Monday, June 1, 2009

Wedding Planning Guide: Engagement (Part I)

Weddings, which should always be a time of happiness and joy for all involved, often become filled with jitters, fatigue, anger and hurt feelings, simply because the planning process isn't organized easily or efficiently or because there is a battle over who is in charge.

Even though the wedding may be paid for by the parents of the bride or groom or both, the decisions belong to the bride and groom. The bride's feelings take precedence, whether the question concerns the guest list or the flavor of the wedding cake. Parental advice should never be ignored and is always valid from their point of view, but if there is a real conflict of opinion, the unwritten guideline is that parents must accede to the bride's wishes. After all, it is her day and her wedding!

The problems created by lack of organization are dealt with more easily if just a little time is put into the planning process. There is no reason to spoil an exciting period because important details are overlooked or put off until the last minute or because the people involved are not aware of their responsibilities.

This series provides answers to the most-asked questions about weddings from the time of an engagement right through the reception. Included are a suggested schedule; guidelines on apparel, personal expenses of the wedding party and 'what to ask the photographer, caterer, musicians and clergyperson; an efficient way to record gifts; the correct procedures for the members of the wedding party; and tips on giving and receiving gifts and the wedding ceremony itself. Because proper wedding planning follows a sequence, this series is arranged to aid the bride, the groom and their families in their own planning from start to finish. My hope is that by following these suggestions your wedding and all that leads up to it will be as lovely and enjoyable as it should be!

Q. We've just become-engaged.-My mother is waiting for his mother to call and his mother is waiting for my mother to call her. Which family makes the first move to meet the other?
A. As soon as the prospective groom has talked with his parents, his mother should telephone your mother, tell her how happy she is about the engagement and suggest they get together. If your parents live far away from the groom's parents, a visit should be arranged between the families. Whichever parents can travel most conveniently should make the trip.

If, however, the groom's parents do not realize they should make the initial move, your parents should quickly do so. The only thing that's really important is that your families get together in a spirit of friendship.

Q. My parents are divorced. Whom should my fiance's parents call?
A. The first call is made to the parent with whom you lived after the divorce or with whom you live now. If you also are close to your other parent, he or she should be called shortly thereafter.

Q. My fiance's parents are divorced. Which one of them should call my parents?
A. The parent with whom your fiance has been living, or with whom he lived after the divorce, is the one who makes the first move. If he lives alone, and neither his mother nor father has thought of contacting your parents, your parents should arrange to see his parents separately, usually meeting his mother first and his father shortly thereafter.

Q. May our engagement be announced before I receive an engagement ring?
A. Yes. An engagement ring is not essential to becoming engaged. If you have an engagement ring, you first wear it in public on the day of the official announcement of your engagement. It doesn't have to be a diamond. A diamond is still the usual choice, but colored stones, such as large semiprecious stones or your or your fiance's birthstone, have become popular in recent years.

Q. Who gives an engagement party and when is it held?
A. Once your and your fiance's parents have met, an engagement party may be held. The bride's family usually gives the engagement party. If they cannot afford to do so or are dead or perhaps live far away, the groom's family may give the party. The one requirement is that both you and your fiance be present.

Q. Who makes the announcement at an engagement party?
A. There are innumerable ways of breaking the news at the party, from balloons or cocktail napkins with your names printed on them to a decorated cake, and there is not a rule in the world to hamper your own imagination. Since your mother, you and your fiance should be standing at the, door to greet the guests, there is really little need for an announcement at all! However, the conventional announcement is made by the father of the bride-to-be, in the form of a toast.

Q. How might a toast to the future bride and groom be worded?
A. There are many simple but lovely toasts the bride's father may propose, such as, "Now you know that the reason for this party is to announce Sarah's engagement to Hank. I would like to propose a toast to them both, wishing them many, many years of happiness." Another choice could be, "Please drink with me to the happiness of the couple who are so close to our hearts—Sarah and Hank." A very brief toast may be, "Will you all join me in a toast to Sarah and Hank."

Q. Do either the future bride or groom respond to the toast at an engagement party?
A. During the toast, both remain seated while everyone else rises and drinks a little of his or her beverage. The groom, at this point, should reply to his fiancee's father's toast. All he need say is, "Sarah and I want to thank you all for being here and for your good wishes." He may, of course, be more eloquent, if he wishes. The groom's father usually follows with a toast to the bride and her family. It is not necessary for guests of the party to propose toasts, but it is perfectly proper if they wish to do so.

Q. My fiance lives in another city. May his parents give an engagement party to introduce me to their friends?
A. Unless the bride's family is unable to do so, they should not give an "official" engagement party. But they certainly may give a reception or a formal or informal party or dinner to offer you and their friends an opportunity to meet.

Q. Are gifts given at an engagement party?
A. Engagement gifts are not expected from friends and acquaintances. They usually are given only by relatives and very special friends, and they generally are given to the bride alone. Sometimes they are given by the groom's, family as a special welcome to the bride. Examples of engagement gifts would be something, personal, such as lingerie or jewelry, or something for the bride's linen trousseau—towels, a blanket cover, table linen or a decorative pillow. Presents should,not be taken to an engagement party. Since only close relatives and special friends give gifts, it can cause embarrassment to those who have not brought anything. If some guests do bring gifts, the bride should open them in private with only the donor present rather than making a display of them in front of those who did not bring anything.

In some localities and among many ethnic groups an engagement party isn't given to announce an engagement as much as it is given to celebrate the engagement. When this is the case in your family or among your neighbors, gifts are often brought to the party.. A highlight of this type of engagement party is to end the evening by sharing the couple's excitement as they open the gifts.

Q. Are written thank-you notes required for gifts given at an engagement party?
A. If the gifts are delivered to you in person and you thank the givers sincerely at the time, you need do nothing more, although a note is always welcome. If you haven't opened them in the presence of the givers, however, or if they are delivered to your or your fiance's homes, you should write a note of thanks immediately. You should also write notes promptly in response to all welcoming or congratulatory messages that you receive.

Q. May I send printed engagement announcements?
A. No, it is not in good taste to send, engraved or printed announcements. You may, and should, however, send notes to or call relatives and close friends to inform them of your engagement before an engagement party or newspaper announcement. This prevents them from reading it first in the newspapers and consequently suffering hurt feelings. If your engagement is to be announced at a surprise party, you may ask them not to tell anyone else. Relatives who receive notes should telephone or write the bride as soon as they receive the news.

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