FIRST THINGS FIRST

First comes love… then comes that bling, baby! The engagement process, from the proposal to the party, is a celebration of the story that’s brought you together to this point.

They asked, you said yes, and you’re both very likely on cloud nine right now.

Much congrats!

The Proposal

If you’re the proposer, butterflies don’t even begin to describe the nerves you’ll feel.

But don’t stress about aligning the planets around your plan. In fact, don’t count on anything going according to plan. That way, if by some miracle it does, you’re golden. If not, no biggie.

No matter how it turns out, make this a day just for the two of you. There’s no rush to tell everyone or make anything “happen” at this point.

All you’ve got to do is turn off your phone, present the wearable sparkly, and pop that question. Oh! Then pop the bubbly! That should definitely happen too.

Emotions

All right, you’ve had your tranquil evening of bliss alone together and the ring is (still) securely on your finger. Now it’s time to think about what happens next.

We’re not here to tell you when to get fussy about it. We will say, however, if you don’t stay mindful throughout, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and get caught up over your head in all the feels. Including the not so happy ones.

You may start out on cloud nine in your engagement period, but things can easily become a roller coaster ride of emotions as budgets, family dynamics, and big decisions take over.

So, before you embark on the crazy ride that is wedding planning, you should do a little preliminary prep work. This will keep you and your honey on the same page, and avoid as much acute stress as possible.

What’s Next?

Now that the quick word of warning’s out of the way, let’s explore the play-by-play of the engagement journey.

Grab your notebook, pop another bottle of celebratory bubbly, and get comfy! In this chapter we will discuss:

  • How to properly announce the big news to friends, family, or even co-workers
  • Dealing with the paparazzi of inquiring minds and opinions
  • Getting on the same page with your partner
  • How to throw a fantastic engagement party

START SPREADING THE NEWS!

It’s tempting to snap a pic, jump on insta, and shout it from the rooftops. We get how excited you are to tell the world about the great news, but slow your roll.

Tread carefully when it comes to announcements- weddings can be (and usually are) emotionally charged affairs. If you jump the gun, you’ll run the risk of stepping off onto the wrong foot right out of the gate!

Parents

Think about how the ‘rents would feel if they found out you didn’t share this life-changing news with them first! For some, it amounts to an unforgivable act of treason. For others, it doesn’t really matter.

If you’re in the first group, breaking the news in person is best! If not, call or FaceTime them to deliver the news face to face. (Or screen to screen?)

Want to make it extra exciting? Plan a surprise trip to tell them in person!

Family & Friends

Once both sets of parents are in the loop, now’s the time to reach out to everyone else. How you choose to do that is dependent upon your specific situation- we’ll talk about some of the most common ways to spread the word in the next section.

Previous Spouse(s)

Things can get tricky if you or your soon to be spouse have kids from a previous marriage, only because it’s sometimes hard for little ones to keep a secret- especially one so exciting!

Ultimately, it’s all about what feels right for you. If you’re unsure, consider making an announcement to everyone at the same time so the littles don’t feel left out but also don’t have a chance to tell on you.

THE FORMAL ENGAGEMENT ANNOUNCEMENT

Traditionally, the parents of the bride were tasked with sending out written engagement announcements. These days, many couples choose to throw an engagement party to announce the good news instead!

But if a party isn’t possible or is beyond your budget, engagement announcement cards are a great option to let everyone know you’re heading to the altar.

Timing

Whether you’re hosting a party, sending paper announcements, or publishing the news on the web or in the paper, you’re under no obligation to set a wedding date yet.

The purpose of the engagement announcement is just that: to announce your engagement.

But if your announcement doubles as an invitation to the engagement party, try to get it out at least 3 months before the party- or more if you’re inviting out-of-towners. This will give everyone plenty of time to get ready to get down with you.

Just keep in mind, it’s kiiiiinda bad taste to send invites to people you won’t actually be inviting to the wedding, unless you’ve got some sort of prior agreement.

The same is true for engagement announcements that include a wedding date. (If you’ve established one already.) Again, the purpose is to announce your engagement, not necessarily the wedding itself. That’s what save-the-dates are for. But more on that later.

Engagement Stationery

Formal engagement announcement stationery isn’t as common anymore, probably because less people send them these days. (Although you can get some beautiful announcements from Etsy or on Minted.com.)

If you don’t see anything you like, you can always DIY some. You’ll find some great templates here.

If you don’t want to send anything in the mail at all, there’s always social media and email.

Wording

As we mentioned earlier, engagement announcements wouldn’t typically mention a wedding date or location, so wording the announcement is pretty simple:

  • Couple’s names
  • Parent’s names
  • Maybe school or work credentials, or a few words on how you met, etc. Maybe.

If you’d like to see some examples of engagement announcement wording and learn a little more about announcement etiquette, have a look at our post on engagement announcement cards. We guarantee you’ll be inspired.

On Delegation

We mentioned in the beginning that in the good ‘ol days, the parents of the bride were responsible for announcing to engagement, be it in the paper or by mail. If you’re loving the idea of proper engagement announcements (great for scrapbooking and using those engagement photo shoot pics), why not ask them for help in sending them out?

If you’re opting for an engagement party, you’ll need even more help. It’s never a bad idea to recruit a few extra hands for addressing, decorating, and celebrating.

IGNITION POINTS FOR STRESS

Naturally, you’d expect a lot of gushing excitement and words like “Congratulations! How did he propose?” to be the first thing you encounter when you let everyone know you’re engaged.

Yeah, surprisingly, that’s not so much the case. (At least it isn’t for the majority of brides we’ve spoken to.) It’s more likely you’ll be faced with a barrage of questions.

So. Many. Questions

  • When is the wedding?
  • Where will you have it?
  • How many people are coming?
  • Have you thought about Pantone’s color of the year (Ultra Violet) for your theme?

It’s a double-edged sword, this phenomenon.

On one hand, you probably won’t have answers yet, and it can get a little testy when you have to shut down the convo with a “We don’t know yet!!” Or if your parents are particularly vocal, questions about you and your fiancé’s lifestyle (e.g., differing cultural and religious backgrounds) may conjure a hornet’s nest of hotbed issues you just don’t want to discuss right now.

And the budget questions! Oh the budget questions.

On the other hand, there will be questions that may not have even occurred to you to ask in the first place, and that can be kind of helpful. (“Are you planning on offering a vegan option for the reception? You know your cousin Cheryl is vegan…”)

So keep an open mind and keep your wedding notebook handy for those pop up questions that are actually helpful. Or not if you’re not ready to shift planning gears yet. Cousin Cheryl will live if you forget she’s vegan, and thank goodness, there’s always salad.


Our advice on the matter:

The point is, people may very well want solutions to issues that you aren’t ready to address. And to that we say:

DO NOT attempt to answer questions from friends and family yet, even if you actually do have the answers. (Unless, of course, you really need to.)

Why? Because boundaries. This is only the beginning after all, and just because an individual or three demands immediate answers, doesn’t mean you’re obliged to provide them.

Also, the minute you start responding to these questions, you might find that you have gone down a rabbit hole that can very easily turn into a serious disagreement over something you don’t really care about.

Or, you may find that you are unintentionally backed into a corner. Or worse, you may find yourself at odds with your fiance because your future mother-in-law isn’t on board with your answers.

Quelle horreur!

Note: We probably don’t need to tell you this, but we’ll do it anyway to drive the point home- It’s imperative that you keep the communication flowing between yourself and your honey. Stay on the same page about what you want for your big day and come up with a firm plan together as you go along.

What Am I Supposed to Say, Then??

We highly recommend using the following extremely professional, diplomatic PR response:

“We’re just enjoying this time and we will start planning later”

That’ll do just fine (donkey) … that’ll do.

Main Takeaways

So with time comes experience. This is one of those points in your life when you learn that some people put their self-interests at the top of the list, even when it comes to something that isn’t actually about them. Like your wedding, for instance.

Two key words to remember: opinion and expectation.

It’s been our observation that people sometimes neglect to consider the bigger picture of what an engaged couple are thinking. Or they fail to realize that there’s very likely a bushel of other friends and family sharing their opinions and expectations for your wedding, as well.

BUT, people are often sooo more than willing to chime in and share personal experiences, too. (Ok to be fair, we’re obviously no exception or you wouldn’t be reading this right now.)

Two points here:

  1. That’s great and all, but it can become very overwhelming for a couple new to wedding planning — especially if that couple is indecisive by nature (guilty) and finds themselves with 15 new ideas to process all at once. Stress. Full.
  2. You may unintentionally give the person offering advice (e.g., a parent) the impression that you like and agree with their ideas without even realizing that you did so. And if that’s the impression, bruised feelings and conflict may very well follow once that individual finds out that their idea isn’t being used.

“Weddings are never about the bride and groom, weddings are public platforms for dysfunctional families.”

Lisa Kleypas

That about sums it up.

HOW TO HANDLE NEGATIVE RESPONSES TO YOUR ENGAGEMENT NEWS

(Here’s to hoping you don’t need this part)

From Your Parents

Have your parents already made it clear to you that they will not approve of this engagement?

Well then, elope! Ha, just kidding. Don’t do that.

Instead, stay calm and keep your tone respectful as you break the (non-negotiable) news to them with your head held high. Even if they’re screaming and turning red in the face. You can always remove yourself from the conversation if it gets too heated, then try again once everyone calms down.

If you can swing it, try to be sensitive of their emotions. After all, they’re probably (hopefully) coming from a place of love. Let them know you love them too, and even if they don’t agree with your life choices, you’re a grownup. Also, be sure to tell them that it’s important to you for them to be a part of your wedding.

If you’re pretty sure that things will get really real, do not bring your fiance with you when you share the news with your folks, even if they insist on coming. The whole situation will be stressful enough, and having them there probably won’t help. Also, at this stage in the game, it isn’t exactly fair for your fiancé to have to deal with that. Yet.

From Your Fiance’s Parents

If the screaming and slamming of doors happens to be coming from your future in-laws, try not to take it to heart.

Like most life-changing events, weddings can evoke strong emotions of all kinds, and the negative reaction by your fiance’s parents could actually stem from something completely different — maybe even a deep rooted issue from the past. Maybe there are control issues or separation anxiety is at play. Who knows?

The truth is, not everyone enters adulthood equipped with the right tools to control emotions or properly explain what they are really feeling. It could be that blaming you is the only way they know how to do that. Maybe give them the benefit of the doubt- refraining from verbally striking back is in everyone’s best interest.

Plus, it feels soooo good to be the bigger person in the long run.

Mo Money, Mo Problems

Why is it that money almost always comes with strings attached? That’s a question for psychologists, sociologists and historians. For our purposes, knowing is kind of irrelevant- it just does.

The point is, even the best-intentioned loans can devolve into a quid pro quo. Especially when it comes to spending someone else’s money on your planning decisions that they don’t agree with and can’t control.

We hope that you don’t have to cross this financial bridge, but if accepting a “donation” or a loan from a family member or friend to help pay for your wedding means sacrificing your peace (not to mention your relationships), we humbly suggest you do without. If you have to scale down on your big day or even wait a couple of years to save, it’s worth it if you can avoid hurt feelings and family feuds.

If said funding party is hurt by your rejection of their financial help, reassure them that you love them very much and want them to be an integral part of the wedding. You would just prefer to exclude monetary transactions.

Speaking of monetary transactions, hang around for chapter 2. There, we’ll dive deeper into the nuts and bolts of wedding funding and finance, from designing a budget to creating money from thin air! Just kidding, that’s impossible. But It’ll be fun to read, anyway.

ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS

Why take engagement photos?

First, we want them to be featured on our blog. Really, send us your engagement photos so we can show them off.

Other than that, an engagement photo shoot is a great way to find a wedding photographer that fits your style and that you feel comfortable working with before the big day arrives. (This is especially valuable to those of us who aren’t completely comfortable in front of the lens!)

Also, besides your fiance, the photographer is the one person who’ll be following you around all day long, so you’d better like them.

Engagement photos serve all kinds of purposes other than a pretty reminder that you’re getting married. They can:

  • Be included in your newspaper announcement, if you’re doing one
  • Be used for save-the-dates
  • Be included in your wedding decor
  • Be a great gift for your family
  • Serve as the perfect pin-the-mustache-on-the-groom game for your bachelorette party. (Or, if they’re full body shots, you can create a naughtier version of the same game. Use your imagination.)

Money Saving Tip: look for a photographer that includes your engagement session as part of the wedding photography package.

Engagement Shoot Examples- Courtesy of US!

We love all the engagement shoots featured on the blog.

Here is a look at different shoot ideas you can do too.

A classic engagement photo session captured in a timeless moment with the couple and a gorgeous background such as a cityscape, sunset, water view, park or garden? The end result is an incredible photo that should be framed and hung on your wall.

Such pictures are fantastic to use for ‘save-the-date’ cards.  To achieve the perfect shot, ask your photographer for great location suggestions.

Photo: Made to be Mine

A styled engagement shoot is like setting up for a spread in Vogue magazine. It requires the couple along with photographer to think outside the box and come up with creative and unique ideas. 

Think about props or themes you could incorporate into the shoot that speak to the both of you.

The styling of the shoot is really about having fun and showcasing personalities. For those who are not so comfy in front of the camera, props to play with can really ease your mind and let you be more natural.

Choosing a theme for your engagement shoot really makes it personal and unique, so including a shared hobby is always a great strategy for beautiful pics.

For example, this is a picture of my good friend and her fiance during their engagement shoot.  They’re both huge into motorcycles and decided to incorporate that shared passion into the shoot.  They said they were, “much more comfortable in front of the camera, because we were just having fun on our bikes.”

Photography: Love & Lavender

A useful aside: If you have a tight budget or don’t feel the need to have a full engagement shoot, do what we did and DIY your engagement photos. Prop up the point and shoot camera against an object like your purse, set the timer, and grab a couple fun shots!

We hosted an impromptu engagement shoot in Florence the day after Andrew popped the question. I think ours turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. The photos came in handy for our engagement party invites too.

THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY – ANY EXCUSE TO CELEBRATE

The engagement party is the first out-loud public celebration of your newly engaged status.

There’s really no obligation to host a party, but honestly, don’t you want one? After all, it’s a wonderful way to introduce each side of the family and different groups of friends. For those important people in your life who haven’t yet met your significant other, it’s an exciting time when you get to loudly and proudly say, “meet my my fiance(e)!

Engagement parties date back centuries, and nowadays there is no real formal protocol for throwing one. This gives the host plenty of options for style and budget: a catered BBQ in the backyard, Sunday brunch, or elaborate cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in a swanky ball room would all fit the engagement party bill.

Let’s Talk About Engagement Party Invitations!

So you’ve decided the kind of party you want and when you’re gonna have it- maybe you’ve even come up with a guest list. Of course you’ll want to do a little shopping for invites! We fancy ourselves as sort of experts in that department, so check out our post about engagement party invitations for some inspo and etiquette advice!

In the meantime, here are some examples for how one might word an engagement party invitation:

Bride’s Parents Hosting

You are cordially invited to attend an

engagement party given in honor of

Elizabeth Colthart and Jeremiah Conrad

(Insert Date & Time)

(Insert Address)

The favor of a reply is requested by (Date)

Hosted by Bride and Groom

Please join us in celebrating

our engagement

On (Insert Date & Time) at our home

(Insert Address)

Julia Sampson & David Fader

No Gifts Please

Please respond by (Date) to (Insert Email)

Hosted by a Single Parent

She finally said YES!

Join Rachel and Andrew

in celebrating their engagement

(Insert Date & Time)

(Insert Address)

Hosted by Samantha Harvey

RSVP to (Insert Contact Number) by April 28th

Need more info? Here’s an in-depth guide on how to word engagement party invitations.

Engagement Timeframe

The betrothal period has roots steeped in traditions from all kinds of faiths and cultures, but for the most part, it serves the same purpose:

To allow plenty of time for the couple to make sure they’re a good match and that all the family and friends are on board.

Antiquated? Probably. But the concept of the engagement has come full circle as a rite of passage in its own, and as such, needs no concrete time frame other than what you decide it should be.

Besides, most women make their own money now, and are no longer handed off from parents to husband, meaning the transition between dating life and married life isn’t as dramatic.  Many more couples nowadays live together before getting married, so why rush?

As long as you give your loved ones ample time to prepare to celebrate with you, there are no rules on length of engagement anymore.

Congrats!

You are now officially engaged with all the bells and whistles.  The first step towards the wedding of your dreams? We hope so. And we hope this first chapter of your journey to the altar has been helpful.

Next up: Budgets, and spreadsheets, and money, oh my! (Also, how to get everyone on the same page about it.)

Enjoy.

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