An engagement announcement should be a happy event… but sometimes it isn't. What can go wrong? This bride found out.
I was always under the impression that it's the parents' job to announce an engagement to the rest of the family. When we got engaged, there was no ring, so I figured we should wait to tell anyone until we got our engagement rings.
He called his dad the next day, and he congratulated us just as normally as we expected. We told our friends, and I told my mom a couple months later while I was home visiting, while we were still saving up for and still even trying to decide on rings. My mom is a big part of the vast grapevines of both my hometown and extended family.
So with the cat out of the bag, we finally posted about the engagement on Facebook.
…to zero response. For whatever the next family party was, I braced myself for a formal announcement from my mom, or for everyone to suddenly congratulate us.
…but that didn't happen either.
I have to admit, even years later (we're married now!) I'm still hurt.
I still wonder, as the engaged couple, what should we have done differently with announcing our engagement? Should we have gone over my mom's head, taking away her place to announce it to the family? Should my fiancé and I have talked about our new engagement more on Facebook?
First, congratulations on your engagement and your wedding.
We've written on funny engagement announcements, how not to announce your engagement on social media, and a totally theatrical engagement announcement. But there's more going on here than a typical engagement announcement.
Traditionally, in old fashion heterosexual engagements, the groom asks the bride's father's permission, then asks the bride. If she accepts she immediately tells her parents, as well as all her friends and relatives and anyone else she can get through to while her mother is doing the same thing. The groom tells his parents and his close friends.
The groom's parents invite the bride's parents to tea, with or without the happy couple. The bride, with any help needed from her family, puts an announcement in the local paper, sometimes with an engagement photo (if the couple has already done an engagement photoshoot).
All these traditions predate Facebook, so there aren't any rules about who, how, or when to announce on Facebook. There has also never been a rule saying that moms get to or have to make an announcement.
Sometimes there is an engagement party, or a party for some other event at which someone announces the engagement, but that has always been private and idiosyncratic.
Engagement rings are traditional, but there are no rules about rings in the traditions about engagement announcements. Nor about videos or cool proposals or the level of formality of the announcement.
Eventually, wedding invitations go out with the full wedding details.
Now you know the rules, but who gives a damn? The problem with this engagement announcement isn't really about whether those etiquette rules were followed.
The rules that got broken in this case are the ones that say that people you announce your engagement to should respond in a supportive way. You spent five and a half years fighting for recognition of your engagement. You skipped family holiday gatherings, grew apart from your family, and couldn't share in your brother's happiness in his engagement. And even after an eight-year engagement, you felt rushed into your wedding because of a family rivalry.
How should the announcement have been different? Here are some possibilities:
- Tell the right people. It's nice if that includes your parents and hundreds of Facebook friends, but some of us have smaller circles of friends and unsupportive families. In fact, offbeat brides may often get disappointing responses to news of their engagements. It's not right or fair, but it's part of the reality of following a different drum. Share your happy news with the people who will be happy with you, as well as the people you feel obligated to tell.
- Make your announcement within a year of the wedding. Things change over a period of many years, and you might not want to be committed to a wedding party or guest list years in advance. Of course, tell your friends and family that you're engaged as soon as you want, but hold off on formal announcements till closer to the time.
- Don't wait around on other people. As a modern, empowered woman, you have the right to share your good news and way you want. An engagement party is a fun way to let people know, or you can send an announcement to your local paper. If you have a wedding date planned, send out Save the Dates. If you want your mom to make a formal announcement, ask her.
You can't control how other people respond to your happy news. You can control how you share that news.