Tag Archives: engagement

Query: The engagement is off, who keeps the ring?

Dear Etikate,
If an engagement falls through, what is the social convention with the ring?
-via Facebook

Photo from metro.co.uk

Photo from metro.co.uk

Dear Readers

I mentioned in my previous post that engagements involve numerous formalities and rituals. This holds true even in its cancellation.

Contrary to the announcement of the engagement, it is not necessary to announce the cancellation. Tell a few strategic people in your inner circle and the news will circulate through word of mouth.

If invitations have already been sent out, a note must be sent to the guests informing them of the cancellation. The reason for the cancellation does not need to be given.

All gifts should be returned, enclosed with a card thanking them for their generosity. Something along the lines of “Thank you for your generous gift, but the wedding will no longer take place.”

Now ladies, on to the ring.

Ladies, do not wait to be asked before you return the ring. Photo from engagementrings.lovetoknow.com

Ladies, do return the ring before you are asked. Photo from engagementrings.lovetoknow.com

If you decide to call off the wedding, then return the ring to your now ex-fiancé. Do not wait to be asked. This is especially the case if it’s his family heirloom.

There are some schools of thought that believe the bride may keep the ring if the groom breaks off the engagement or is found guilty of infidelity, for instance. I can only interpret this as “reparation” for the bride losing face over the cancellation.

If he insists that you keep the ring, then do so. I would suggest selling it and going on a luxury holiday with the proceeds. After all, nobody wants to keep something that symbolises at best an amicable parting of ways or at worst, a very painful humiliation.


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Rules of engagement for the couple and everyone else

Photo from heatworld.com

Photo from heatworld.com

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 brides.com

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

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 heartpaper.com

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

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,