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Being engaged to be married is a major milestone in a couple’s romantic life. If you’ve got major (or minor) questions about engagements, we’re here to supply you with the answers.
In the context of a romantic relationship, to be engaged means to be pledged to be married.
The word “engaged” has a couple other common associations, which also hint at how serious things are in a relationship once you’re engaged.
Engaged is also defined as “greatly interested,” “committed.” “involved in activity” and even “occupied.”
When a couple gets engaged, they’re committing to each other that they will get married in the future.
How does it happen?
Getting engaged is a mutual decision. It happens when the two people in the relationship decide together that they want to get married to each other.
Oftentimes, an engagement manifests itself as one person asking the other, “Will you marry me?” and the other person, (hopefully) saying, “Yes!” Tears of joy follow.
It can happen in all sorts of ways — simple, elaborate and every way in between. For some, a private night at home in front of the TV is the perfect time to mutually reach this point of commitment.
Others put together big productions involving friends, family and even pets to help them pose arguably the biggest question they’ll ever ask or be asked.
Popular ideas for how to do a proposal are:
- Over dinner at a fancy restaurant
- On a romantic couple’s vacation
- On a sunset stroll on the beach
- While revisiting the site of the first date
- While at a holiday gathering surrounded by family and friends
What changes with the couple?
In a way, everything changes when a couple gets engaged…and in a way nothing changes.
By getting engaged, two people who have been dating are now committed to marrying each other.
It’s a big step to be sure, but if you’ve been happily dating and each partner has known for a while already that they want to spend the rest of their lives together, then an engagement and a wedding are just the next two steps in their shared timeline.
It’s a change for the couple in that they are deepening their commitment to each other.
Why would someone want to get engaged?
There are 8 billion people on Earth. Finding one person you can grow old with is a crazy and magical outcome of having waded through the modern dating world and come out the other side with someone right for you.
For more reasons, check out our full blog on why someone would want to get engaged.
Is it required?
Yes. For couples getting married, they must first be engaged.
Getting engaged is the mutual agreement to be married. It doesn’t have to be a long time between this decision and the wedding, but it is a period in which the two people who are going to get married are both aware that they each want to get married to each other.
In theory, your engagement could last anywhere from several years to a couple of hours.
But even in a case where you actually pop the question and get married all in the same day, presumably you’ve known each other long enough that it isn’t the first time you’ve had the “let’s get married” talk.
There’s no pre-set length of time for how long you need to be engaged before getting married. The average is 1–2 years.
Practically speaking, it all depends on how big of a hurry you are in, how much time you need to plan the wedding day you are going to have and how many other factors are affecting when your wedding day will be.
We encourage readers to check out our recent blog about the average length of an engagement to learn more about how long an engagement typically lasts.
You may also be wondering how long you should date before walking down the aisle. This period of time encompasses both the early stages of your courtship and your engagement: how you met, when you had your first date, when you first decided to stop seeing other people, how long you’ve been date mates, etc. We’ve got good advice on how long you should date as well.
Are there legal consequences?
No. There are no legal consequences to being engaged. It’s a promise made to each other that you intend to marry each other.
To be engaged, you don’t have to tell anyone, sign anything or file any documents with the government. You are simply promising each other that you will get married in the future.
What’s the difference between a proposal and an engagement?
The difference between a proposal and an engagement is that the proposal is the question (“Will you marry me?), while the engagement is the period of time that the couple spends together after having agreed to be married but before their marriage is official.
The act of getting engaged is inclusive of the proposal itself, and the engagement is the time between “Yes” and “I do.”
Do you have to have an engagement ring?
No. You can promise each other to get married without presenting an engagement ring as a gift when you propose. Engagement rings aren’t for everyone, and it’s ok if you don’t want one.
What takes place during the engagement period?
The number one thing that most likely happens during your engagement is wedding planning. But any number of other things could take place as well.
You could choose to have an engagement party, an engagement photo shoot or any of the other traditional events and rituals. Bachelor and/or bachelorette parties are something you may choose to do while you’re engaged.
People you know might throw you wedding showers. You might choose to register for wedding gifts or plan your honeymoon. There are so many possibilities!
When is the engagement considered done or complete?
The engagement is over when one of two things happen: you get officially married or you break off the engagement because one or both of you no longer want to go through with the marriage.
The engagement is considered done when the promise is either fulfilled or broken.
Choosing to get engaged to the right person at the right time can be one of the most memorable and enjoyable times in your life. Make the most out of it!
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McKenzi Taylor is America’s go-to elopement and micro wedding expert, often featured in small and major media outlets, such as the New York Times. With over 15 years of wedding photography experience, it was after planning her own Las Vegas elopement in 2016 that McKenzi felt her purpose shift into elopement coordination. She started Cactus Collective Weddings soon after in 2017. Since then, she’s become a WIPA board member, and has helped well over 1000 couples get hitched in style around Las Vegas, San Diego and Black Hills.