Did the man you love just get on bended knee and ask you to marry him? Or did someone you know just get engaged? Either way congratulations are in order. But good wishes aside, do you know how to share the good news of your engagement with the people you care about—or how to react if you've just found out a loved one plans to tie the knot? Read on to find out about the etiquette of getting engaged.


There's no reason for you and your parents to stress out over your engagement announcements. That's because sending them out isn't a necessity in this day and age. Sure you can, but keep it simple.

You can write your announcement on your parents' behalf, desktop publish it on your computer, and send it out to the local paper and to friends and family. If your parents are a stickler for tradition, they may suggest that you have your engagement announcement engraved at a stationer. Hey, if you've got the time and the money for such an extravagance, go for it.

If you are getting married for a second or subsequent time, you may feel silly having your parents announce the engagement. It's OK if they do, or you can do it yourself. Or, you can decide not to do engagement announcements at all.

Even though we live in a modern world, it's still the rule that the bride-to-be's parents announce the engagement. If your parents are divorced, then your mother should be the person making the announcement but always with a mention of your father. If both of your parents are deceased, then a close relative can be the one to make the announcement.

The other elements to keep in mind when writing your announcement are the dramatis personae—that is, you and your fiance's name, along with your parents—the city and state where everyone mentioned in the announcement lives, you and your fiance's educational background and your current employment status, and then the piece de resistance, your wedding date, if you've set it already.

When you're on the receiving end of an announcement, what do you do? Sending a card to congratulate the couple is always a nice gesture, as would be a phone call to share your good wishes. Should you buy an engagement gift? It depends on how close you are to this person. A great engagement gift you can give the bride-to-be would be books on wedding planning—she's definitely going to need them in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Engagement Parties

If your son or daughter just got engaged, keep in mind that it's the bride-to-be's parents who are supposed to throw an engagement party. But if you can't put together the party you want for your daughter or future son-in-law, then take comfort in knowing that it's perfectly OK for a sister or good friend to throw the engagement party instead.

In fact, with families and friends spread out all over the country these days, many couples have multiple engagement parties or pre-wedding parties, hosted by a variety of people. Keep in mind that an engagement party should be a low-key affair—like a wine tasting, Sunday brunch, or afternoon tea. You can save the big celebrating for the actual wedding.

Engagement Gifts

Having an engagement party may be the first of many pre-wedding celebrations where your family and friends may want to give you gifts. That's wonderful but it can be overwhelming for your guests. They may feel shopped out by the time the wedding rolls around. The two of you may be overwhelmed as well, with presents and all of the thank-you notes you need to write.

Since friends and family will likely want to shower you with gifts before your actual bridal shower, you two may want to register at a few stores. That way when guests call your parents for gift ideas, they can tell them which stores you're registered at.

If you don't want to have engagement party guests feel as if your party is just another fishing expedition for gifts, you or your parents (or whomever is hosting the affair) can put something on the invitation that asks for no gifts: “Please, no gifts at this time.” You could also choose to designate a charity or good cause as the beneficiary of your engagement party. You can include something like this as an insert to your engagement party invitation: “In lieu of gifts, please make donations to Justine and Jim's favorite charity, the Capitol Area Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.”

Broken Engagements

With all this happy talk about engagements, it's easy to forget that there are times or situations that may cause you to call off the engagement or to postpone the wedding. When this happens, and if you received any gifts during your engagement, you must return them. You should include a handwritten note that thanks the person for the gift but also informs them that the engagement has been called off. It's unnecessary to elaborate how, when, or why your engagement was broken.

While it's none of their business, you may want to have an excuse ready in case friends or family ask why you broke off your engagement. You can be vague, or even tell a little white lie just to appease them. Let your parents know your excuse so you can keep your stories straight.

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