Updated date:

Becoming Engaged: Traditional & Modern Engagement Rituals

Author:

RedElf (Elle Fredine) photographer and published author, educator. Life-long learning is key to adding value to life.

The Promise To Marry

The ritual of engagement, the promises, the tokens, and the expectations vary in each society. We use rites to solemnize the proceedings, a very public announcement of the promise of two people to wed.

Originally intended by some for the protection of the intended bride, or by some to herald the dynastic union of two families, this custom has become ingrained in our western society as the ultimate expression of romantic love...and what could be more romantic than the pledging of two hearts and minds to become one.

Ancient Betrothal Customs

In The Jewish Tradition:

According to Jewish custom, the father would choose the bride. The bridegroom and his father would then travel from his home to the home of the bride in order to negotiate the purchase price of his bride with his prospective father-in-law.

The father, the bridegroom, the bride and all her family would sit down together at a table and offer a contract of marriage. They discuss the bride-price, or Mohar, which was required by law, legally binding, and paid by the bridegroom before the marriage ceremony could take place. The bride-price was compensation to the young woman's parents for the cost of raising her, as well an expression of young man’s love for her.

The young man understood he would have to sacrifice in order to purchase his bride. He knew that the price had to be high, for it reflected how much he really wanted the young woman, and the value he placed on her. Often, the price would be paid in land, in livestock, or in silver and gold.

The young man then had a Ketubah, a marriage contract or covenant, drawn up which he presented to the intended bride and her father. In the contract, the bride is promised that she will be provided for in every way, and that all of her needs would be fulfilled by the bridegroom.

This contract was then signed before two witnesses, and presented to the bride and her father.

Modern Love Tokens - One Perfect Red Rose

And In Another Tradition...

In Ancient India:

When the two families agreed to the marriage, the man's family sent betrothal gifts to the woman's family.

The gifts mainly included clothes, jewelry, gold, silver and money etc. In ancient times, a gilded silver coin bearing the word "qiu", which means "proposal", was among the gifts, indicating the man's proposal. The woman's family would send back another coin bearing the word "yun", meaning "agreed", to signify their consent.

Dowry was the property a young woman brought to her husband's home, usually household goods: clothes, quilts, basins and washstands, furnishings, tea sets and tableware, but rich families would sometimes include fields, mountains and forests in the dowry to show their wealth.

The Engagement Ritual was known as misri, or ring ceremony. In some parts of India it is referred to as aashirwad, and mangni. Some of the traditional ceremonies are still practiced in modern times.

The family and relative of bride and groom will gather to celebrate this first, formal party of the forth coming wedding ceremony. Both the families exchange gifts, sweets and good wishes. A formal ring ceremony solemnizes the engagement, and then the prospective bride and groom are then introduced to each other’s family. A meal is then provided for all the family members and guests present at the ceremony.

According to Gujarati custom, the engagement is called Sagaai. In a Sagaai, the bride's family arrives with a steel container known as a Matli which is full of sweets and gifts for the groom and his family.

In North India, the ceremony is usually held as soon as the marriage details are finalized. Along with the ring ceremony, the ritual of ‘Tilak', greeting the groom with auspicious vermilion paste and rice, is performed by bride's brother. Then baskets of fruits, dry fruits and sweets are exchanged by both the families. The bride is also given some traditional family jewelry by the groom's parents.

In South India, the engagement ceremony is a commitment between both the families of the would-be bride and groom, and includes the exchange of 'tattu', the 'engagement plate' of coconut, flowers, turmeric, beetle nuts and beetle leaves.

Nothing Says "I Love You" Like Chocolate

Traditional Heart-Shaped Love in a Box

Traditional Heart-Shaped Love in a Box

And If You Think It's Tough Now...

In Victorian England:

Engagements were known to last from six months to a year depending on the prospective couples station in life and their family circumstances. A death in either family could, of course, drag out the proceedings for another six months to two years depending on the nearness of the deceased. The relationship might not be close enough to require deep mourning (two years) but would require at least a six month cessation of fetes and celebrations.

Courting in those circumstances certainly required stamina The young person's behavior was hedged round with a great deal of rectitude and strict standards. Woe betide that hapless one who failed to uphold these rigid standards.

If you think it is hard to go a-wooing now, think how much more difficulty you would have had back then! Here are some pointers on courting in Victorian times:

  • A proper young woman never spoke to a gentleman without an introduction
  • A proper young single woman never “walked out” alone. Her chaperon had to be older and preferably married
  • If the young woman had reached the stage of courtship in which she walked out with a gentleman, they always walked apart. A gentleman could offer his hand over rough spots, the only contact he was allowed with a woman who was not his fiancée
  • A proper young woman would never ride alone in a closed carriage with a man who wasn't a relative, nor ever call upon an unmarried gentleman at his place of residence
  • A proper young woman would not receive a man at home if she was alone. Another family member had to be present in the room
  • No improper conversations were ever held in front of single women
  • No sexual contact was allowed before marriage

Modern Traditions

Lets Look At Some Options

You have courted your fair damsel and won her heart. You know you want to spend the rest of your life with her, barring all those pesky complications that so often plague our lives. Now - what to do?

Well, there are more answers to that than grains of sand on the beach...and it entirely depends on the amount of time and ingenuity you are willing to put into it.

As one who has never had lashings of money poured out for her amusement, I would have to opt for the time and ingenuity angle. Don't let me discourage you if you do wish to pour out a pot or two of folding green, or, in these times, pin-chip protected plastic. Far be it from me to rain on your parade if the sky is the limit when it comes to pleasing your poppet.

…and if you do have the “readies” ready, where better to start than an event planner? There are lots of talented, reputable, stylish folk only too ready to separate you from a bit of your cash. Seriously, having worked as an events planner for a large, arts and crafts chain, I can attest to the long hours of planning and research, and the hundreds of miles traveled in search of that perfect piece, as well as the sheer, backbreaking labor of transport and assembly these talented folk endure to make your fête absolutely perfect.

Some Helpful Information

A Charming Restaurant Might be Your Top Choice...

What Would She Like?

The real trick here, and the only trick, is that there isn’t one. If you know her at all, you will already know what she likes. If you are actually planning to marry someone and you can’t think how to please and impress them right this very moment, perhaps you might want to rethink your current plans.

So - what would she like?

Perhaps you lady's idea of heaven on toast would be a perfect meal in a beautifully appointed restaurant, followed by a romantic stroll through the park. Pausing by a perfectly situated park bench, you stop to admire the view. Seating her solicitously, you drop to one knee (Careful not to kneel in anything messy, or fall over like a klutz) , you reach into your coat pocket (Oh, God, I know I've checked a thousand times already, but please don't let me have forgotten the ring!) , producing "the box", offering it to her with your best open, honest, dead-sexy, I-love-you smile.

Please don't let me have any spinach in my teeth - I know I didn't eat spinach, but please don't let there be anything in my teeth!

Oh, God, she's opening the box! She's smiling! I can't feel my feet...She's saying something - what is she saying? Oh, God, I've gone deaf!

No, dear, you haven't gone deaf, she was just so overcome with the sheer perfection of the evening culminating in the absolutely dazzling moment, that she could barely get the words out.

OK - so maybe that isn't quite the way it worked, nor quite what you were thinking, but from a simple walk down a snow covered path to the most expensive and romantic get-away imaginable, there is really only one thing to keep in mind...do you love her?

...and does she love you?

OK - that's two things...

What Could Be More Romantic?

It's All About the Two of You

It really is that simple. It's really all about what pleases you both. Whether you both like romantic cruises, Pina Coladas, or taking walks in the rain (which honestly is dead romantic but can quickly get chilly).

Maybe you're both home-bodies, who'd like nothing better than an intimate back-yard ceremony. Maybe you'd be happiest with a few close friends and family. It doesn't have to be all about the flowers and the gowns.

What will make your day perfect, is knowing that you have learned enough about each other, and have grown to care about each other enough to decide to live a paired life. So take a balloon ride to the top of a mountain, bungee-jump off a bridge, spend the weekend at that romantic bed-and-breakfast, or fly off to that perfect tropical get-away.

But make it all about the two of you - your hopes and dreams for the future - and you can't go wrong.

Ahh, Romance...

Horse-Drawn Carriage - Rome

Horse-Drawn Carriage - Rome

Fun Quick Quiz - How Romantic Are You?

For each question, choose the best answer for you.

  1. How often do you surprise her with flowers or chocolates?
    • Once in a while
    • Every birthday or special occasion
    • Often - I make each occasion special
  2. Do you ever send her a card for no reason?
    • Why would I do that?
    • I'll have to give this a try!
    • I slip love notes into her pocket when she's not looking so she can find them later.
  3. What color are her eyes?
    • Um...brown? No - blue..Well, anyway, they're beautiful.
    • Her eyes are as blue as the summer sky.
    • Her eyes are green with little gold flecks, and when she's happy, they sparkle like diamonds.
  4. Do you ever call her at work?
    • No. That's not appropriate.
    • I call her at lunch time, and sometimes on her breaks if I know she'll be available.
    • I sometimes stop by unexpectedly with a picnic lunch, or whisk her away to a romantic bistro.
  5. If you have to work late, how do you break your date?
    • "Hi, hon. I have to work - call you tomorrow."
    • "Hi, hon, I have to work. I'll call you later." Then I call for a romantic chat once I'm done.
    • "Hi, hon. I have to work but I'll stop in later." Then I bring her fav take-out. Pizza by candlelight can be very sexy.

Scoring

For each answer you selected, add up the indicated number of points for each of the possible results. Your final result is the possibility with the greatest number of points at the end.

  1. How often do you surprise her with flowers or chocolates?
    • Once in a while
      • Average: +5
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: 0
    • Every birthday or special occasion
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: +5
      • Amazing!: 0
    • Often - I make each occasion special
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: +5
  2. Do you ever send her a card for no reason?
    • Why would I do that?
      • Average: +5
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: 0
    • I'll have to give this a try!
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: +5
      • Amazing!: 0
    • I slip love notes into her pocket when she's not looking so she can find them later.
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: +5
  3. What color are her eyes?
    • Um...brown? No - blue..Well, anyway, they're beautiful.
      • Average: +5
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: 0
    • Her eyes are as blue as the summer sky.
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: +5
      • Amazing!: 0
    • Her eyes are green with little gold flecks, and when she's happy, they sparkle like diamonds.
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: +5
  4. Do you ever call her at work?
    • No. That's not appropriate.
      • Average: +5
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: 0
    • I call her at lunch time, and sometimes on her breaks if I know she'll be available.
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: +5
      • Amazing!: 0
    • I sometimes stop by unexpectedly with a picnic lunch, or whisk her away to a romantic bistro.
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: +5
  5. If you have to work late, how do you break your date?
    • "Hi, hon. I have to work - call you tomorrow."
      • Average: +5
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: 0
    • "Hi, hon, I have to work. I'll call you later." Then I call for a romantic chat once I'm done.
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: +5
      • Amazing!: 0
    • "Hi, hon. I have to work but I'll stop in later." Then I bring her fav take-out. Pizza by candlelight can be very sexy.
      • Average: 0
      • Great!: 0
      • Amazing!: +5

This table shows the meaning of each possible result:

Average

At least you thought of some romantic things, but you could use a little help. I'm sure your heart's in the right place. Your technique could use a bit of polishing, though. For starters, go back and re-read this Hub, and checkout some of the links.

Great!

Well done! You really know how to sweep a girl off her feet and set just the right mood to get the answer you want!

Amazing!

Will you marry ME? You are Prince Charming reincarnate! You haven't missed a trick. Your in-depth research, your timing, your amazing instincts - all these combine to make you a romantic tour de force. Let's run away together - forget about her...

becomingengaged

© 2009 RedElf

Comments

RedElf (author) from Canada on October 29, 2011:

Awww, was he romantically challenged? jk :D:D Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

Veronica Roberts from Ohio, USA on October 29, 2011:

VERY interesting hub. I laughed at times, and dropped my jaw at others.

My fiancé didn't appreciate the last quiz. hehe

RedElf (author) from Canada on May 11, 2011:

Thanks so much for stopping to comment, dusy7969 - so glad you enjoyed the hub.

dusy7969 from San Diego, California on May 10, 2011:

I am unmarried but I am going to wedding of my cousin.I enjoy a lot of this wedding.So thanks a lot for this informative and wonderful sharing.

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 20, 2009:

Thanks so much - I like yours, too ;)

ciidoctor on November 20, 2009:

nice avatar

RedElf (author) from Canada on August 17, 2009:

Greetings, Carmen. So glad you enjoyed the hub. I really appreciate your comments. Thanks so much.

Always a pleasure, Enelle. Nice to be surprised, hey? I had a lot of fun with that myself!

Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on August 17, 2009:

Another great, well researched hub! As for the poll at the end...guess I'm better than I thought LOL

Carmen Borthwick from Maple Ridge, B.C. on August 17, 2009:

I haven't read many of your hubs (haven't been around long enough) but I do like this one very much. Great sense of fun and humour.

RedElf (author) from Canada on August 15, 2009:

Thanks so much, emohealer. It was a lot of fun to write - glad you enjoyed it.

You are most welcome, dohn. I am a big fan also. One of my recent favorites is written by Anne Perry - a detective series set in Victorian England. You might enjoy them as well.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on August 15, 2009:

Looks like you did your homework RedElf. I liked the part about customs and traditions, especially of Victorian England. As an England major, I've covered more than my share reading Henry James, Jane Austen and even the Brontes. Thanks!

Sioux Ramos from South Carolina on August 15, 2009:

Nice!!! The traditions and where they came from what they meant and how things were all ended with one bottom line...Your writing is something I truly enjoy!