The drama doesn’t end when he puts a ring on it, writes Twanji Kalula...
I recently attended an amazingly sweet wedding that got me thinking about the way we conduct the whole courtship process. The couple at hand were effectively married; they had been together for over ten years – living in sin.
He finally proposed about four months ago – and relative to the amount of time they spent dating, they rushed to their big day.
The fact that they had been together so long got me questioning how long it’s appropriate to be together before you get engaged. As I pondered this, I started thinking about how long you should be engaged before you get married.
It seems that for every Kim Kardashian, dashing to the altar with the closest eligible bachelor, there are a handful of couples who wait years, sometimes even decades, before entertaining the idea of engagement, let alone marriage.
How long should an engagement period be?
One of my colleagues recently got married after spending the last year planning and executing her wedding. It has been quite an educational experience – as I have vicariously realised how much goes into planning a wedding. Let’s just say that she’s promised to talk about something else next year!
She got engaged ten months prior to her wedding and felt it was too long. “I think you should be engaged long enough to plan your wedding,” she says. “With the internet and affordable professional wedding planners, you needn’t be engaged for more than six months.”
Is engagement the new ‘serious’ phase?
With many people getting engaged so soon after they start dating, I have noticed that the engagement period seems to be slightly longer - giving them time actually to get to know each other.
Another friend got engaged to her boyfriend in 2010, and they have decided to get married in 2012. This is a little weird for me, because I don’t really see the point in being engaged for two years. It’s like being engaged has become a public declaration of being serious about the fact that you’re going steady, instead of an announcement that you are intending to get married.
Engagement is now a pre-potentially-getting-married phase that can last for a number of years – and as a result, my Facebook feed has seen more than one engagement called off this year.
Are you giving away the milk for free?
I recently read an article which painted a rather gloomy picture for the way we date in the 21st century. It is now quite acceptable to have sex before marriage, and live with your partner out of wedlock. The author argued that many women who would like to get married don’t, because they are giving away the milk for free. Men are under no pressure to buy the whole cow, and enjoy the benefits of being married and the peace of mind that they’re legally single.
The new phenomenon
One of my closest friends was living with a guy for about three years, and things went a little bit wonky just months before their planned engagement. They eventually broke up, and within weeks of ending it he was engaged to a new woman, who has a questionable number of brain cells and an even more questionable profession.
The author of that article mentioned that this phenomenon was quite common, as many women aren’t clear about what they want when they set up house. Women who make it clear that they intend to get married from the outset are more likely to get married after playing house, than their counterparts who move in hoping that their boyfriend will organically decide to propose. Be careful – you don’t want to housetrain a man and do all the legwork for someone else.
Back to basics
I wish I could say “to each their own”, but I have met far too many brides-to-be who whinge and moan about the fact that their fiancé becomes rather skittish when they start bringing up the “wedding date” conversation.
I know Beyonce encourages all the single women to insist that he should put a ring on it, but I think she’s got it all wrong. In a very rare conservative moment, I think we should be guided by tradition and only propose when we actually intend to get married. I understand engagement as a declaration that you intend to get married in the near future, not as a declaration of a serious relationship.