Definition An engagement or betrothal is a promise to marry, and also the period of time between proposal and marriage—which may be lengthy or trivial. During this period, a couple is said to be betrothed, affianced, engaged to be married, or simply engaged. Future brides and grooms may be called the betrothed, a wife-to-be or husband-to-be, fiancée or fiancé, respectively (from the French word fiancer). The duration of the courtship varies vastly. What is Engagement? An engagement refers to a promise of marriage between two people. It also refers to section of time spent between the proposal and the marriage. Extremely long engagements used to be quite common, as the parents would arrange for the marriage of their children while they were still young- several years under the matrimonial age. Nowadays, it is more common for the engagement to be arranged by the couple themselves. The concept of having an engagement period between the proposal and the marriage ceremony might have begun with an announcement from Pope Innocent III in 1215. At the Fourth Lateran Council, he declared that marriages should be publicly announced by the priests of the churches for a predetermined amount of time, so that if there were any impediments or illegitimacies, then they could be clarified and sorted out. Different engagement rituals vary according to the culture. In the United States, it is traditional for the man to get down on bended knee in front of the woman and offer up thenon conflict diamond ring. In India, a gosling is the customary engagement gift. Chinese women must find a suitable return gift for the man after accepting his proposal. In Cajun, the man proposes by placing a small chunk of ice on the woman's foot. In Western culture, engagement rings are ubiquitously associated with marriage. Tradition dictates that the engagement ring is worn by the woman as a declaration of her betrothal. It is becoming more common in the United States and Canada for the woman to buy the engagement ring, or for the couple to go shopping for matching best value diamonds together. The earliest use of jewelry to signify a strong relationship or bond with another person was through chains and bracelets. The concept of using the ring evolved from that shape. In Ancient Egypt, the ring was also the symbol of the sacred moon and sun gods. The circular shape represented an eternal bond. The hole in the center of the ring was symbolic for a doorway into the unknown. The popular belief is that Maximilian I; the Holy Roman Emperor, was the earliest known person to use an engagement ring. In 1477 he asked for Mary of Burgundy's hand in marriage and presented her with a diamond ring. In some South American cultures, both partners in the couple wear an engagement ring. The engagement ring is made out of silver while the wedding band is made out of gold. Norwegian culture dictates that both the man and the woman wear the engagement ring. In Brazil, both people wear gold wedding rings and do

not have an engagement ring. While they are engaged, they wear the ring on their right hand and switch it over after they marry. The jewelry industry leaps upon every available opportunity to make new ring traditions. Nowadays, some wedding rings are designed in two halves. The woman wears one half as an engagement ring and then the other half after she gets married. When they are placed onto the finger, they look like the same ring. The engagement ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and Australia. Continental Europe and some other countries wear it on the other hand instead. The reason that the fourth finger is the ring finger in these cultures is because it is believed to contain the vena amoris, Latin for the "vein of love." The vein of love supposedly runs in a direct line from the ring finger to the heart.
Popular Engagement Traditions

Proposal The engagement and wedding process starts with the proposal. The following proposal traditions are among the most popular:

Man asks permission: Traditionally the man speaks to the parents of the bride-to-be and asks for permission to propose marriage to the bride.

Man proposes without permission: The tradition of asking for permission from the parents to marry has relaxed over the years, and it is widely accepted that the man proposes to his loved one without first asking permission of the parents. Woman proposes to the man: Another much loved tradition is that girls can propose to their boyfriends on the 29th of February which occurs every leap year.

Man popping the question on bended knee: The method of proposal is flexible, and the tradition of a man getting down on bended knee to propose is becoming less common with more unusual and innovative proposals growing in popularity. Engagement Rings One of the most well-known engagement traditions is the wearing of an engagement ring. While popularity of diamond rings is a relatively recent tradition, rings have been given to mark a betrothal throughout history. Very traditional styles of engagement rings include solitaires. Fashions and trends help dictate popular styles of the time, however many brides-to-be still opt for traditional and classic styles. One engagement tradition was for the man to buy an engagement ring for his partner as a surprise. While this is still a popular tradition, many couples now choose the engagement ring together. When choosing an engagement ring it is also important to consider the wedding ring and how it will look combined with the

engagement ring. Very traditional styled engagement rings look best paired with traditional styles of wedding rings. Engagement Ring Symbolism. An engagement ring is more than just a sparkling piece of jewelry. It is a symbol of a couple's relationship, and it should be treated with all the proper respect due that relationship. Understanding proper etiquette when it comes to engagement rings is critical to honor both the ring itself and the commitment it represents. Engagement rings are ultimately circles of metal, and the circle is a part of very sacred, symbolic geometry. Circles have no beginning and no end and thus represent eternity, renewal, wholeness, and perfection. They are also symbolic of the sun, moon, and planets, bringing together all life just as an engagement ring brings together the lives of two people. Initially, engagement rings may have represented a portion of a bride's dowry or bride price. Not only did the ring advertise the woman's committed status, but the quality of the jewelry indicated the social position and prosperity of her groom. It is believed that the ancient Romans began the practice of placing the engagement ring on the left ring finger, which they believed contained the "vena amoris" or vein of love which supposedly connected directly to the heart. Other ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, also used such symbolism, and even today the tradition persists both with engagement rings and wedding bands. In fact, wedding bands are placed first on the left ring finger to be closest to the heart. Engagement Parties
The tradition of holding a party to celebrate an engagement with family and friends is one that remains popular today. The party is a way for the newly engaged couple to share their news and celebrate with their loved ones. Traditionally the party would be given by the parents of the bride, however today the party is as likely to be hosted by close friends as it is by family members. Engagement parties can be low key affairs, perhaps a dinner party with just the parents of the couple but a large flamboyant party is also common. The type of party a couple chooses will depend on their personalities as well as budget and the location of family and friends.

An engagement party offers an opportunity for the happy couple to celebrate their commitment, and it can also serve as a way to announce the engagement. When planning the party, it is important to keep in mind that this is not the wedding, and both the budget and the guest list should not near the proportions of the nuptials. The party is usually thrown by the bride-to-be's family, and only close friends and family members should be invited to congratulate the couple as they begin this new phase of their relationship. Engagement Announcements Another important tradition is the sharing of the news of an engagement via an engagement announcement. The announcement of an engagement would have originally been placed in a newspaper and a letter sent to close family and friends. Today there is a much greater degree of flexibility and many more options available. A newly engaged couple can announce their engagement via email, online or in many other ways.

Filipino Engagement Tradition Marriage proposal is still observed in the Philippines involving the parents and even close relatives of the woman. The man would seek the approval of the parents. The family of the groom is also involved here. The man's parents are also there to ask the hand of the girl to be the bride of their son. Once the parents of the woman approves it, the engagement is official. The wedding plans will soon be set. The marriage proposal is called "Pamanhikan".

Christian View of Engagement Historically betrothal in Catholicism was a formal contract considered as binding as marriage, and a divorce was necessary to terminate a betrothal. Betrothed couples were regarded legally as husband and wife – even before their wedding and physical union. The concept of an official engagement period in Western European culture may have begun in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council, headed by Pope Innocent III, which decreed that "marriages are to be ... announced publicly in the churches by the priests during a suitable and fixed time, so that if legitimate impediments exist, they may be made known." Such a formal church announcement of the intent to marry is known as banns. In some jurisdictions, reading the banns may be part of one type of legal marriage. In the Bible, there were three steps the Jewish people had to take when getting married. The families first had to agree to the union, and then a public announcement was made. At this point, the couple was betrothed, or engaged. Finally, they were officially married and began to live together. Betrothal, then, was somewhat similar to what we call engagement now, except that our society does not honor the seriousness of engagement as they did then. When a Jewish couple was betrothed during Bible times, they were already bound together by a contract that could only be broken through death or divorce. Any Christian who is considering marriage needs to realize the depth of this kind of commitment and not jump into it lightly. God intends marriage to be a lifelong commitment, not a temporary arrangement. The Bible says this about marriage: "'This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together" (Mark 10:7-9, NLT). Christians need to make sure they have a clear understanding of the person they may marry before becoming engaged. The Bible says that Christians cannot team up with and live in harmony with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). A Christian teaming up with an unbeliever almost guarantees that the Christian will be pulled away from Christ because, as the Bible says, "bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33). The only way to have a God-honoring, stable foundation for a marriage is to be firmly grounded in one's faith and make sure that the potential partner is equally dedicated to God. Christians should live their lives with God in the driver's seat, so to speak. He wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives, including whom we marry. Having a clear understanding of God's Word and developing

a personal relationship with Him through prayer and yielding to the direction of the Holy Spirit is the first and most important step in determining His will for us. The world's advice on dating and engagement should only be considered in light of God's truths in Scripture. If we seek His will in all we do, He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).