Ask Team Practical: Ring-less Engagement


Yes, it definitely still counts

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Ring less Engagement | A Practical Wedding

We are engaged officially but not formally/traditionally—that is, we came to the mutual decision that we want to get married and immediately picked a date that is meaningful to us, but my fiancé did not give me a ring or ask The Question (though it is in his plans). Without going into too many more details, here is what we’ve been coming across since that conversation months ago: friends and family telling us “It doesn’t count until she’s got a ring” and that we have “no right” to begin planning because we’re “not really engaged.” I say, we’re engaged because we’ve decided to be! We have engaged in the process of becoming a married couple, thus we are officially engaged. But how do we handle the BS from, say, a family member who feels that by making wedding plans even though our engagement is, to them, not real yet, we are stepping on their already-traditionally-engaged-but-not-planning-anything toes? My personal preference is to tell these naysayers to get stuffed, but my honey is (blessedly) of a more diplomatic bent and would prefer a solution that keeps the peace. Help, please!

Enough Naysayers: Get A Grip, Everyone!

Dear ENGAGE,

So, let me ask you. Are you engaged?

If you are, then, well. Eff ‘em. They don’t need to consent in order for you to be engaged. Engagement is ninety-nine percent personal commitment, and one percent public announcement. If folks ignore the public announcement part of it, that doesn’t make the other part null and void. The meat of it is still there and still legit.

The problem is, you say he’s going to ask you. It doesn’t really work both ways. Either you’re engaged now, or he’s going to propose, and then you’ll be engaged. Pick one. Stick with it.

If you go around telling people you’re, OMG, engaged! now, then what are you going to do when he actually goes through the steps of asking the question in a few days/weeks/months? Call everyone and tell them, “We’re SUPER engaged!”? No, FOR REAL this time? One or the other. Not both.

The fully modern method these days means that usually (hopefully), a couple decides that things are moving toward marriage, together—with discussions and things—before anyone buys a ring and/or gets down on one knee at a baseball game/with a puppy/at a fancy restaurant or just plain asks you over Ramen while you watch Mad Men. It’s awesome. It’s how it should work. Both partners should be completely on board, completely open, and completely aware before things start moving into proposal territory. Or hell, before you decide you don’t need a proposal at all, you’re just going to do this thing.

The difference is, most of these folks don’t go around telling people they’re engaged until that second part actually happens. Whether it’s a mutually agreed upon, “Okay! We’re engaged now!” or it’s a question on one knee with a jewelry box, it only happens once. You’re not engaged, and then suddenly you are. There’s no “half-engaged” middle ground where you get to both call your mom excitedly AND sit on pins and needles waiting. You’re confusing people! Are you engaged now, or is he going to ask you later? Pick one!

Meanwhile, sure! Plan that wedding to your heart’s content, from the date to the monogrammed cocktail skewers. But, you know, keep it to yourself and your pinboard and a few close friends over drinks. Just because the wheels are in motion doesn’t mean you have any announcing to do, yet.

Moral of the story: you don’t need a ring or a proposal to be engaged. You don’t need to be engaged to plan a wedding. You don’t need to give a shit what people think. But you do need to find a story and stick with it. Pick one.

*****

Team Practical, when did you consider yourself real-deal, full-on “engaged”? Or did you opt out of caring what people thought?

Photo by APW sponsor Jesse Holland.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • Jessica B

    If I were in your shoes, I would tell people you’re engaged, but he wants to surprise you with a ring later.

    If you’re snarky/invested enough, just get a ton of ring pops, give one to the haters when they say you’re not really engaged, and say “I gave you a ring, now we’re engaged, right??”

    Or you could be polite about it and explain that you came to the decision to get married together, and you are just “pre-married.”

    No matter what, if you want to be engaged and your SO is on board with saying you’re engaged, then you’re engaged.

    • Cleo

      I would like to endorse this Ring Pop/Cracker Jack/Gumball Machine/Onion Ring idea.

  • Kristen

    I 100% agree with everything Liz said. Bravo, Liz.

  • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

    I agree with Liz: if you both feel engaged now and are making public announcements, great!! In that case, the ring/question will probably be a non-public announcement thing, where you start wearing the ring without making it more of an event, than say, picking a venue (meaning: you and your closest loved ones will probably ooh and aah and be thrilled about it, but it’s just another step along the way), where you dish the details that people ask you about, then move on to the next thing, because after all, it’s just the ring, the big emotional exciting part already happened between the two of you (yay!), and it’s not a Big Deal.

    As for the nay-sayers, I’d just ignore them. Change subject when they bring it up, don’t rise to any bait. Because they don’t need to “believe in” your engagement for it to be true. Maybe they’ll believe it when they get an invitation. In the meantime, you have a wedding to plan :-)

    • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

      “they don’t need to “believe in” your engagement for it to be true”

      I believe Meg talked a couple times on here about her friends responding to “we’re getting married!” with “I don’t believe in marriage”. Which…what? Marriage isn’t something that you can/can’t believe in. It exists. It’s happening. Same with this engagement. It’s not something to be “believed” in. It exists, whether or not other people “believe” you or not.

      • Copper

        When people say things like this to me (about anything, not just marriage), my stock reply is, “well it’s not the Easter Bunny.”

        • ENGAGE

          “Well, it’s not the Easter Bunny”…..Love it! :-D

      • dragonzflame

        I find people who do this so rude. That’s fine if it’s not your thing, but if somebody is engaged, clearly it is theirs. And nobody has the right to diminish somebody else’s engagement/marriage, just because they don’t believe in it for themselves.

  • Amanda L.

    Eh, I don’t really agree with Liz on this one (the part about not being able to be engaged now and still get asked ‘the question’). I think it sounds like you are engaged and him getting down on one knee and asking the question is his way of presenting you with the symbol of your engagement (aka THE RING).

    To me, you can’t be NOT engaged and be planning your wedding together. Because by planning your wedding together, you are PROVING that you’re engaged. Does that make sense?

    You can tell your friends to get stuffed, IMO …. and congrats on your engagement!

    • Copper

      I still agree with Liz in that the problem is the crossed messages, but to your point it may be a matter of how she explains it rather than how she’s actually going about engagement. “We’re engaged and are picking out the ring” is easier for people to understand than, “We’re engaged, and he’s going to propose soon.”

    • http://www.twitter.com/bridesmaidemily BridesmaidEmily

      I agree, Amanda. As long as you and your significant other are on the same page, you can get engaged in however many steps or pieces you two way, you shouldn’t have to “pick one”. I found Liz’s advice contradictory this time – to me it’s sounds like she’s saying, on one hand, do what you two as a couple want and tell everyone to stuff it, on the the other hand, label it in a specific way so you can justify your process to everyone you just told to stuff it.

      If you two agree to be engaged but he wants to do the “traditional” asking format once you’ve bought a little circle of metal, go for it, and enjoy the fact that you can savor your engagement over more events. Congrats!

      • Liz

        Let me clarify what I meant right quick:

        1. If people are demanding a ring or a proposal moment, tell them to stuff it. People get engaged without either of those things all the time,

        2. If people are merely confused because you’re saying, “We’re engaged! And we’re going to get engaged next month!” then you need to pick which one of those is true. If I called my mom and said, “We’re going to have a baby!” And she screamed and got excited and started gushing, and then I said, “Yeah! We’re thinking of starting to try next month.” I would probably be called Elizabeth Ann in very severe tones, and might be hung up on.

    • Kristen

      I felt like Liz was rightly calling the OP out on being a little confusing. Which is the engagement to the OP exactly? If its the convo – then they’re engaged and no one has the right to tell them they aren’t and can’t plan yet. But if the OP (and it also sounded like this to me) wants to be considered engaged, but also wants to treat the proposal on one knee with a ring as the engagement – well that sounds like doing it twice and its confusing.

      It’s all well and good for us to do things non-traditionally. But you can’t be engaged…but still waiting for your engagement (i.e. proposal). It’s wishy washy and a little bit of having your cake and eating it too. It confuses folks.

      • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

        Exactly- it’s not about justifying how you did it, it’s about telling the story (and not in a WIC you need to have a Big Story! way) so that your audience– family and friends– know the appropriate places to ooh and aah. Call the proposal something else, or just say he’s surprising you with a ring later, or whatever, but the audience might be saving the oohs and aahs and happiness for a time when they recognize the signs (“A ring! I’m supposed to be excited now!” rather than “You’re engaged! Yay- wait, you mean he’s proposing later? So do I yay now or yay later? Better wait, I don’t have a script for this part.”)

        And if you tell the story and someone still has nays to say- then fuhgeddabout ‘em

        • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

          Considering most of my issues in social settings revolve around when is an appropriate time to yay, I approve this comment.

          • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

            This comment was brought to you by recent re-reading of Patrick Rothfuss books: The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear, where storytelling is a central theme to each novel.

            (Have you read them? They are Awesome, and seem like something you’d enjoy)

          • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

            I haven’t read them! But the new roomie has Name of the Wind, so I will steal that from him in the near future.

          • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

            You are like the fifth person to recommend those books and everytime I look the bookstore is out. Must find them.

      • ENGAGE

        I don’t want to treat the proposal as the engagement. In my opinion, we are already engaged. I think he wants the proposal more than I do…..

        • Copper

          Then I’d find a way to say something like, “We didn’t do a formal proposal, but he’s in the process of getting me a ring because it’s important to him.” that makes you sound confident and clear. When you sound sure, you project confidence, and others are less likely to question you. If you sound like, “well we sort of didn’t do that, but we’re going to, but we’re already planning, so we’re engaged(ish)” then it open the door for questions because you don’t sound too sure yourself (if that’s the case, that is).

          • ENGAGE

            Oh dear. I think the second one is exactly how I sound! Yeesh.

            Honey and I definitely need to have a conversation (or twelve) about this, because I think my lack of (spoken) clarity comes from being uncertain of his feelings and rather than just ask him (duh!) I have been saying muddle-y things to people when they ask. It probably doesn’t help that more than a few people we know (including family members!) think we’re already married and have actually expressed surprise that we’re only just now planning a wedding. That always makes me chuckle, especially when they then ask how our (as-yet nonexistent) children are doing!

        • meg

          I think the question is just: do you both agree that you are engaged, and you are both 110% comfortable about it, and that you are going to tell people? If you do and you’re on the same page it’s done. You just say “We’re engaged.” and when people ask “Where is the ring?” you say, “We don’t have it yet.” End of story. (Except the part where he proposes and it’s fun and moving, and you tell your closest the cute story.)

          HOWEVER. If you don’t want to treat the proposal as the engagement, and he does, you’re not engaged (yet). Not because he wins, but because you both have to agree to be engaged. So if for him the proposal marks the start of the engagement, then sadly, you gotta get yourself a proposal. (And TRUSSSTTTT me, I feel your annoyance on that. GARAGH. Five years later, still got the feeling.)

  • Rachel

    I agree with the advice on how to handle this situation 100%, but I actually disagree with one thing mentioned in the post…I personally think engagement is 99 percent public announcement, 1 percent personal commitment. I know that I (and a lot of friends) had personally committed to each other WAY before they got “officially” engaged. (And this is why we didn’t have a proposal…because we had both already asked and answered The Question so many times throughout our relationship.) I don’t think that the public announcement needs a ring or proposal but I do think that friends and family may struggle to see it as different than the state you were in before when it was just sort of common knowledge that this was coming. So you kind of have to find a way to tell them it’s different, whether it’s telling them with words or engagement announcements or a deposit on a venue or in some other way that feels right to you guys. (Honestly, changing my Facebook relationship status made it more official — to myself and to others — than anything else.) And that’s why agree with Liz’s advice, that you kind of have to pick a story and stick with it.

    PS Let us know what you decide!

    • Lindsey d.

      Agree! My boyfriend and I are going to get married, but we are not yet engaged… The engagement is based on economics and family, but planning our married lives together is just us…

    • Alice

      Oh, I totally agree! I am in this no-man’s-land at the moment as well. I think cases like this are becoming more and more common as marriage and engagement is seen as a conversation you have with your partner and become sure of after you’ve already moved in together and spent years together as partners already, instead of the surprise proposal after a few months of dating of yesteryear.

      My partner and I are 100% Getting Married and have known that for a while, now (like, 2 years!). Our families know and our friends know. I’ve started looking at venues and thinking about dates. But outside circumstances have made it that we had to wait a while before officially getting engaged, and so there hasn’t yet been a proposal. It’s strange to know beyond a doubt that I am with the man I’ll marry, and have had concrete conversations with him about how many guests we’ll invite to our wedding and yet not be engaged. Obviously it will be as short of an engagement as practically possible, as we’ve already “been engaged” for so long. But I choose to not use the word “engaged” until there’s been a proposal and we’ve picked out a ring together. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

      • Emmy

        This situation is why we already had the wedding about 75% planned before we got officially, for realz engaged. Within a month of that date, we had the venue, photographer and caterer booked and I’d bought my dress. People were like “Wow, you really have your shit together!” Um, no, we’ve just been secretly planning this for months!

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          Us too. Except we didn’t get “officially engaged with a ring” until three days before the wedding.

        • Kestrel

          Yup! That’s what’s basically going down with us as well. We haven’t looked at photographers yet, but everything else (food, venue, decor) is pretty much decided unless we run into huge amounts of friction with important people.

          We haven’t told anyone we’re getting married yet, and probably won’t for a few more months (my SO wants to finish paying off his student loans first, which I fully support!) so I’m just hoping no one feels left out of the planning process.

          • Angie

            The lesson I kept learning throughout the engagement/wedding planning process, and wish I had learned faster and better, was that the wedding really wasn’t about us – it was about including our family in our relationship and in our wedding. I was so afraid that if I let go of control that I would be sucked into a “typical WIC” wedding that I didn’t want. But I think it was hurtful to my mom and others in my family because I was so focused on getting what I wanted that I didn’t open up to them about what I wanted and I didn’t really hear what they wanted. I just hope I can do better about setting boundaries but hearing what other people I love need as my husband and I grow our own family.

    • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

      I propose (heh) we settle this by agreeing that it’s both! Well, either! The 99/1 split is super accurate in either direction, and which way the split falls for you depends upon your relationship.

      For us, it was Liz’s 99/1 split. While sure, we were “all in” and w/e and would talk about being old folks and how our kids would never behave like THAT in a restaurant, the actual proposal/engagement was such a huge step for us, personally. I had been ready for quite some time, and him finally deciding he was ready too, and signifying that by proposing, was 99% of the hugeness of it all.

      The announcement? Met with lots of “…well, duh”s and a couple confused “I thought you were already married?”

      • never.the.same

        I agree with both Liz and with Rachel. For some I think it’s 99/1 one way, and for others it is the opposite. For my BFF it was 99% agreement and 1% announcement. They hadn’t talked about getting married before they were engaged, and had been dating about a year. On the other hand, I’ve been with my partner for over 7 years and we aren’t engaged, though we know we will get married and our families/friends know. So when we have the money and time to plan a wedding, it’ll be 99% announcing it and only 1% decision.

        I’ve commented on this before on APW, but it’s why I think “pre-engaged” is a real thing. It’s that nebulous time between when you say privately “We want to be married!” and when you say, publicly, “We’re planning a wedding!” Not all couples have it, in the sense that they say both things virtually at once. Some have it for a super short period, some for years and years.

        • Brenda

          This is the best explanation of “pre-engaged” I’ve seen yet.

    • meg

      This is such an interesting perspective, and clearly really depends. For us (and I suspect for the couple in this question) it really was 99% personal commitment. We loved each other lots, but we hadn’t agreed to spend the rest of our lives together till we got engaged. So that was the big deal part. If you’re not on exactly the same page, I thing engagement is the moment where you meet up, get on the same page, and then tell the world.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      I think it depends on how the couple comes at the moment of engagement. If you’re synchronized on the timeline of how your relationship should move forward, and you’re constantly having those discussions then the engagement might feel like more of a public announcement. If the parties involved are coming at things from different timelines and different levels of readiness to commit? Then it probably feels like a major personal commitment.

      Or, both. Because people are tricky and complicated and everyone’s personal experience is going to skew a little bit differently.

    • Aero

      This is so so so so true. Particularly so in cultures that don’t believe in dating or relationship that are little away from the norm. In these cases getting engaged is all about Making A Big Public Anoucement.
      I was my hubby’s ‘friend’ until we got engaged. Getting engaged made them stand up and take notice.

  • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

    I know here at APW we’re big fans of “planning a wedding? Congrats! You’re engaged!”, so the middle part of Liz’s advice/perspective is a bit muddled, to me.

    That said, I think it’s because ENGAGE’s engagement process is also muddled. I trust that people in her life are being jerk-faces about her and her partner’s (totally legit! egalitarian! perfect for them!) engagement, but I think Liz is onto something that this whole thing is complicated enough–if you have some sort of murky, half-gagement, peeps is gonna get confused.

    So, yeah. ENGAGE, are you engaged? Y/N? That’s your answer. I like the first commenter’s suggestion of “no, we’re totally engaged you guys! He’s gonna surprise me with a ring later, but that’s a separate thing.”

    • Cleo

      I’m with you:

      “So, yeah. ENGAGE, are you engaged? Y/N? That’s your answer”

      Yep.

      And if people are going to get confused? That’s their own damn fault. Who cares if the story follows a narrative. Who cares if you have a different story for some people (because if Great Aunt Sally asks you ONE MORE TIME about how you’re engaged if you don’t have a ring, you’re going to blow a gasket)? For the people in your life, an engagement is an announcement that you’re going to get married. They will figure it out at some point — whether that’s when you tell them initially, when you show them a ring, when they get an invitation in the mail, or when they hear you say your vows.

      If they want to believe that you’re not really engaged yet, fuck ‘em. And if you want to say something politer, just keep repeating whatever your answer to the most important question is — are you and your fiance agreed that you’re engaged? Eventually, they’ll figure it out or stop asking.

    • meg

      It’s interesting, since obviously I generally agree with, “planning a wedding? Congrats! You’re engaged!”

      But the thing is, that only works if you’re both agreed on that. If one of you is planning a wedding and feeling engaged, and the other one is saying “well, yeah, I do want to get married to you one day, but I’m not ready to be engaged yet.” Well, in that case you’re just planning a wedding. (One that may or may not be the wedding you’re going to have.)

      • Ann

        And even then, there’s varying levels of the planning = engaged correlation. Say you both happily talk about how you want to have a winter wedding or how people from his family abroad will make it there. You discuss likes and dislikes, wants and “Oh, my mom won’t be happy with that”-s. In a sense, you’re certainly “planning” a wedding, but if one of you would balk at “Okay, let’s pick a date and put a deposit on a venue” (or whatever nitty-gritty-both-feet-in planning stuff you can think of), then is it true planning? Are you truly engaged, or is it just a later stage of pre-engaged? It can be surprising/shocking to people even in the relationship; like, oh – you know you want a string quartet and you’re looking up venues, but you don’t want to tell your parents we’re engaged yet? Uh, okay.

        Lots of gray area if there’s not some kind of solid “Yes, we are engaged” communication, traditional proposal or not.

        • meg

          Indeed. For example: we talked a lot of details months before we were engaged. And each of us would have FREAKED OUT if the other partner had started telling people we were engaged.

  • Rose

    I’d always been super anti-marriage, so when it came to me during a trip that I could actually see myself married to my now-husband, I just blurted it out, much to our mutual shock. After a month of discussions about what marriage would entail for us, we decided we wanted to do it and sat down to plan a wedding. Two weeks later (we had a destination wedding, not a lot of planning required), invitations went out, but I had no ring on my finger or any interest in having one, though by that time we had told all our friends and family we were getting married. I can’t imagine what I would have done if one of them had dismissed the news because of a lack of a ring…

    To be honest though, I felt weird introducing my then-fiance as such to a co-worker we ran into randomly around town, so eventually we bought a cheap ring (concrete stone shaped silhouette, because I was super into concrete jewelry at the time, though I’ll probably never wear it again) for me to wear for the few months until the wedding. I don’t really like that I caved to societal ring norms, but it did mean that my bosses knew that this trip I was taking was my wedding, which meant I didn’t have to work during it. So that’s something.

  • KD

    I’m not a violent person but I wanted to slap this snotty girl who was standing behind me in line one day. She was talking about people got engaged at the restaurant she was at the night before and then she asked the giddy bride to be to see the ring in the bathroom – she did not have a ring. Then the girl standing behind me, said (please read in snottiest voice you can imagine) “Uhhh, like, I didn’t want to be the one to break it to her she wasn’t really engaged!!I mean…she didn’t even have a ring!”

    A RING DOES NOT AN ENGAGEMENT MAKE!!! If you have agreed that you two will be married in the immediate/somewhat immediate future then YOU ARE ENGAGED!!

    While I wholeheartedly believe you don’t need to share it with anyone until you have a ring or you feel ready to share (hey, I didn’t tell people for several days because I needed time to process). If for you that means the ring, awesome. Apparently there are awful people out there who are mean and judge that stuff. (much like I’m judging her for being gross).

    Just be excited and I agree that you choose to share now or share later. Either way you win because you get a private thing between the two of you (and a few select others) and a thing you get to shout from the rooftop!

  • Sarahrose

    Just want to share my timeline of events to offer another perspective of how things can play out…both with regard to the rings and how a proposal plays into being engaged.

    - Winter 2011: the two of us decide we will get married, do the legal bit that summer (largely for immigration purposes), and a wedding after I finish school. No rings, no proposal, just our word to each other.

    - Spring 2011: We tell the fam and a couple of our closest friends. I don’t think we called it engaged, I think we just explained the situation with the phrase, “We’re getting married.”

    - Summer 2012: We announce on FB after going to the courthouse: “We’re getting married!” People treat this as the equivalent of engagement, essentially, and we explain the situation and when the wedding will be, even though we make clear that we are legally already married.

    - Summer 2013: I do a “proposal” – wake him up and blindfold him one morning, take him for a sunrise at the lake, down on one knee, and give him a sterling silver ring. We did this because HE wanted a “proper” proposal and some kind of interim-ring before we started planning the wedding (and I was the one that initially brought up marriage and don’t like surprises anyway, so we decided it was my responsibility to surprise him). But the proposal was only ever for us. We didn’t take any photos and I don’t think we told anyone about it, except maybe my mom who was wondering where we had gone so early in the morning.

    - Summer 2014: Will be the wedding! We will replace our interim-sterling-silver-wedding bands with gold wedding bands.

    Frankly, I love that we got to make up our own rules for the whole process. I also know we had it relatively easy in our family, no one really cared that we were kind of unorthodox about this stuff.

    Good luck with sorting this out, ENGAGE!

  • Brenna

    My husband and I became “engaged” sometime last Fall, I don’t remember exactly when because our moving from “I love you. Let’s hang out” to “I love you! Let’s hang out forever and make it legal!” looked more like a series of conversations rather then a ring in a box/book/puppy. We were engaged in the 99% way and told a few close friends and some of our family that we were getting married. I made a date with a judge. With no ring and no proposal was I engaged? Of course! And so are you. If and when your partner gives you a bauble to wear on your finger and tells you sweet things you will still be engaged and that will become a part of your story too.

    I’m not sure why Liz is so adamant that you choose a story and “stick with it!” I do believe that you can be engaged and get engaged. And the folks who don’t understand being engaged sans ring and are giving you guff? One can’t go wrong with a great big smile and a nice, fat, as sarcastic as the guff-giver can handle, “Oh really?!”

    • ENGAGE

      Thank you for this. I have trouble pin-pointing the exact moment that we went from “I love you, let’s keep living together forever and someday make babies!” to “I love you, let’s do those things and also make it legally binding!”, which has made it feel even less ‘real’ because I can’t tell people, “Yes, we decided on X date in X location.” I can’t even remember the date he suggested picking a date!

      I feel so mixed up, but this and other responses have made me feel loads better. Thanks again.

      • Cleo

        I would like to join the club of uncertainty in dates. When anyone asks how long my partner and I have been together, I say between 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 years (we were friends first, there was a period of happened-to-be-monogamous long distance before we more officially started seeing each other, but we said “I love you” in that period of ether). When anyone asks how long we’ve lived together (I moved in gradually for various reasons), it’s been between 1 – 1 1/2 years.

        It makes us sound like we’re terrible with dates, but really, our relationship has been a series of transitions.

        • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

          We had uncertainty in what our dating anniversary was when I wanted to celebrate our one year. So we went back and just decided what day it would be on and went from there. There were two dates we went on in November that seemed like a good place to say, “yep, it started from here,” so we picked the one that was farther from Thanksgiving. SCIENCE.

          • ENGAGE

            Lucy, you are cracking me up! Thanks for the laughs–need ‘em right now. :)

          • Lauren

            Our wedding (next week! WHAT!?) is one day after our “anniversary.” I was ok waiting for another year to have it be on the exact same day, but he is all in a rush to get hitched. Adorbs.

            Oh, and that anniversary? It’s our best guess. But that’s when we think it happened and it’s been our anniversary for the last 5 years so it’s stuck now!

          • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

            We have two dating anniversaries: mine which corresponds to when we first kissed/the day I fell in love with him (and also Christmas, which makes it my favourite holiday ever) and his which is a month later and was our first planned date. More excuses to celebrate, really.

          • http://thehumanehuman.blogspot.com Pippa

            We also have 2 anniversaries – one where I officially asked him to be my boyfriend and we’ve been celebrating that for the last 6 years. He originally wanted it to be the day we met but I was all like,”Um, but we didn’t like each other straight away and we didn’t kiss for a while and no, that doesn’t work.”
            But then we decided to get married and we’re taking that original day-that-we-met date as our new anniversary date. Oh, and we’re not re-setting the clock either. Screw that.

          • Rebecca

            I think when we’d been together about 9-10 months we decided we should pick an anniversary date so we could properly celebrate a one year anniversary. We wound up picking a date that was after our first date and somewhere around the “we’re seeing each other exclusively” point.

            Oh, and was a number we liked. Cause why not.

          • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

            Love this. Can’t remember when Partner and I started “going steady” (though I remember the conversation quite clearly), however I know exactly when our first date was. Easy to remember Sept 30 because for whatever silly reason, I made a big deal about waiting til midnight to order the Sam Adams Octoberfest. Stupid first date silliness (I have never before or since insisted on waiting til October to drink it), but at least it made the date stick ;-)

      • SamanthaNichole

        And just because anyone else has an “official” engagement date doesn’t mean that they didn’t have the let’s get married/ will you marry me/ I’m in it to win it discussion loads of times before! So really, it’s just picking a date as a “formality” for an anniversary. Everyone’s in it.

        • MTM

          Do people celebrate an anniversary of getting engaged?

      • meg

        Lady. This isn’t about what the commenters say, or about what Liz says. There is no reason to be mixed up about this. Here is how you figure it out:

        You have to go to your partner (like, now), and say “Are we officially engaged, yes or no?” and “Do you need to wait till the proposal until we are officially engaged?” And he owes it to you to give you a clear cut answer. Then that’s it. You discuss it, and it’s decided.

        You’re confused because you’re tangling around with it in your head. But this is one of those cases where it doesn’t live in your head. It lives right in between you, in a mutually decided answer. If the mutually decided answer is “We love each other, we want to be together forever, but we’re not ready to be engaged,” you’re not engaged, and you shouldn’t broadcast that to the world. That doesn’t take away ANYTHING from your relationship, however. Engagement doesn’t actually reflect on how good or bad your relationship is. That’s a bullshit narrative.

        • ENGAGE

          Thanks for breaking it down, Meg. You’re right: I’m in my head about this and need to just sit him down tonight and have a chat.

          • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

            And then let us know how it goes on the Friday open thread, or whenever it’s worked out :-)

            We’re rooting for you both!

          • meg

            After chatting with David about this just now (yeah, yeah, I ask him about stuff), we worked out that you can:

            - Know you want to marry your partner, but not be ready to get married.
            - Know you want to marry your partner, be ready to get married, but not be ready to announce it to the world.

            In both of those instances, you’ll often not want to get engaged yet. Or say “Wait till I propose” or whatever.

            Because as every person who’s been engaged knows, the second you announce it, the hordes descend. And often there is a week of it being awesome, and then suddenly it’s stressful as fuck. What/where/when, question/question/question, money/cost/money, cultural narrative of life changing forever, and on and on and on.

            You may be ready to privately talk about it, but just not be up for that tidal wave to bear down on you just yet.

  • Class of 1980

    I get really confused by this newfangled custom of couples agreeing to get married, but not considering themselves engaged until some future date when someone asks the question and provides a ring.

    If you agreed to get married, you are engaged to be married. That is the very definition of “engaged”.

    Are the Ring Nazis so all-powerful that people feel pressured not to announce until/unless they have a ring?

    • Alice

      I think some of it is still wanting ~romance~ as part of it. I am a very practical person, as is my partner. He is not the type to make any big sweeping romantic gestures (though he is sweet and loving every day in lots of little ways, which I prefer). That said, engagements and marriages, though they can be done for purely practical reasons (taxes! next of kin!) are also about love and commitment and romance. I am not going to buy totally into the WIC ~One Special Day~ thing, but I do think it would be nice to have a romantic night with a proposal and gesture of love and affection from my partner, and I’ve told him so.

      So, the practical reasons for being engaged have already been talked out and are official. The romantic reasons, not quite yet there. And I’m going to wait to say I’m engaged until there’s both.

      Maybe some people don’t care about proposals in that same way and the practical conversation is enough for them, and that is totally cool. But I think it’s ok to be engaged-but-not-yet-engaged, too.

      • Class of 1980

        If I felt that way, then I would tell him I don’t consider ourselves to be engaged to be married until he proposes.

        I agreed with Liz. It’s like being pregnant; you can’t be a little pregnant. I don’t think you can really be partly engaged.

        The whole sweeping romantic gesture form of proposal was predicated on the proposer keeping their desire to get married somewhat of a secret up to that point. It seems like women are now asking for an enactment of something that was originally spontaneous and at the discretion of the individual.

        The part that confounds me is that although the feelings are real, it reads like a play with a script the way it unfolds now.

        My new name is Curmudgeon, I guess. ;)

        • Alice

          Oh I totally sat him down and told him I didn’t expect a ring (we’ll pick it out together) but I do expect a proposal. He said he appreciated my clarity on the matter :)

          I do agree that it seems a bit weird that I want that. I couldn’t actually tell you WHY in any practical way. Maybe it’s because I know I love having a fuss made over me and he’s not the type to do it often, so this is a good excuse. Maybe it’s buying into tradition. Maybe it’s wanting a story to tell friends and relatives. Maybe it’s wanting a concrete moment to look back on after a years-long relationship that somehow, slowly, became IT.

          • Class of 1980

            It’s good that you were clear with him.

            In the meantime, I’m meeting with an attorney to have my name officially changed to “Curmudgeon”.

            It has a nice ring doesn’t it? ;)

        • Copper

          You may be a Curmudgeon, but you balance out the Ring Nazis nicely :)

          • Class of 1980

            Well, yes. I don’t suffer Ring Nazis or fools gladly. ;)

        • Jessica

          Totally off topic but interesting (to me, at least), you can’t be a little pregnant, but you can be “probably pregnant.” The only positive signs of pregnancy are audible fetal heart tones, visualization of the embryo on sonogram, and palpation of distinct fetal movements by a medical professional. (And birth of a baby…) Everything else is considered presumptive or probable.

          (Sometimes healthcare providers know too much for their own good. And yes, I drove my husband crazy from week 4 (positive pregnancy test) to week 11+ when we finally heard the heartbeat, insisting that I was only “probably” pregnant!)

    • Liz

      I would’ve been completely fine sans proposal (my parents were never “engaged,” they just up and planned a wedding), but my now-husband had always looked forward to planning some special night to sweep me away with his thoughtfulness and romance and whatever.

      • Class of 1980

        Same with my parents; they just decided to get married and that was 1957. I think the giant proposal was driven more by the movies than real life. Eventually, people started believing that was the way it had to be.

        • Copper

          I realized during the wedding planning process that the number of weddings I’ve seen in TV/movies outnumber the number I’ve seen in person by like 20 to 1. I can’t believe that hasn’t had some effect on how we view these things.

      • http://www.sarahhoppes.com SarahHoppes

        “His thoughtfulness and romance and whatever.” LOVE.

    • Candice

      We were of the “we are totally actually getting married but let’s wait until there’s a ring to call it engaged” group. For us it was a timing thing. Although we had been close friends for 2 years, we had only been dating for a month when we had that conversation. We knew we were going to be together forever but didn’t want to freak out friends and family by “rushing things” in their minds. He waited 2.5 more months before asking THE QUESTION that he already knew the answer to. And then we told people we were engaged. (Half of them still jumped to the conclusion that I was pregnant)

      • Lauren

        Same for me, but doubly strange because we were both 17. We waited four years to get “engaged” because

        “NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY WANT AT 17!!!!!” – the naysayers.

    • anonny non

      For us, I think part of the reason for the little two-step was about ensuring that our families were ready. Or rather, my family. I married the first guy I took home to meet my parents, and I’m the oldest, and it just took them some time to adjust to the idea that this was coming.

      Husband and I were independently ready to say “this is the one” from about 3 months and discussed it together starting at about 6 months, but didn’t get “engaged” until well after that. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he set about getting a ring after the first visit with my parents that he really felt like part of the clan.

    • Rebekah

      This is a fair confusion to have, and I admit to feeling similarly. However, for us the distinction was knowing we wanted to be married to each other (for what seemed like an eternity to me), but not being engaged until he asked me to marry him in distinct words and terms, and *then* making concrete plans for a wedding ceremony and celebration.

      For us it wasn’t needing a ring to signify the shift, but rather knowing he was finally ready to get things in motion.

    • Emilie

      There was a huge difference for us between private and public commitment. We had agreed to get married, but our friends and families DIDNT know. The engagement announced that. And in a lot of ways being engaged has invited a larger community to hold us accountable to eachother. Which has been a beautiful motion for us.

  • thislittleredcat

    I did something very similar, ENGAGE. My husband and I decided together that we were engaged over a romantic dinner. There was no asking The Question and no ring. We just decided that we wanted to get married the following June and that meant engagement to us. We also decided to get rings (we have matching engagement rings) and bought them later. Were we engaged before I was/ we were wearing rings? Absolutely. Did we tell everyone? Absolutely. Did I feel a little awkward about not having a ring yet- yes and I am a bit ashamed of that in retrospect. The point for us was not having rings because umm, the engagement was about deciding that we were getting married, not about fancy jewelry. And when the rings came a month or two later, I got all excited showing them to people, but it was “Look look, our rings are here and they are pretty!” not “Hey, look, we are now extra engaged” or something. Lucky for me, no one said anything snarky about not being really engaged till he put a ring on it, though if they had, I am sure it would have made me feel awful. But also- if they had they would have been wrong.

    PS. I also had a friend who got married around the same time I did who decided with her partner that they were getting married and then waited several months while he figured out the ring and proposing. Even though they were all but planning the wedding during those months, to them engagement meant that the ring arrived, was the right size and she was wearing it. This baffled me, but it was right for them, so engagement perhaps means that you have decided together that you are engaged, ring or no ring.

  • ENGAGE

    When I first read Liz’s response, I have to admit that my feelings felt a bit…hurt…which was a surprising reaction. I think I wanted more validation, but what I needed (and what makes y’all so wonderful) was some clarity and honest advice.

    Liz, you said that we are confusing people, but I think the real truth there is that we are confusing *ourselves* and this is why other people’s opinions have become a problem. I’m not honestly sure that we are on the same page about being engaged…in fact, I’d now say with some degree of certainty that we are not. My partner has been very invested in the planning process and has expressed (explicitly) excitement about it, but when I told a very close family member about our upcoming nuptials on the phone the other day, he made a face (the homeless-puppy-ick face Rachel’s talked about). I’m tired of keeping my joy a secret, but that face tells me that he is not comfortable sharing it…..and now I have to ask myself why. I thought we were in this together, but I wonder if maybe he’s not as on board as he seemed to be when, after 18 months of talking about our mutual desire to be married to each other, he suggested picking a date in the first place.

    We put ourselves in this pickle, and I think it’s time to take a step back, put the planning on hold, and figure out what the heck our story is.

    This sucks, but I hope it’s the kind of sucking that helps us grow and gets us to a better, clearer place where we can celebrate the bejeesus out of our love without reservation or hesitation.

    Thank you all, so much, for the advice, encouragement, and support!!!

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      You’ll figure it out! Give yourselves some time! (says the incredibly impatient person)

      Further advice though? Don’t ask *yourself* why he’s not comfortable sharing it. Ask HIM. Sounds like you two still have bunches of talking to do so you can feel like you’re on the same page. And talking about it is the only way to get there.

    • http://thevanillabride@blogspot.com Sonarisa

      I’m really proud of you for 1) sharing your question here, and 2) being brave enough to start discussions. It sounds pretty similar to what my pre-engagement/engagement was like. We decided to get married, he didn’t “officially” ask until 14 months later. The wait for him to be ready to make it public was horrible for me. I wish I had started discussions about it (I bought into the WIC idea of “DO NOT PUSH THE MAN AWAY. THIS IS A BIG DECISION THAT HE MUST MAKE ON HIS OWN. IF YOU TALK TO HIM ABOUT THIS YOU’RE TRYING TO FORCE HIM INTO MARRIAGE” mindset.) Hopefully your discussions go well.

      Also, sometimes it just takes some time. 14 months after our original decision, we’ve grown a lot, and gotten to know each other better. Just because you’re not in the same place right now, doesn’t mean you’ll never be. Wishing you the best.

    • meg

      <3 <3

      You inspired literally hours of staff debate over whether this *particular* question was a validation question (what we picked it for) or a tough love question (what we started thinking after closer reading and more thought). I'm glad that us settling on tough love was the right choice. (Sometimes we have to weigh big picture advice "of course you don't need a ring to be engaged!" with specific advice "Wait, are you guys in particular both feeling engaged right now." Is tricky!)

      You guys will figure this out. I remember this place. (Who doesn't remember this place, dear lord?) But this is good. Taking a time out and getting on the same page will make this feel SO much better when you step back to it.

      In the meantime, you deserve a drink tonight.

      • Kat

        YUP! This is a wonderful awful, great, gut-wrenching, cry your eyes into your pillow when he’s not looking, buying wedding magazines and calling halls for that date but only discussing it with your mom kinda place.

        It’s the most exhilarating worst place you’ll ever be in… next to anything to do with guest lists.

      • ENGAGE

        Thanks, Meg!

      • http://www.sarahhoppes.com SarahHoppes

        This question is what lead me to APW in the first place, and holy shit is it a tough place to be.

        Also, maybe others should learn from my mistakes and make sure that even when you and your partner agree that you are in fact engaged, you discuss when/how it should be announced. Sending Save the Dates to my now-husband’s totally confused family was most likely NOT the best approach. (In my defense, he told me he’d talked to his parents already. He just meant to and kind of . . . forgot. ) That lead to an angry phone call his mom yelling, “It’s not that we don’t LOVE you, but we just don’t UNDERSTAND you two!!!!”

    • Leah

      I wonder, Engage, if he doesn’t consider it an engagement until he’s provided the ring? Like his look had more to do with feeling badly that he hasn’t stepped up to “do his part” yet? Sometimes guys have a lot of unspoken assumptions, too, that muddy the process.

      Mostly, I agree that there is confusion, and that the best way to address it is to ask some open and loving questions. The answers may prove to be pretty simple ones!

      • meg

        Here is the thing (speaking from experience). Sometimes, when someone says “I don’t consider it an engagement until I propose,” what they really mean is, “I love you. I’m pretty sure I want to spend the rest of my life with you. But I’m not ready to be engaged to you. You need to wait until I tell you that I’m ready.”

        It’s easy to say “Oh, they’re just stuck in this idea that the ring matters,” when the reality is often more like, “I haven’t asked you yet,” and/or, “I haven’t said yes to your question yet.” And they’re sort of soft balling you, by muttering about the ring, because they want you to feel loved, but they are just not ready.

        Which is FINE. The world is full of marriages where one person just wasn’t ready for awhile, and then they were.

        • anon

          Just wanted to add, though it’s been said many times on APW, sometimes both people are ready, but the ducks are not. Which, I would argue, is a different situation.

        • p.

          “Taking a time out and getting on the same page” is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my (now) four years of marriage. To be honest, I’m kind of jealous that Engage is getting to learn this lesson so much earlier in her relationship than I did. Because I now know from experience that once you’ve taken the time to make sure you’re on the same page about something (wedding, kids, career, house), whatever comes up in the future about this thing is SO much easier to deal with.

    • Kristen

      I have a blog crush on Engage. You’re awesome and mature and I wish you were my big sister. I couldn’t help but wonder if the puppy dog face was because he wanted to do the asking before you started the announcing. Good luck!

      • ENGAGE

        Awwww, thanks Kristen! :-D

        Ladies, I think you are right. The traditional proposal stuff is pretty important to him and his (sometimes crippling) perfectionism is slowing him down. He has said that he feels like our decision last winter (and the ensuing fight he had with a sibling–that’s for another discussion entirely, whew!) has sort of “stolen [his] thunder.” Poor honey. :-/ It seems I’ve been a bit blind to his needs here; I thought my lack of need for a big, fancy, ring-giving proposal was letting him off the hook, but I think I really underestimated the importance and significance of it to *him*.

        • Leslie R.

          My husband was the same way – we had discussed getting married and knew we were both on the same page and planning on it (although we didn’t actually start any wedding planning), but when we started talking about wedding rings, turns out he felt a lot more strongly about it than I did. He had very specific ideas about what constituted an engagement ring and what constituted a proposal/engagement. I deferred to him on it because I didn’t really care and he so strongly did – so it definitely may be that your husband is feeling similar. Having the conversation really helped me to understand where he was coming from and insure that we were both on the same page.

        • Kristen

          The best/worst part about your story Engage is that it’s making me think that instead of the ultimatum I needed to get the proposal I wanted, if I had just called my hubby’s bluff when he claimed, “We’ve already decided we’re getting married,” and “You’ve proposed to me a million times now,” I bet I wouldn’t have needed the ultimatum. Because if I’d taken him at his word and started telling folks we were engaged, I KNOW he would have been upset because he wanted to propose and he would have gotten to it faster. He just wanted to do it on his terms, and I wanted it done on mine.

          I hope the conversation goes well with your man Engage!

    • Also Ali

      If this makes you feel any better, Engage, almost the same thing happened to me and I took it pretty hard. I have since retracted all my “we’re engaged! Almost!” comments to friends and family, who (bless them) have been really cool about the confusion.

      And now I am waiting for the proposal and it is kind of agonizing.

      • ENGAGE

        Makes me feel lots better…..thanks! <3

        Here's hoping your waiting time ends soon!

  • C

    M and I had discussed why we were and were not ready to get married. A bit after a few of these talks, he asked me if I would marry him. I said yes, and we started telling people we were engaged the next day. When asked about why I wasn’t wearing a ring, we told people that he didn’t know what sort of ring I would want so we planned to go looking together soon. People kept asking about the ring (but not a super-annoying way) until I got it 5 months later.

  • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison

    I got engaged twice… to the same person. Ken (my now-husband) and I had gone out ring browsing one weekend in January 2011, and later, had a conversation about whether he needed to ask my parents for permission/their blessing. I said that my parents would say something to the effect of, “Why are you asking us? Go ask her, hope she says yes!” (which was the truth, haha). So then he said:

    Ken: Well, would you say yes?
    Me: Of course.
    Ken: Would you… say yes right now?
    Me: Uh, yeah?
    Ken: Even though I don’t have a ring?
    Me: Well yeah, that’s not the most important part, anyway.
    Ken: Alison, will you marry me?
    Me: Yes!
    (pause)
    Ken: Are we engaged?
    Me: Did you mean it? I meant it.
    Ken: Yeah…
    Me: Then yeah, we’re engaged!

    Over the next few months, we picked out a ring together, he picked it up secretively, and then “proposed again” when we were on vacation in Key West (the first place we ever went on vacation together). We told people we were engaged a few weeks after the “first” proposal and were “Facebook official” because we had made the commitment. We didn’t start actively planning anything until later that summer, mainly because we were both still in grad school and knew we were getting married in October of 2012.

    Did we confuse people? Sure. Did I have people ask, “Where’s your ring?” Of course. Did I get impatient waiting for my ring? I must admit, yes. But we were any less engaged than if I had had one? No. No one seemed confused when I got my ring in July; we had been engaged the whole time… now I have a ring. He proposed twice, which is kind of a funny story, but I didn’t think it was totally weird or anything.

    In the end, if you’re comfortable being engaged sans ring, then that’s all that matters. People will sort out their own feelings on the situation, and honestly, it doesn’t matter what their feelings are, in my opinion.

    • http://www.ruthadelia.com Ruth

      The parent discussion went EXACTLY the same way for us.

      • B (the other one)

        My boyfriend has proposed or near proposed to me 4 times since we got together! The first was 3 months after dating when we were only 21, so the next day we decided that we should wait.
        The two times last year I accidentally stumbled across his planning (found the ring!) and after I ruined the surprise he didn’t follow through with asking since I “stole his thunder”. This January he proposed on our 1 year anniversary of moving to England, but since he wrote me a card and than never said aloud “will you marry me?” I told him it wasnt it. I need to hear those words aloud after so much excitement and anticlimax and hard conversations regarding being engaged, we’ve been pre-engaged for 3 years!

        I’m very non traditional about engagement, weddings and marriage etc but I’m surprised at how much pressure my partner feels to follow tradition and do things the ‘right way’. And even though he knows we will be together and the answer is YES he is still incredibly nervous! Sweet but frustrating!

  • http://therapyisexpensive.wordpress.com KatjaMichelle

    TeacherMan and I are engaged, have been since February. We’re getting married in July. I don’t have a ring yet (or rather I’ve had two but thats another story) my (third) engagement ring should be ready saturday only a little over a month before our wedding. That doesn’t negate our entire engagement. People are seriously hung up on my lack of ring and sometimes it gets to me, but I try to respond with something like “my ring isn’t ready yet, we’re so excited about getting married I forget I’m not wearing a ring yet”

  • http://caffeinateandconquer.com Angie

    you’ve made a mutual agreement to love and support each other for the rest of your lives.

    that’s all anyone needs to know.

  • Marisa

    I had a similar experience, but not identical. For various life reasons (e.g., my fiance is in the military and would be relocating and finishing training and had absolutely zero control over his schedule), we had to pick a wedding date that fit his work schedule and begin planning before a ring appeared or else make do with a smaller scale affair than what we really wanted for our wedding, and plan everything in a much faster pace. We’d been looking and shopping for rings, but for long, complicated, and legitimate reasons, the ring was held up. As it was, we started planning about six months in advance, looking at venues, booking vendors, sending out save the dates, etc. It was about 6-7 weeks after we started the real planning that we finally got the ring and the proposal. It was a very awkward time for me to be planning without being “officially” engaged in the conventional sense of the word. When complaining about some minor wedding planning aspect, one friend told me I wasn’t even really engaged yet, and I shouldn’t be so upset. I had vendors ask me how my fiance had proposed, to which I answered “he hasn’t yet.” I was worried and uncomfortable with the idea that OTHER people didn’t think this was legit. I kept feeling like I had to reassure people that yes, a ring was ordered, yes, he helped send the dates and was clearly on board with wedding planning and I wasn’t running around planning a wedding like a fanciful girl deluding herself into thinking a proposal was coming. It was so much less stressful/awkward to me once I had the ring to proclaim, “See! I’m not crazy! He really did mean it!” However, although the order in which everything occurred still wasn’t my preference, in hindsight, I realize that it was really me being more concerned with other people not thinking it was real, and nothing at all to do with doubting my fiance’s intentions, which is what really matters. During that in-between-time, I explained to my friends and family that we weren’t “officially” engaged because of hold-ups with the ring, but let them know our intentions and to keep the wedding date free on their schedules. Although I had another layer of waiting to announce it publicly to people who weren’t going to be invited to the wedding (the impending relocation meant that my engagement also meant I would soon be quitting my job, and I preferred to delay making this announcement until everyone for real agreed that it was as official as it gets), it was still discomfiting to have my mother telling people we were engaged before I had fully embraced it and had a ring, and yet also discomfiting to have people tell me that I WASN’T engaged. All the way around, I think it just shows that for some people, unless everything lines up exactly the way cultural tradition tells you that it should, some people (like me at times, and sometime some of my friends and family) are going to be challenged by it. It definitely gave me a little wake-up call that I really my focus needed to be that the bigger deal was that I was getting a marriage, not about getting a wedding.

    After the official ring and proposal happened, I still did deal with some of the “Oh, so it’s really happening now? You meant it?” comments (thanks, step-mom). To which I wonder what the hell they thought the save the dates, wedding website and wedding dress I bought meant to them exactly, but…. whatever. 16 days and counting!

    • Alice

      Oh boy, the fear of seeming like “a fanciful girl deluding herself into thinking a proposal was coming.” is maybe why I’m so stuck on making sure I get a proposal before I make any kind of announcement. You hit the nail on the head. I wonder why I’m so terrified of seeming that way.

      • Copper

        I had that fear too, during a bit of an ambiguous period. I think it’s partly because I frankly grew up judging women who wanted a wedding too badly. I felt like the girls who pressured a guy into marrying them had their priorities wrong and made all women look like idiots (yeah, tell me how you really feel right? but oh well, y’all seem like I can be honest with you). The stereotypes of the women who pressure, coerce, and trick men into weddings, those desperate creatures that I’ve come to find mostly exist in the minds of men, were the furthest thing from who I wanted to be. So it’s been really difficult for me to even admit that I wanted to get married, difficult for me to go along with having a big family wedding vs a courthouse visit. And I wonder if the perceived danger of looking like you’re faking an engagement is the epitome of looking like one of those women, and that’s why we’re so afraid of it?

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I also had a similar experience. We decided to get married, set a date, bought a dress, and started making invites and writing the text. He ordered a ring, and then after he got it, he waited a while to propose. We were in two countries and had a short engagement, so that complicated things. We ended up getting “engaged with a ring” 3 days before the wedding. So I ended up never feeling totally engaged….

  • MTM

    Pssh have your cake and eat it too! Spartner and I decided to get married and wanted to have the wedding only 4 months from decision date, so I had to start planning right away. He wanted to let me pick out my ring (got it from Etsy and had a 4 week wait while it was being made) but he asked when the ring was shipped. I see our engagement as the conversation an he sees it as when he actually gave me the ring.

  • GCDC

    My now husband and I decided to get married, picked a date and started planning all without a ring or a proposal. But, my husband was very set on the idea that we couldn’t make it “official” without a ring and a proposal. We talked a lot about it, and I came to understand that he felt pressured to get a ring and do some grand romantic gesture because that was expected of him, was something he always thought he’d do, and was something that people would ask him about (or ask me about what he did). So we secretly planned a wedding for six weeks while he got a ring, and then announced it formally to everyone.

    In short, I realized that some men may feel pressure or expectation about the proposal-making or ring-buying. My husband certainly saw that as his role, his time to shine (see what I did there?) and would have felt like that was being taken away from him had we announced our engagement without it.

    So, I guess my point is talk to him and keep an open mind, which is really unspecific advice for this specific situation.

  • Suz W

    My situation doesn’t exactly apply here but I wanted to throw this data point out there: I didn’t have an engagement ring and I was SO happy with that decision. There was never a moment where I felt like the ring’s absence took away from our excitement or “proof” of engagement or anything like that.

    We were lucky that our families and close friends didn’t bat an eyelash about this topic but, at the same time, when people we didn’t know as well would immediately dart their eyes down to my ring finger upon our announcement, I got a little thrill. I loved bucking tradition and if anyone was so bold as to ask about it, I just said “Nope, we aren’t doing a ring.” And if they took it even further (really, very rare) to ask why I would volunteer, “It’s just not me.” Which was the absolute truth. I could certainly wax poetic about the reasons why but, ultimately, it wasn’t/isn’t me. Or my (now) husband!

    • Rebecca

      I didn’t have one either and it was awesome!

      I was never against having one, but the more I looked at rings the more I didn’t want any of them, so I didn’t get one. And it was great.

      I only had to tell people I was engaged if I wanted to. Our engagement mostly took place while I was finishing my thesis, and really I didn’t want to talk about wedding stuff, so I mostly didn’t tell people. I really enjoyed having our engagement to ourselves, just shared with the people we were closest too. It was really nice.

      Telling people once we got married was funny because some people were definitely surprised, but saying “oh, I got married” to people who mostly already knew I was in a long term relationship didn’t really generate much reaction besides a surprised, happy “Congratulations!” Which is so much easier for me to take than questions about wedding colors at work…

  • SRN

    I’ve been reading a lot of people commenting that the ring/proposal mattered either to them or to their partners, and they aren’t sure why. When my fiance and I went through this, we decided that our need for that gesture wasn’t just about wanting romance (we have plenty of that in the day-to-day little things of our life together), but about needing a ritual to mark the public acknowledgment of something private. Our decision to get married happened over the course of at least a year and a half. First there was the, “if we move across the country together, that’s based on the assumption that we think/hope/believe this will work out,” conversation; then there was the “so around when are you thinking we will probably feel ready to be engaged,” conversation, and then finally the the “we’re feeling ready, let’s talk about some ring and wedding logistics” conversation. All this was followed, a few months later, by a proposal (with ring) that was a surprise in that I didn’t know exactly when/how he was going to do it, but not a surprise in that I had already seen the ring and knew it was in the house somewhere (no, I didn’t look for it–though tempted :)). We did have a couple of conversations about whether we wanted to do this kind of proposal at all, and we decided that we wanted it because we felt we needed a ritual or ceremony. Our engagement was the public declaration of a private decision, and that felt scary/strange/big enough to need some kind of ceremony to mark it. I was kind of uncomfortable with the patriarchal power dynamic of this particular ritual, but heck–many, many of our rituals have patriarchal roots. We took the sting out of the weird power dynamic (he gets to ask, I just say yes or no) by deciding together that we would get married before he “asked.” I totally celebrate folks who feel comfortable getting engaged without rituals or who end up making up totally new rituals, but to me, rituals feel meaningful because of their history–the long tradition of people using them to mark important moments. The history of our society is, unfortunately, full of frustrating gender norms, and so we take the ritual and try to modify it as much as we can to fit our egalitarian values while still having it feel meaningful. This, by the way, is also something we are working on as we plan our (un)traditional Jewish wedding, something that Meg thought about a lot when she was planning her wedding, too

    • Rachel

      Yes to all of this, and this in particular: “Our engagement was the public declaration of a private decision, and that felt scary/strange/big enough to need some kind of ceremony to mark it.” I find the “surprise” element of proposals sort of baffling, but I TOTALLY get why a proposal makes sense for so many people. I’m all for finding a way to have that ritual in a way that makes sense to you.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    So interesting and made me think of my own story. I’ve never really understood what pre-engaged means or what engaged but not engaged means either. We dated, we decided we were dating for the specific purpose of deciding compatibility and desire for marriage with one another and at some point we decided we were ready for marriage and didn’t commit to marriage until he asked me (because he wanted to formally propose and surprise me with a the gift of an engagement ring). So even when we decided we’re both emotionally ready for the step of marriage, we had not yet actually at that point committed to it. I think of engagement as a formal commitment to get married (formal meaning you say yes, we’re getting married not formal as in you have a ring or adhere to certain rituals).

  • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

    To me it seems like a question of just needing to use different words to explain different things. “Engaged” can mean planning to get married, planning a wedding, and/or that a proposal happened. It sounds like you’re using the word to mean one thing and the people you’re talking to are hearing another thing. So just use different words. “We’re planning our wedding!” is pretty straightforward and not really up for misinterpretation. “We’re planning our wedding and he intends to do a proposal with a ring sometime soon” might get you a couple confused looks, but is also not really open to misinterpretation.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      I knew someone who started planning a wedding before she was actually engaged which was EXTREMELY confusing. Her exact words were “My boyfriend said I can start planning the wedding” and when asking her if that meant “Congratulations, you’re engaged” she responded with “well he hasn’t proposed yet so I’m just waiting on the engagement.” It was…weird? I didn’t really know what to make of it but decided it wasn’t really for ME to make anything of, said congratulations and asked her the date.

  • http://www.newlywedsonabudget.com Newlyweds on a Budget

    I’ve been married more than three years and I still don’t have an engagement ring. My husband and I decided to get married in three weeks, and we were both broke at the time so there was no money for a ring. After we got married, I made considerably more in the income department and I didn’t like the idea of having to pay for my own ring. My husband has been working on his career and we’re almost at the point where he’ll be making the same amount as me. Once he lands his full-time job we have an agreement that he’ll buy me a ring–with interest ; )
    That being said, it has bothered me not to have a ring, but at this point, ehh…i still love the guy, ring or no ring. What mattered more to me was what other people thought.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I’m sure lots of people, maybe even most people, make important decisions by seriously concentrating on the issue and coming to an explicit conclusion. But I don’t. I half-concentrate on the issue for a long time and then act on my gut. At some point, there might be an action that would be really hard to un-do, but that action might be weeks or months after my half-concentrating.

    So when did I decide I would marry my husband? When did he decide? When did we tell each other? I have no idea. I relate a lot to the people saying being engaged is mostly about the public aspect. That is an action that is hard to un-do and cements the half-concentrating.

    I’m not sure I agree that being engaged is an on/off thing, like the pregnancy proverb. I know I experienced the early days of our marriage as not an on/off thing, either. Were we married when we were married under California’s laws? Canon law?

    But I agree that it’s not a position you can take among a group of people. On that, I agree with the consensus.

    BTW, I’m pretty sure the “you’re not engaged without a ring” meme originates with Laura Schlessinger (remember her?). She told young women they weren’t engaged unless they had a ring and a date. The usual context was murky conversations about getting married “some day” which Schlessinger thought were just to string the young women along.

  • Meghen

    Last summer, my now-husband and I decided we wanted to get married. We started talking to the church about open dates for an early Spring wedding, and, once we had those, started talking to our – somewhat confused, but excited – families about what would work, since they would all have to travel to attend. In October, we set the date and started working on designing my wedding set with a jeweler. We sent save-the-dates in November. In December, my ring(s) arrived, and my husband proposed “officially.” We then finally announced it on Facebook, which produced a lot of cheering and general mirth from our friends, who of course, had known for 2 months that we were engaged. So yes, we told everyone that we were engaged in October. When the naysayers spoke up, I sometimes used your line from the book, Meg: “I like to consider my partner my rock.” Sometimes I simply told them that we were designing the ring. Despite the mild confusion last fall, no one was confused when we got married last month. Good luck finding your own path to dealing with it, ENGAGE! And I agree with most everyone else here; if you both consider yourselves to be engaged, then you are.

  • http://www.sunnysideshlee.com Ashley

    I didn’t have a ring or a fancy story and I HATED telling people I was getting married because that’s the first thing people always want to know. But I learned – forget it! It’s about you and your fiance. I usually will tell people ,”There’s no ring and no fancy proposal story. It’s something we both wanted to do and have started planning our wedding. We wanted to spend our money in the best way possible, and a ring isn’t priority to me.”

    At the end of the day, though, you do not need to explain yourself to anyone. You’re engaged. End of story!

  • Emma

    Oh, how I laughed when I read this. Because this is us! We decided to get married, we have a date-ish (we know the month but haven’t settled on a venue so we don’t know the exact date). But no one proposed. Initially there wasn’t going to be a ring either. But then we went to look at wedding bands, and I discovered his would cost twice what mine would, and “we” decided I’d be getting a non-traditional “engagement” ring at some point during our engagement because (1) I like sparkly things so why not have two sparkly things, (2) I do like the idea of a physical symbol of our impending commitment, even if he doesn’t want to wear an engagement ring, and (3) yes, yes societal pressure and I am pretty tired of meeting wedding vendors and watching them get confused about my empty finger and then look suspicious/concerned when I explain there was no proposal.

    Which is all a long way of saying, I hear you sister! This stuff is tough. And I wholeheartedly agree with Liz that you have to choose when you’re engagement begins, and that your man has to agree with that choice, and that you have to stay consistent with it when you talk to other people. All good things, and stuff we struggled with, and have only recently sorted out.

    But I wanted to add two things:

    First, a phrase from Liz’s response jumps out at me — “you’re, OMG, engaged!” See the “OMG”? See the exclamation point? This is the hard part. When you don’t have a proposal OR a ring, it’s harder to have your OMG! moment. I still haven’t had one, and we are 100% agreed upon engaged. I do think I’ll get a little one once my ring comes, because people will have something to OMG! over. But without the ring or the proposal story, it’s hard to OMG! It’s more like, “Yeah, we’re excited! Wedding planning is stressful.” And people feel confused, because they feel like they missed something. And seeing their confusion (and possibly their disappointment) is tough. You want people to be excited, and instead they’re all “Huh?” And you can be totally committed to the way you’re doing this, and still be affected by that. And that’s okay.

    Second, I just want to point out the (possibly) obvious that I think this dynamic is harder for women. Because women are the ones with the rings. There is a rhythm to engagements among girlfriends, and that rhythm involves an anticipation of a proposal, a proposal, and a ring. Groups of male friends don’t always have these traditions. And they don’t have that moment when their best friend grabs their hand and says, “Oh, it’s so pretty! I’m so happy for you!” And since your experience is different than your partner’s, you might be feeling more social pressure, and you might be more likely to experience that confusion/disappointment from others when you tell them you’re engaged. I’ve dealt with this by talking it out with my two closest girlfriends (who also just got engaged, making it both easier and harder) and they are now totally on my page and happy to OMG! even if my story is a little different than theirs. And the other thing I’ve done is come up with a few stock phrases that make it easier to get through conversations with women who don’t quite get it. One is, “I know it sounds a little weird, but we’re a little weird!” Another, which one of my best guy friends came up with: “We’re just kind of backing into it. We figure one day we’ll wake up and be all ‘hey, we’re married!’ without having to get all stressed out about it.” People just want to know you’re happy with the situation. And since they don’t quite get it yet, you have to work harder to explain, and reassure them. Fair? Not at all! But it’s the reality. Consider it a favor you do for future couples who will go through the same thing. The more of us who go non-trad with the engagement, the easier the non-traditional engagement will be for others to understand.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Exactly. Especially to the gender-norms and social pressure. “Engage” and pre-engaged women should think about whether they should talk to their partners about what “getting engaged” will mean for them among their friends and family. “When I tell my co-workers we’re getting married, they will ask to see my ring. My uncle will ask for the date.” Etc. Then our partners can see what the big deal is. (Why we feel a duty to have a clear response to the co-workers and the uncle is another issue.)

      As someone not easily visibly excited by major life events, I can also relate to people around me not knowing how to react. This was an issue when I was engaged because I was extra-calm for fear of becoming “that bride” who can only talk about the wedding. I just adjusted my expectations. No one was going to “OMG!” because I wasn’t. I think there were some friends who were disappointed to have missed the “usual” girl-talk about wedding plans, but the alternative was spending my engagement pretending to be the kind of woman I’m not.

  • Jess

    So many different ways to do it…Here’s our timeline:
    December 2010- said we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together (we actually disagree about who said it first, lol), agreed we would one day get married. Didn’t talk about it explicitly again for a while (although we’d talk in forever terms)
    January 2012- I asked him to marry me and we called one of our best friends to tell him
    August 2012- went to pick out a ring together, told our parents, called all our family
    June 1 2013- got some MARRIED :)

    So we were “engaged” for a while, but just kept it to ourselves. We made it formal by getting a ring for me, but there was no proposal (and I got to design my own ring!). People would ask me for a proposal story, but no one was really disappointed at all when I just said, “we asked each other a ling time ago, now its just formal”– everyone was just really excited for us!

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    I disagree with this:
    “Either you’re engaged now, or he’s going to propose, and then you’ll be engaged.”

    Though, when I was in a similar situation to ENGAGED, I would have agreed with Liz. We decided to get married at the end of June. Our parents and immediate families knew and we were finalizing the date (for 3.5 months later). We bought our clothes in early July, and started making the invites, designing the website, etc, etc. He had ordered a ring and had it. We agreed that he would propose.

    At this point, I figured I would consider myself officially engaged when he proposed. He, however, is from a country where people usually don’t get married, and he did not understand the importance of the proposal to me. (He considered us engaged when we decided to get married in June; he didn’t realize I considered us “planning our wedding.”)

    I wish I had considered us engaged from when we decided to get married, but I just didn’t let myself feel the full joy of it, and I did not shout it from the rooftops. I spent the 3.5 months of planning dampening my joy because I was waiting for the ring to fully celebrate.

    Due to being in two countries and his procrastination because he wanted to have a “good proposal” and couldn’t think of anything….he didn’t propose until the Wednesday before our Saturday wedding. I loved our proposal, but I wish I had considered myself fully engaged in June.

    Though from ENGAGE’s letter, I am not clear how much concrete planning has happened and what the timeline is. If the couple has made concrete plans….a date, venue, dress, etc., for sometime in the near future, I would say they could call themselves engaged now and then have the ring experience later. Maybe if there are no concrete plans and no immediate plans for the wedding, perhaps waiting to announce it is a good choice?

    For us, waiting made it too late. I cheated myself out completely out of my engagement. And I also wish I had explained to my person-I-was-marrying what the proposal experience meant to me. But at the time I didn’t realize the full extent of the cultural disconnect. So….communication certainly would have helped me. You live and learn….

  • Beth C

    Great answer Liz.
    When I first started reading I was surprised because we never got any push back about our ring-less, question-less engagement, but then then I realized the difference is that I never planned to wear a ring so that was part of our engagement story.
    Good luck and happy engagement.

  • Ceebeeuk

    So well timed, we’ve got a date (hopefully, if no one steals it) but probably won’t be engaged til January or so. The family is here for Christmas and while I don’t want him to ask permission, I do want my parents to know and love him before its official.

  • Kitty

    I just wanted to add in a small comment here around Liz stating that it is not possible to be half engaged. My fiancé and I both proposed. Originally this was not in her plan as she always thought she would be the one to propose to her future wife then there would be a “presentation” of her ring. It was very important to me however that we both get the opportunity to plan something special and propose to each other. I also knew that since she was allowed to go first and surprise me, my proposal to her would take some time afterward. The question became “when are we officially engaged?”. My sweet roommate came up with the term “hingaged” (to indicate being “half engaged”) after my fiancé proposed to me first and I thought it was kind of sweet. In the end we told people in layers and did not make a huge “official” (read Facebook) announcement until after my proposal. In the end I agree with the statements made here about both being on the same page about engagement and it being confusing for people when you are unclear in explaining your plans. I humbly disagree though that engagement can’t happen in layers or be a series of events/declarations. You’ve made a commitment to each other and sometimes it’s just not easy to pinpoint a singular event or time that marks that and I think that’s ok.

  • Daisy6564

    This was my position, except my family and I held the opposite views. The man and I decided that we wanted to marry each other maybe 1 1/2 years into our relationship. By around the two year mark (February) we had a discussion and decided that we wanted to start actually moving towards marriage.

    I made the colossal mistake of telling my parents in April, after which my mom kept insisting that we were engaged. She even secretly went out and started researching venues.

    The man and I wanted to do a proposal before we actually considered ourselves engaged. I swore my parents to secrecy so we could do the old fashioned proposal, ring, call everyone deal. Mom ended up telling a bunch of her old college friends which led to me in an awkward situation of being congratulated by women I hadn’t seen since I was a child and then responding with “Congratulations for what?…. Oh no, I’m not engaged yet.” (Awkward pauses all around).

    Mom bugged me for six weeks about why I wasn’t engaged yet, all the time insisting that I actually was since we had decided to marry each other. As soon as he finally asked the question two weeks ago she whipped out her secret files and started bombarding us with wedding planning questions.

  • ENGAGE

    UPDATE TIME!

    We had The Conversation when Honey got home from work last night, and, as usual, I was way more spun up about things than I needed to be. :) (Meg and others: thanks again for reminding me to take the conversation out of my head and put it where it belongs, between the two of us.)

    Here’s what we, together, decided: YES, we are engaged! NO, we are not telling (any additional) people about it until I have a ring and we make it “Facebook Official” (his words, not mine (giggle)). The proposal (or, really, the sweet & sentimental gesture of giving me a ring–not so much the asking of a question to which he already has the answer) *is* really important to him–it’s what he’s been picturing in his head since he was a mini-Honey and he feels like it will “seal the deal” on our decision conversation from many months ago. Kind of like…..last winter, we baked our engagement cake and this summer he’s going to frost it with something sparkly. It’s done, it’s a Thing, it’s just not ready for public consumption yet.

    We also had a great discussion about gender roles in general and specific to our relationship, about how we confront/handle others’ perceptions of us as a couple, and about our wants/needs when it comes to officially joining together our lives. Love him so much. :-D

    Very grateful to all of you wonderful women who pointed me in the right direction (talking! to him!), shared your own stories, and offered kindness and support to a total stranger. This community is amazing. <3

    • http://theselfcateredwedding.wordpress.com/ Savannah

      “last winter, we baked our engagement cake and this summer he’s going to frost it with something sparkly”

      AMAZING.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I’m so glad you guys talked and got on the same page! Congrats on your private-for-now engagement!

    • 39bride

      “It’s done, it’s a Thing, it’s just not ready for public consumption yet.”

      I love how you said that! That’s what it was like for me and my husband. As I said in a comment below, the ring became our “public consumption” point.

    • ENGAGE

      UPDATE to the UPDATE:

      The cake has been frosted! We are “formally official” now, and when we told the Naysayers about Honey’s very special ring-giving event, we simply said that we had “formalized our engagement with a ring”, and they, thank heavens, did not argue the point. :-D

      Onward! <3

      • ENGAGE

        Edit: By “Honey’s very special ring-giving event”, I mean the day full of surprises that he planned for me/us, which included our families and was one of the most joyous, love-filled occasions of my life. :)

  • 39bride

    Looking back, I realize I didn’t really know when it switched from dating to engaged, either. We kept our discussions private for awhile until I told my mom, “We’re thinking we might want to get married.” He insisted on a ring, though it didn’t matter to me.

    So, while I bought a dress, scouted locations and photographers, etc (we knew the wedding would have to happen within 5 months if we wanted it within the next 18 month), I didn’t tell anyone else and he saved up for a ring. The ring was its own big discussion (type, cost, etc), and the recognition that it was a public statement of our private conversation came out of that discussion. Unconsciously, the ring became our cue to make public what we already had decided: that we wanted to be married.

    I guess what I’m trying to say that even though an engagement ring may have tremendous personal meaning for the people giving/receiving it, it’s simply a public, nonverbal statement that a marriage is impending. It’s a symbol. If it’s more than a symbol, do you become unengaged if you lose it? If you take it off for the night or only wear it when your not at home? It has no magical powers, except to make some onlookers lose their minds and manners. /snark

  • http://www.specialeventscatering.ca Mike Hilvers

    If I possess a lodge, could a served wedding be planned for it?