Love and hope inspire us to dream of a partnership that will last a lifetime. When we decide to spend the rest of our life with the one we love, getting engaged, or the proposal of marriage, is the next step towards an eternal union. To be betrothed is being engaged to be married, it is a promise that after courtship you intend to wed, the occasion is often formalised by the groom to-be gifting his future bride with an engagement ring. The duration of the engagement period varies according to cultural traditions or simply on the couples wishes.
The origins of engagement can be found in ancient Jewish, Greek and Roman cultures, where a betrothal was a formal contract or ceremony often considered as binding as marriage. In Western European culture the concept of an engagement in thought to have been introduced in 1215 when Pope Innocent III decreed that marriages are to be made public by church announcement so that during the waiting period any existing legitimate impediments could be made known. Today, the engagement period is a time for couples to begin planning for their wedding and for the two families to get to know each other.
A symbol of love and commitment, the engagement ring is given to the bride by the groom at the moment of the marriage proposal. If the proposal is accepted, this memorable moment marks a turning point in the couples life by changing the meaning of their union. They become fiancés, a term originating in the Old French word fiance meaning ‘a promise’ based on the Latin fidere ‘to trust’. The ring symbolises a mutual promise to marry one another. For the Romans the circle of the ring signified eternity, while the custom of wearing the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand stems from their belief that in this finger the ‘vein of love’ or vena amoris begins, leading to the heart. These ancient romantic beliefs still hold powerful meaning for modern engagements.
We choose to get engaged because we are in love, and wish to declare our commitment to spend our life together with one person. When this gesture is done out of genuine trust, respect, and a responsibility for the relationship to succeed, rather than social expectations or other interests, it may truly lead to happily ever after. As the stage before marriage an engagement period or the intention to marry, can be announced and celebrated as the affirmation of love and deep commitment towards one other. Congratulations and good luck!