Ask Team Practical: Ring-less Engagement

Yes, it definitely still counts

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!


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: 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!

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