Wedding Etiquette

Announcing Your Engagement


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Wedding etiquette is really just a guideline based on tradition. It actually the art of making those around you feel comfortable and accepted. The most important part of etiquette is the latter--making those around you feel comfortable and accepted. That requires putting yourself in their shoes, and it can be an especially tough thing to do when you are up to your elbows in wedding preparations. It's a necessity, though--with the merger of two families, this is a big day for your friends and relatives too and your behavior, good and bad, will be remembered for years and years to come.

One of the many things you are signifying to the world with your marriage is the fact that you are an adult--behave like one. The people in your life may behave any way those choose--you're not responsible for them. You are only responsible for your own behavior, see to it that your behavior throughout your wedding plans and the ceremony itself is impeccable. It may not seem so now, but it can pay big dividends in the future.



Your Engagement

You may not realize it, but when a couple has agreed to marry, two things happen.  Many couples have already been living together for quite some time, and might consider traditions like these a little absurd at this stage in their relationship, but trust me -- the decision to formalize your relationship puts your relationship on an entirely different level.  When a couple marry, a new family will be created, and two families will be united.  It is so very easy to cause hard feelings, just because the couple didn't know what the traditions are!  Like or not, you both will make your lives easier -- both now and in the future -- by taking a few easy steps right now.  Feelings can be hurt very easily at this point, just because the couple didn't know what the traditions are, and/or didn't think -- because of their long-term relationship -- that it applied to them!


Not so very long ago, after (and sometimes even before) the groom proposed, he asked the bride's father's permission to marry.  This gave the father a chance to examine the groom's credentials -- most specifically, the groom's financial ability to support a family and insure his daughter's security.  It was not considered an engagement until the father had given his consent and blessing to the future marriage, and could not be publically announced.  This tradition is still practiced by certain ethnic groups in the United States.


While that custom has died out--and you both might consider it rather silly if you have been together for years --  it is best to have a discussion, if at all possible, with the father and then both parents of the bride. While the groom might not be asking permission to marry his bride, it is absolutely essential to have a discussion with the parents on both sides before anyone else knows of the engagement! 


Failing to do so indicates to the parents that they are in no way special to you, and can cause hurt feelings for years to come, although the couple themselves might not be aware of it. It is an insult to put the parents of the couple on the same level as other relatives or the public. On a practical level, it may reflect on the amount each family is willing to spend on the wedding, and their level of enthusiasm and participation, since you have indicated that they don't mean any more to you than your friends.

It is also traditional that after the announcement is made to both of the couple's parents -- first the bride's parents and then as quickly as possible to the groom's parents -- that the parents of the groom pay a call on the parents of the bride. The mother of the groom needs to telephone the mother of the bride to set up the meeting, which is usually in the evening. It need not be a formal call, and dinner need not be involved, but it is gracious of the parents of the bride to provide at least refreshments. If a dinner outside the home is planned, the groom's parents should pay. This is true even if the parents know each other well. The purpose of the visit is a preliminary discussion of the wedding plans; it opens the lines of communication between the families. This is also where the groundwork regarding financial responsibility for the wedding expenses is made.

In addition, immediately after the mother of the bride selects her dress, she should let the mother of the groom know what color the dress is to be so that the two will not clash. If the colors would clash, the mother of the groom is obligated to select another dress.


It is not essential that the engagement be announced in a publication, but many couples still do decide to do so. Recently, large city newspapers have begun charging for such services where in the past it was free, with the result that far fewer engagements and weddings are announced. The engaged couple may decide to have their photos taken to accompany the announcement or not--it is your option. Generally, the couple's backgrounds, credentials and employment accompany the notice.


That would include the academic credentials, year of graduation and even where the couple is planning to live after the ceremony may be noted in the paper. If you are planning a newspaper announcement, all but the smallest newspapers have a social editor, and most have information on their social pages regarding submitting your announcement for publication.

You may also, of course, put a notice of your wedding in the same or a different publication, whether or not your engagement was announced there. It would generally contain the same information as the engagement announcement, may or may not have a picture of the couple on their wedding day, and would also have the date, location, and optionally the time of the ceremony. You may also optionally list the names of the wedding party in your wedding announcement.

Another option is to hold a party to announce your engagement. It is certainly not considered a social gaffe if the couple decide to forgo having a party. If you do decide to have a party or "get together," at some point during the evening the host of the party should announce the couple's engagement. That means that if your parents are hosting a party, they will make the announcement; if the couple themselves are hosting (read: paying for) the party, the couple will announce their engagement.

This series of articles on wedding etiquette are not designed to cover every single situation that come up during a wedding, but to point out the general principles of wedding etiquette and offer some tips in dealing with awkward situations that often arise.

We would appreciate your sharing your experiences, and with your permission, we will be glad to publish them on this page, if we feel that it would be helpful to our visitors. Please write us at to share with us.





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