I have never been married so this post is completely biased. However, I’ve been to many weddings like most people have in their lifetimes. And in 3 cases I have been best man, twice to cousins and once to a best friend from school. I’m not sure if they were engaged but I assume they were because it’s such an excepted part of the wedding rituals. Anyway I received the following email from an American lady…

I have never done this before…messaging someone I don’t know at all, but I have a question to ask you and I would be most obliged and appreciative if you could give me an answer. I am from the United States and my boyfriend is from South Africa, and he’s lived here for about 4 years now. My boyfriend and I are planning on getting married in 2 to 3 1/2 years. He says that in South Africa (he’s from JoBurg), you only get engaged 6 months to a year before getting married… that they don’t do it like they do here (in America). I just wanted to know if this was true or if this is something that’s been fed to him in order to postpone getting engaged. I thank you for your time and would truly appreciate a reply.

Here’s my response:

Yes, he is telling the truth. Engagements are always less then 12 months because you set the date for the wedding. So the engagement is like a direct prelude to marriage and that 6-12 months is used to make all wedding arrangements. Be nice to him about this. A longer engagement makes no practical sense.

My further commentary…

Wedding engagements and especially the rings that go with them seem to me to be one of those things which are much more biased in favour of the woman. What does the man get from the engagement? A man may spend as much as 6 to 12 months salary to purchase this engagement ring. And still have buy a wedding. Imagine the cost of the entire wedding could be equal to to the cost of one ring! How ridiculous is it spend so much money on the prelude to the wedding?

Anyway I do not understand the purpose of engagement. You make a promise to your parents, friends or the public that you will get married. Why not just set a date and get married? Why make all the fuss and get your own expectations up, running the risk that you can be disappointed. I have a spoken to several men and women who have been cheated on during their engagement period. Then again this could be a good buffer period to find out how much you trust this person you want to marry.

So I’m really curious what the purpose of engagement is in the 21st century

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