Today, engagements carry no legal obligations but they provide a useful period in which to reflect on the decision to marry. A certain amount of time is also needed to plan the wedding. On average, a traditional wedding will take about six months to organise, although a registry office ceremony could be arranged in weeks.


When the groom’s family were visiting the prospective bride for the first time, it was thought wise to abandon the visit if they saw a pregnant woman, a monk or a blind man. These all threatened bad luck. On the other hand, good luck was promised by nanny goats, birds and wolves. Today, the proposal could as easily come from the woman, although statistics show it is still usually the man who asks the question. Traditionally, the proposal was made on bended knee, to suggest humility. It was also considered important that the setting should be memorable and romantic, and this is still the case. The recent millennium brought a spate of proposals, with many waiting until the chimes of midnight on millennium eve.


Most modern brides would expect to hear the proposal before a man asked permission from her father. However, it is not unusual for the man to speak to his fiancée’s father shortly afterwards and this is a very good way to begin establishing a close relationship. image source


Couples today usually tell their parents together that they have decided to get married. It is traditional to tell the bride’s parents first, but ideally both sets of parents should be told as soon as possible. This is best done face to face, but obviously if parents are on opposite sides of the world a telephone call might be the only option. At this early stage, it is important to make sure that there are no real objections to the marriage and that everyone is happy. Assuming that they are, they will want to spread the news – from friends and family, to Mrs Smith who used to smile at little Lucy when she was a toddler.

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