Engagement Announcements

Dear Miss SOS:

I’ve been living with my fiancé for over a year and am planning my summer wedding. My fiancé is not yet officially divorced. Is it OK to send out engagement announcements?

No. An engagement announcement is never to be made in which either member is still legally married to someone else – no matter how close the divorce or annulment may be.

Engagements—Becoming Affianced

Dear Miss SOS:

How long is an engagement period supposed to be?

There is no set time limit on the length of an engagement prior to getting married. The beginning of the engagement tradition we know today began in 1215 when Pope Innocent III declared that there should be an official waiting period before a couple married.

A long engagement is invariably a strain on all involved. The ideal duration is from three to six months, although those planning distant location weddings or elaborate weddings where clubs or halls, band and caterers are sometimes booked a year or longer in advance may decide upon a longer engagement.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am just recently engaged and find myself with a unique question that I hope you can answer for me. In writing to my family and friends regarding my engagement, do I refer to my intended as “fiancé” or “fiancée? Why is there a difference between the two spellings and which one is correct?

It’s an excellent question and one that not many people consider to ask. Fiancé is the correct spelling if your intended is a male; fiancée is the correct spelling if your intended is a female.

Broken Engagements

Dear Miss SOS:

I told my friend I’d try to find out the answer to her problem. Her daughter was planning to be married 10 days from now but has decided she should postpone it until she is more sure. Should the wedding gifts be returned NOW, or should she wait a few weeks until they know exactly when or if they will marry? How long is too long to wait? Thanks so much!

If a wedding has been postponed and another date has been decided upon, guests may be informed by telephone or mailgram, or if there is enough time, by printed invitation:

Mr. and Mrs. John William Pearson
announce that the marriage of their daughter
Debra Lee
Sean Henry Kelley
has been postponed from
Saturday, the fourteenth of August
Saturday, the fourth of September
at five o’clock
St. Michael’s Catholic Church

Unfortunately, it happens where the decision has been made not to go forward with the wedding. Again, guests are to be informed by telephone or mailgram, or if there is time to give guests enough advance warning to change their plans with ease, a formal printed announcement mail be mailed:

Mr. and Mrs. John William Pearson
announce the marriage of their daughter
Debra Lee
to Sean Henry Kelley
by mutual agreement
will not take place

This is a time for face-saving and compassion. Anyone connected with the wedding, whenever the subject of cancellation of the wedding comes up, should say, “Both decided it was the best thing to do …” or “Both equally agreed that the wedding should be called off.” Of course, it rarely is a mutually agreed-upon decision but for the sake of saving the injured person’s pride, everyone should play his or her part.

The woman should return her fiancé’s ring and he should return any of her gifts to him. All wedding presents should be carefully wrapped and returned directly to the donor with a short note announcing the wedding is off and expressing the couple’s thanks for their beautiful and generous present. That’s all that has to be written.

As the wedding has been postponed due to uncertainty and not due to a death in the family, or illness, or deployment in the military, all wedding and shower gifts are to be returned within a reasonable time. Miss SOS suggests within two weeks after the wedding was to take place unless a new date has been chosen.

Dear Miss SOS:

After sending out the wedding invitations, my fiancé and I decided to end our relationship. What do I do with the wedding gifts that we’re starting to receive? I don’t even know what to say to people.

If an engagement is permanently broken, ALL wedding gifts are returned with a note from either the Bride or the Bride’s mother saying that the wedding will not take place and thanking them for their kindness in sending the gift. No other explanation of why the wedding plans were changed is necessary.

Engagement Parties

Dear Miss SOS:

My future father and mother-in-law threw an engagement party for me and my fiancé, their son. Should I send them a thank you note?

By all means you are to send a thank you note. During your engagement it is quite probable that you will have numerous parties in your honor – engagement parties, bridal showers, Bachelorette parties. In each case, you are to send a written thank you note to the hostess thanking her for her generosity and thoughtfulness.


Dear Miss SOS:Is it proper for a lady to ask a man to marry her? Or does it HAVE to be the other way around?

Once considered exclusively the domain of men only, today it is perfectly acceptable for the woman to propose to the man. In fact, though approached differently back in the “olden days” when Miss SOS was a young lady, determining a gentleman’s long-term intentions was not at all considered unusual. In proposing marriage, Miss SOS recommends that you avoid any wording along the lines of “my biological clock is ticking” or “I’ve waited long enough”, and instead focus on the love you have for each other and your deep desire to begin sharing your life together as husband and wife. If the gentleman responds “yes”, the customary traditions and practices prevail during the engagement period.

Engagement / Wedding Rings

Dear Miss SOS:My fiancé gave me a beautiful engagement ring and I would like to reciprocate and give him one too. However he says that’s silly although he does plan on wearing his wedding ring after we are married. What does etiquette say?

Etiquette “says” that it does not involve itself in personal matters. Miss SOS says that she would respect the wishes of the intended wearer.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am engaged to be married and my fiancé has given me a beautiful engagement ring that I wear everywhere. My mother says that I can’t wear the ring until the engagement party when my fiancé is to give it to me in the presence of family and friends. Is she right?

Miss SOS is unaware of any rule that states the engagement ring is to be presented at the engagement party. Generally speaking, a proposal is considered a private matter between the man and woman in case she says no. The party is to announce the engagement of the happy couple for when she says yes.