Here’s what newly-engaged couples need to know: Advice from 1921

Here's what newly-engaged couples need to know (1921)

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How to announce an engagement and other tips for newly-engaged couples (1921)

What do newly-engaged couples really need to know? Quite a bit. There is perhaps no time when the rules of etiquette need to be so strictly observed as during the period of courtship.

All the world loves a lover — but this does not keep the world from watching closely and criticizing severely any breach of good manners, especially on the part of the young lady.

Engaged couple from 1922

Newly-engaged couples should have quiet dignity and reserve

Any public display of affection anywhere at any time is grossly unrefined. Love is sacred, and it should not be thrown open to the rude comments of strangers.

The young couple should conduct themselves with quiet dignity and reserve, neither indulging in terms of endearment or caresses, nor purposely ignoring each other so as to create the impression that they are not, after all, so very much in love. There is no reason why their conduct in public after they are engaged should be any more demonstrative than it was before.

At parties, dinners, and other entertainments, it is their privilege to be with each other more than they are with anyone else, but this does not mean that they should neglect the other guests. If the occasion has been planned especially for them they are in part responsible for each one present finding it an enjoyable one. And each one should be very cordial to the friends of the other.

Many an engagement that held promise of golden happiness to come was abruptly broken because one or the other was not sufficiently circumspect in conduct. A young lady must remember that while she is not exactly expected to give up indiscriminately all her friends of the opposite sex, she must not receive them as guests, or go to the theater or a ball with them, without the knowledge and consent of her fiance. He is, of course, expected to be equally considerate of her with regard to his own relations with other women.

The engaged couple of today enjoys much greater freedom than the engaged couple of our grandmothers’ time. The chaperone has been almost entirely dispensed with, except in a few individual cases. Although it is still considered rather poor form to attend the theater or opera together, without other friends in the party, it is often done without any very serious consequence to the young people.

Perhaps it is because the young men and women of this country have that instinctive grace and dignity of manner that the severe laws of conduct practiced abroad have been deemed unnecessary.

Dance party with men and women c1921 with newly-engaged couples

The proposal

At one time, not so very long ago, it was considered an irrevocable law of etiquette that a young man obtain the formal consent of a young lady’s parents before asking her hand in marriage. Prevalent customs have almost eliminated this formality, and modern mothers and fathers, by the welcome which they accord him in their home, show a young man whether or not they think him eligible for their daughter’s hand. And it is really a much wiser plan to object to a friendship when it first begins instead of waiting until it has developed into something more serious.

If the young man wishes to proceed upon the old-fashioned formula he may do so, first assuring himself insofar as he is able that his attentions are welcome to the young lady.

The time for the proposal depends upon attending circumstances. Someone has said that there would be fewer divorces if more proposals were made in the middle of the day under ordinary conditions, but the timid or romantic youth usually prefers the witchery of moonlight and the magic of solitude.

The proposal itself should be sincere and earnest. Glowing terms and impassioned emotion are, indeed, very bad taste; and often the more simple a proposal is the more forcibly it expresses the suitor’s ardor.

If he is accepted, the well-bred young man will immediately seek the young lady’s parents and impart the happy news to them.

At this point, if it has not already been disclosed it is customary for him to reveal his true status, financially and socially, and answer politely any questions that her parents may ask him. If there are dissensions he must explain calmly and carefully, making sure all the time to keep complete control of his feelings, and not to allow himself to become either angry or impatient.

The engagement ring

It is the custom to seal the engagement pact with a ring. As soon as the prospective bridegroom has won the consent of the young lady whom he wishes to be his wife, he places the engagement ring on the third finger of her left hand.

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The convention is that the ring be a diamond solitaire set in gold or platinum, or, if it is preferred, a diamond set with other stones. It is always wise to consult the individual preference of the young lady in determining the choice of the ring, and it is her privilege to choose whatever kind she wants regardless of tradition or condition.

Newly-engaged couples: Announcing the engagement

After the proposal has been accepted, an announcement of the fact is made, and it is here that the young lady takes the leading part.

There are several established conventions in announcing the engagement. Each one is good form, and the choice is merely a matter of taste and convenience. But always the initiative must come from the family of the future bride. The young man must not even announce the engagement to his best friends until he is quite sure that his fiancee has already made it known to her friends.

It has always been a popular custom in better society to give the announcement of an engagement as nearly an appearance of “leaking out” as possible. Perhaps it is because it adds to the interest of the occasion.

Vintage wedding book - Something Old

To obtain this effect, a number of intimate friends and relatives are invited to a dinner party — really the engagement dinner — where, in the course of the conversation, the news of the engagement to the guests for the first time. It is usually announced by the father of the young lady; sometimes by her older brother, and in some cases by her mother.

The guests, of course, will offer warm and sincere congratulations. The happy couple mingle among their guests and receive their good wishes with modesty and smiles of thanks.

Sometimes the young lady gives a luncheon for her friends, at which the announcement is made. It is always very pretty to make the announcement in some novel way, and if the hostess does not find her own ingenuity equal to it she will find her stationer her best guide. He has various novelty cards, etc., specially designed for such occasions.

Often, instead of formally announcing the engagement, the young lady gives the news to several of her closest friends, depending on them to spread it among their friends and acquaintances. This manner of announcement is usually followed by a little informal reception, to which are invited the members of the prospective bridegroom’s family and the relatives of both families.

Newly-engaged couples - Walking in the garden with flowers 1920s

The most popular ways to announce an engagement

Perhaps the best way to announce an engagement is for the young lady and her mother to send small engraved cards to their circle of friends and relatives, making the announcement in a simple statement, and mentioning an afternoon when they will be “at home” to visitors. The young man may also send notes or cards to his friends, having first made sure that his fiancee has already announced it to her friends.

The “at home” offers a splendid opportunity for each one to meet the friends of the other, and for the families of the two young people to become better acquainted. Care must be taken that there is no constraint, no drifting into “circles.”

The young lady must welcome her future husband’s friends with sincere cordiality, and see that they are properly introduced to her own friends. He must mingle with her friends and make himself companionable and agreeable. To be constantly together, selfishly enjoying each other’s company while the neglected guests are left to their own devices is a breach of etiquette and must be conscientiously avoided if the “at home” is to be hailed a success.

If this last method of announcing the engagement is decided upon, the home should boast no decorations except flowers simply arranged. The young lady and her mother, in conservative afternoon frocks, receive together. The young man is usually presented to the guests by his future father-in-law. Entertainment, such as music and dancing, may be provided for the occasion if it is convenient. Simple refreshments may be served — dainty sandwiches, cakes, tea and sweets are appropriate when served in an attractive manner.

It is also customary to place an announcement in the society columns of the newspapers simultaneously with the giving of the dinner party. It should always be written by the parents about their daughter, or by the guardian if she has no parents — never by the engaged girl herself.

Newly-engaged couples: Announcing an engagement in newspapers

The vogue to-day seems to favor announcing engagements in the newspaper rather than through the issuing of announcement cards. Such items of announcement should be sent to the society editor of the paper selected, and should be signed with the full name and address of the sender. Brief items are always better than long ones.

Tips for newly-engaged couples, in summary

To be modest, gracious, dignified during the engagement, to continue one’s social duties faithfully, neither neglecting one’s friends nor becoming self-consciously enthusiastic, to be self-possessed and unaffected even while one is the center of much lively interest and animated discussion — this is the end to be desired, and the young man and woman who have accomplished it are indeed fortunate.

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. What if the man you’re engaged to only takes care of his family with money and doesn’t take care of himself or the woman he’s engaged to? We don’t live together and we have never been out on his dime. Every time we go out its because of me even though he is working. Is this stupid of me?

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