Engagements were not always a part of marriage, and it was not always the way it is today. Today, engagement is a verbal declaration of each other’s love and the will to spend the life together. Today, it has more of a sentimental meaning than a legal one. If one has ever wondered what the word “fiancé” means, you know it can be a synonym for commitment and trust. Therefore,your fiancé is someone you trust enough to spend your life with and engagement is that first step where you let the person know about this.
However, if we go back in time to see where the concept of engagement evolved from, we will find that engagement was not always a ritual. People used to directly go for marriage. Back then, when the times were not as modern and open, there was no concept of a relationship between two people before marriage. Most of the weddings used to be arranged and set by parents or guardians. It was parents,who used to choose the bride or groom, take the marriage proposal and discuss the wedding event and festivities. The bride and groom used to have little to do with it except simply getting married.
It was this period, between the proposal getting accepted and the couple getting married, which was considered as betrothal -the time period during which two families would get to know each other and prepare for the wedding. Back then, engagement did not have an official status or even a social one. The case was same in Christian and Muslim traditions, as well as in many other ethnicities.
It was after some time that this practice gained social acceptance, where parents would arrange a get together to officially announce the betrothal. Couples were still not allowed to be together, until they got married. Engagements took a serious turn here, and became so important that if the bride suddenly changed her mind about marriage, she could not be engaged to another man without first filing a Divorce. Yes, a divorce from fiancé! Later, in the Roman era, engagements were done in the presence of witnesses. Marriages back then used to be more about economical purposes than a hearty one. In the middle ages, after the collapse of Roman Empire, the Church took on the duty and introduced the official institution of betrothal. The couple getting married had to get registered first as “to-be’s” in the church. That was when the marriage got the status of a Holy union.
Today, engagement is a good way for the two families to know each other and for the groom to give a proof of his love to the woman of his life.
As far as the engagement ceremony is concerned, it was generally organized by the bride’s parents, and the groom’s family was to get the ring. The groom-to-be was supposed to send flowers to the bride and her mother. However, times have changed now. Engagement is no longer a legally binding relationship. However, it is still significant and maintains its social status.
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