Traditional and Modern Engagement Announcements

What is the best way to let the world know the good news? The best engagement announcement plan is the one that reaches the friends of the engaged couple and includes friends of the family as well.

Traditional Engagement Announcements

Each newspaper uses its own variation of an engagement announcement. Some won’t publish any at all, some charge a fee, but most are happy to print the engagement information—so long as it is submitted in a legible format with enough time to add it to the paper’s other materials.

While each newspaper will whittle down the information to fit its need, an engaged couple will fill all the blanks if they submit a traditional announcement that includes their names, their parents’ names, the towns and states where the couple and their parents live, the wedding date if it is set, the couple’s educational backgrounds, and their current professions and where they work. It helps to provide contact information—the engaged couple’s, a parent, or a friend—for any questions the paper might have.

Traditionally the announcement was delivered with a photo, usually a headshot, of the bride-to-be. The posed studio portrait was a black and white, glossy, 8”x10” photo, the best for newspaper reproduction at the time. The lady’s name was written on a piece of paper and taped to the back of the photo so as not to damage the photo and yet help the newspaper staff track which photo went with which announcement.

A note such as “Hold for release until Saturday, October 11,” sufficed to inform the publisher that you may be announcing the engagement in your own way on October 10.

Traditionally, a lady did not have an engagement announcement for her second marriage. And there was absolutely no engagement announcement if either of the engaged couple was still married.

Modern Engagement Announcements

Many newspapers still publish engagement announcements. This is particularly true of newspapers serving smaller towns or regions where “everybody knows everybody.” Even if a couple lives in a large city, they might find their local newspapers print engagement announcements, and they may also want to send a copy to the newspapers where their parents live, the alumni publications for the engaged couple’s educational institutions, their house of worship, and any civic groups to which either or both belong.

In most of these cases, newspapers and other publications have a set engagement announcement form they ask the couple to complete, or they ask the couple to write a brief freestyle engagement announcement to run with their engagement photo.

An engagement announcement can be made via the Internet—by global e-mail, by setting up a wedding Web site and sending out links, or even by Webcast. All of these lend themselves to creative touches that personalize the announcement beyond the traditional engagement card. With a Web camera and some talented coordination, the engaged couple could even host a virtual engagement party.

Timing the Engagement Announcement

In a rush to spread the happy news, an engaged couple and their family members should pause to consider not just how but also when to make the engagement announcement.

Before making a general announcement to the public, it is best to share the engaged couple’s good news with relatives. Any relative who does not know may feel neglected if a friend casually remarks, “I see your niece Sara is engaged to Timmy Thompson. Congratulations.” And what can the unsuspecting relative reply? “I had no idea. Are you certain?” To avoid the awkward conversation, be certain to alert family first, then the public.

If the family is gathered to celebrate someone else’s happy occasion, the polite newly engaged couple does not steal the spotlight by announcing their engagement. Even at a funeral, it’s not correct to take the spotlight off memories of the deceased. Yes, happy news could help dry a few tears, but it comes off as disrespectful of the dead, too. In fact, the bride-to-be is advised to either not wear her engagement ring or cover it with gloves, so the couple is not “found out” unexpectedly.

The couple might also decide to put their announcement on hold if their families are under unusual stress. This is not a firm rule, as in some cases the happy news can help provide a needed distraction.

If the couple wishes to avoid engagement presents or for other reasons wants to announce their engagement as a surprise, they need to plan the timing of any other written announcements so the party comes before the published news is printed.

Exceptions to the Rules

There are always exceptions to the rules. If a close relative is on her deathbed and it would bring her great joy to know of the engagement, the couple should by all means tell her. But the engaged couple should try to do it in a way that does not usurp the family’s attention to the ailing relation.

If the wording of a formal engagement announcement sounds awkward to the engaged couple, they should select a wording that works for them. Just because something has been done a certain way for several generations, it doesn’t mean it’s the correct and only way to do it.

When in doubt, the couple should do what feels right to them.