- 47% of grooms asked for permission from the bride’s father before proposing
- 62% of grooms got down on one knee to propose
- 88% of brides received an engagement ring at the time of engagement
- 30% of the time the ring was picked out together
– Weddingbells’ 2008 Reader Survey
Whether you choose to ask the bride’s father or not, it is tradition to tell the bride’s parents first. Then the groom’s parents are told the happy news. Usually the engaged couple visit each set of parents to tell them the happy news. It is important to share this information with each set of parents on the same day, so there are no hurt feelings or offence taken for any delay.
If the parents are in a different city or part of the country and personal visits are not practical, a phone call by the couple to the parents is in order to share the happy news. It is proper etiquette that the parents are always the first to learn of the engagement.
It is also proper etiquette to let family and friends know of the engagement at roughly the same time. So the couple must decide how they will spread the news throughout their family and friends, but it should be done at roughly the same time so there is no offence taken. Your options are a personal visit by the couple to those closest to you, a phone call by the engaged couple to friends, or a letter or email announcing the engagement.
Usually, the announcement is coordinated with a public notice of the engagement in the newspapers where most of the family live. If the engaged couple’s family live in two different cities, then newspaper announcements should be in both city newspapers, for example. The traditional way of making the announcement is for the Mother of the Bride to take responsibility, and make a formal announcement in the newspaper. For example, Mr. and Mrs. William Smith are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter Susan to Mr. Tom Jones, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Jones. A look in your local newspaper will show alternative engagement announcements for you to choose from.
Another option is an engagement party. Traditionally, this should be a party given by the bride’s parents, and both sets of parents should know of the engagement. The Mother of the Bride issues the invitations, keeping the purpose of the party a secret. Then, at the party, either the Father of the Bride, or the Fiancé will announce the upcoming marriage. Sometimes, the couple opts for a separate party with all their friends, and sometimes it is a combined party.
The main thing to remember from an etiquette point of view is that the parents must be told first, and then family and friends be told next at roughly the same time. How you choose to do this is up to you. The engagement ring should not be worn until the engagement is formally announced.
After the engagement has been announced, it is customary for both sets of parents to meet. If geographical distance is not a hindrance, the engaged couple should arrange a dinner party with both sets of parents invited. The purpose of this meeting is to allow the parents to get to know each other.
The final preparation for announcing your engagement should be a list of people that you want to make sure to tell of your engagement. Note next to their name what method you will use to tell them. Certain people you will want to tell personally, and others can be notified as part of a group at an engagement party, or through phone calls or email. Making the list may seem unimportant, but it IS important to make sure you don’t forget anyone and create hard feelings. In addition, this list will become your starting point for your wedding guest list. Your parents will help you to make sure you don’t miss a distant relative or other important person, so get their help in creating this engagement list. Either when you announce your engagement to your parents, or when the parents meet for dinner, creating a wedding engagement list will give you an activity to do together.
This way the parents have a say in who gets informed of the wedding, and from it you will get an idea of who they think is important for the wedding guest list. The wedding guest list is strictly for the couple to decide, but this early input will put the parent’s minds at ease that you are organized and taking control of the wedding planning process, and may stop future interference in planning your perfect wedding.