Rules of engagement for the couple and everyone else

Photo from

Photo from

Judging by my Twitter feed, Christmas was a very popular time to propose. My page was flooded with photos of hands showing glittering diamonds. Tweets with #heproposed or #engaged abound.

Engagements and weddings are tied with all manner of traditions and rituals. From my experience, it has become easier since the turn of this century.

Formalities begin with asking the parents. If the proposal comes before the permission, the parents must be asked (or told) shortly afterwards.


Parents should be told first, then family, then friends and colleagues. Changing your marital status on Facebook has increasingly become the way to announce an engagement. Before a mass Facebook announcement, your closest friends should first be honoured with a phone call or at the very least a private message on Facebook. Peripheral friends can settle for a photo of the ring on your wall. Announcements may feel self-important and attention seeking to more reserved couples, but friends do not like to hear life-changing news (especially happy ones) through the grapevine.

Arguably the world's most famous engagement ring. Photo from

Arguably the most recognisable engagement ring in the world. Photo from

If so desired, the bride’s parents can announce the engagement through the ‘Forthcoming Marriages’ column of the paper. However, the reliance on print media has declined. This should not be the only means of announcement. Traditionally, the groom-to-be’s mother writes to the bride-to-be’s parents expressing her joy at the engagement.

Ladies, this will probably be the only time in your life where your hands will be such a focus of attention. Keep hands moisturised and nails neat, and if possible, polished. Avoid unsightly chipped or peeling nail polish at all times.

Congratulations and best wishes

It might as well say

It might as well say “You’ve landed a nice one!”

Traditionally, one congratulates the groom and offers best wishes to the bride. This is because offering congratulations to the bride could convey that she is somehow ‘lucky’ to have caught a man (see evidence from a sample greeting card above).

Modern etiquette seem to suggest it is now acceptable to congratulate the bride, although it is still frowned upon in some circles. What I can say with certainty is congratulating the bride is no longer code for “You finally got one!”

Personally, I still offer my best wishes to the bride. That’s how I’ve done it since my youngest aunt married when I was 11, when saying ‘congratulations’ was a faux pas. However you choose to do it, consider the people around you when conveying your happy thoughts of hope to the couple.

A sweet card congratulating the couple. Photo from we

Do send a sweet card to congratulate the couple. Photo from we

Again, traditionally, one only addresses letters of congratulations (or best wishes) to either the bride or the groom, never jointly—heaven forbid the act of living in sin is recognised! I find this archaic and frankly, parochial. Modern day well-wishers don’t see why the couple cannot be congratulated together. If both the bride and the groom are known to you, write to both.

Engagements are a social experience and an exercise in etiquette. The one rule you can always count on is all forms of congratulations or well wishes will only be received with a very happy and sincere “thank you”.

With all good wishes,


One thought on “Rules of engagement for the couple and everyone else

  1. Pingback: Query: The engagement is off, who keeps the ring? | The Etiquette Butterfly

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