An engagement is a promise to marry, and also refers to the time between proposal and marriage. During this period, a couple is said to be affianced, engaged to be married, or simply engaged.
The concept of an engagement period may have begun in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council, headed by Pope Innocent III, which decreed that "marriages are to be ... announced publicly in the churches by the priests during a suitable and fixed time, so that if legitimate impediments exist, they may be made known."Medieval Sourcebook: Twelfth Ecumenical Council: Lateran IV 1215 Such a formal church announcement of the intent to marry is known as banns. In some jurisdictions, reading the banns may be part of one type of legal marriage.
The modern Western form of the practice of giving or exchanging engagement rings is traditionally thought to have begun in 1477 when Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring as an engagement present.href=\"http://can.adiamondisforever.com/F/f5b.htm\">can.adiamondisfor... The Diamond Engagement Ring Tradition - History of the Diamond Engagement RingThe History of the Engagement Ring
In the United States, United Kingdom & Ireland, Canada, Australia, and many other countries, an engagement ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. This tradition is thought to be from the Romans, who believed this finger to be the beginning of the vena amoris ("vein of love"), the vein that leads to the heart. The custom in Continental Europe and other countries is to wear it on the right hand. Romantic rings from the time of the Roman Empire and from as far back as 4 AD often resemble the Celtic Claddagh symbol (two hands clasping a heart) and so it is thought that this was used as some symbol of love and commitment between two people. In some other countries from South America, like in Argentina, man and woman use each one a ring, and these are generally very similar to the wedding rings, with the difference that they are made of silver instead of gold. In Brazil they are always made of gold, and there is no tradition for the engagement ring. Both men and women wear the wedding band on their right hand while engaged and after they get married they shift to the left hand. It is typical for the woman's wedding band to contain two parts. One, which is given to her on the date of engagement, is customarily gold and contains small diamonds. The second is presented on the wedding day and has either more diamonds or one(s) of larger size. The two bands may be crafted into one. However, it has become common to have a mere one wedding band.
Some, but not all, engagements are honored with an engagement party, often hosted by the bride's parents. It may be formal or informal, and is typically held between six months and a year before the wedding. Traditionally, engagement parties allowed the bride's parents to announce the impending marriage to friends and families. Today, such an event can either be an announcement or simply a celebration.
A man who is engaged to be married is called his partner's fiancé; a woman similarly engaged is called her partner's fiancée. These words are pronounced identically in English; the separate feminine form exists because of the inflectional morphology of grammatical gender in French, where the term originated.
The classic proposal position is 'down on one knee' shown in the picture to the right. Engagement is most often initiated by a proposal of marriage, or simply a proposal. The proposal often has a ritual quality, involving the presentation of the engagement ring and a formalized asking of a question such as "Will you marry me?" In a heterosexual relationship, the man traditionally proposes to the woman, but this is no longer universal. In Ireland the 29th of February is said to be the one day (coming round only once every four years) when a woman can propose to her partner.
Engagement is similar to betrothal, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, betrothal often refers to agreements involving not only the couple but their families; the concept sometimes has a connotation of arranged marriage. Furthermore, betrothals can be broken, but often have binding legal implications lacking in engagements.
In some jurisdictions, until the 20th century, it was possible for a woman (but almost never a man), to sue if an engagement was broken, based on denial of the chance to "establish herself" and possible damage to her reputation.
This article is based on "Engagement" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Engagement&action=history