his beloved on the first day of May. If she left the branch at the door, his proposal was accepted. If, instead, he found a cauliflower at her door the next day, he was rejected.

Times have changed, and though the emotional stakes are as high as they ever were, engagement traditions today are tailored to suit the couple's tastes. The old rules don't always apply anymore. And even common customs, such as the engagement party, giving an engagement ring, and publishing newspaper accounts of the upcoming wedding, are now considered optional.

Today's couple may have their own wedding Web page, updating guests about upcoming wedding plans and the personal and professional backgrounds of the couple. Sometimes, the Web page will include romantic stories about the couple, including where they met and how they became engaged.

For those couples who opt to stick with the traditional steps of an engagement period, here are some guidelines:


The Engagement Ring

Usually the engagement ring is a diamond. This tradition was started by medieval Italians in the belief that the diamond was created in the Flames of Love. Today, many couples still prefer a diamond engagement ring, although other stones, including birthstones, or a ring with sentimental value, such as a family heirloom, are sometimes used. There is also no rule as to when the engagement ring must be given, if it is given at all. Some couples choose to combine their engagement ring and wedding band into one wide band inset with small diamonds or another stone. Others put it off until a future wedding anniversary, when it becomes a reaffirmation of the love that inspired the marriage in the first place.


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The Engagement Party

Traditionally, the engagement party is hosted by the bride's family or a close friend of the family. Its purpose is to announce the engagement, which is done through subtle clues and then officially during a toast by the party's host to the couple. The setting for the party can be either casual or formal, and it can be held at any time of the day. The groom traditionally follows up the toast with one of his own to his future bride and her family.


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Newspaper Announcements

Most wedding planners recommend that the couple first inform their parents, grandparents, and close friends of the engagement before the news becomes public. After those close to the couple are notified, couples may decide to run an announcement in a local newspaper. The newspaper can provide guidelines about what it expects for a format. It may publish this information, or it may have a society editor who provides guidelines on style and information on fees and deadlines.


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How Long is Long Enough?

The engagement period can be a time to plan the upcoming celebration and a chance to prepare the marriage that will follow. Pre-marital counseling is recommended by many people as a chance to work on the marriage before serious problems occur. And with the amount of preparation required for anything more than a simple wedding and reception, the average engagement lasts over a year. Again, there is no set rule as to how long the engagement period should last. Like the other decisions, that decision is based on the circumstances of the couple and their individual tastes.


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