The Rules of Engagement for Men

Etiquette guidelines for gentlemen before, during, and following the proposal.

The Rules of Engagement for Men

Engagements & Proposals
Photo: Tec Petaja

Your wedding is arguably the time in your life when you will focus the most of what is proper etiquette… and what is not. It seems as though there are rules for every step of the process, and though they are in place to ensure everyone is treated with the utmost respect, they can get confusing. If you’re a man who’s thinking about proposing to his partner, you may be confused as to what’s expected of you and what you can expect from the experience in return.

Below is a list of four etiquette tips to make the moment you pop the question smooth, simple, and enjoyable for all involved.

-   The all-important (or not-so-important) art of the blessing. Not so long ago, it was considered highly uncouth for a man to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage without first consulting her father. This tradition is derived from the days when a woman didn’t have a choice in who she married – her future husband was at the discretion of her parents and who they deemed most worthy, usually based on wealth or status. However, thankfully, times have changed, and modern-day boyfriends have taken to bringing up the subject with their girlfriend’s parents as a sentimental gesture. If you’re wondering whether or not you should be going to your beloved’s parents for a blessing, you may not be entirely ready to propose. Throughout dating, gathering information about your sweetie’s ideas of tradition and custom is pertinent. For some women, the act of asking for dad’s blessing is incredibly important, so it’s something you should observe. For others, however, going to mom and dad beforehand is outdated and maybe even disrespectful.

-   The meeting of the families. Ideally, you and your sweetheart will have met one another’s families before you get on bended knee. However, ensuring that your parents have met each other prior to a proposal might be another story. If you’re able to connect your families, that’s fantastic, but not entirely necessary. If you’ve already asked, tradition states that the groom’s parents should reach out to the bride’s to set up a meeting – though nowadays, it truly doesn’t matter who catalyzes the introductions. Though coffee or lunch are popular for first-time interactions, some kind of group activity or gathering might prove easiest in this situation – a barbeque, a family party, etc. If one or both members of the couple have divorced parents, set up separate meetings for each unit to ensure a level of comfort for all involved.

-   If either party has children. If kids are involved on either side, getting them to be a part of the proposal itself is very important. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, but the two most popular are popping the question not just to your partner, but the children as well, and incorporating the kids into the proposal itself. Many men who are getting on bended knee for a woman with kids will prepare a speech for his beloved with promises to the children infused throughout – this will make them feel as much a part of the experience as their mother, and after all, they’ll be a part of the new family as well. Some grooms-to-be ask for the kids’ help to create the proposal, having them lead their partner to the selected location, contributing to the décor and ambience of the moment, or even presenting the ring. No matter how you do it, it’s their inclusion that’s important.

-   How to ask. Similar to gauging her opinion of asking for her father’s blessing, you’ll also need to understand the basics of how she’d like to be proposed to – even if it’s as simple as “public or private?” Some women have a very specific idea in their minds, perhaps something they’ve dreamed of since they were very young, and taking their desires into consideration is important. Of course, you also need to remember that this moment is about both you and you partner, so do something that makes you happy, too! Other brides-to-be are much more indifferent about proposals – they may not have any preferences whatsoever, in which case, it’s your time to be as creative as you’d like to be. Remember to balance both of your tastes and be realistic: if you don’t have the time or resources to orchestrate some grand proposal, don’t task yourself to do so. Stay within your comfort level and always keep your sweetheart in mind. It’s not unromantic to discuss both of your expectations beforehand – you always want to make sure you’re on the same page! 

Find out all you need to know about eloping, see the different between American and British wedding customs, and view gorgeous ketubah designs for Jewish ceremonies.

Opening photo by Carasco Photography

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