Announcing your engagement in the social media age

A few weeks ago, a close family member proposed to his long-term girlfriend. As thrilled and excited for him as I was, there was something missing and I held back on my fervent congratulations. The reason I was reluctant to shout about it was that, despite hearing the news directly from him, seeing a picture of the ring and knowing how in love and committed to one another they are, I couldn’t quite make it official in my head until they’d put it on Facebook.

The reality is that more and more couples are using Facebook as a vehicle to announce their engagement to the world – and why not? It’s convenient, it reaches everyone you know in an instant, it lets you upload pictures to illustrate your post, and (perhaps most crucially) it gives you the instant gratification of an overwhelming influx of congratulations and approval. It’s a giant digital pat on the head – and watching those notifications come in feels really good, like a crazy night out, intoxicated with the attention and too insatiable to think about the consequences.

I would know. The night of my engagement (after calling close family and friends, of course) I waited for John to fall asleep and then, with him happily tucked up beside me, none the wiser, I did this:

And this:

Pretty soon congratulatory messages were pouring in, on the statuses themselves and on my wall, in private messages, from close friends, acquaintances and long-forgotten people from my past. I stayed up another hour, listening to the happy buzzing of my phone each time a new message was posted.

Why didn’t I do it the old-fashioned way?

The next day was like a social media hangover. I’m a vintage-loving girl. I could have made so much more of that announcement, with a lovely paper card, or even an old-fashioned announcement in a newspaper. Instead I chose to blow the secret on Facebook – but why? I think I have a couple of answers to that question:

I was itching to tell people quickly. I’m not one of those cool, collected people who can keep good news to myself. It didn’t factor into my thought process at the time (I’m not even sure I had a thought process at the time), but I don’t know that I could have waited for an old-fashioned announcement. The digital age is instant. Post is slow. For someone as impatient as me, it was a no brainer.

I wanted the whole world to know. Announcing your engagement the old-fashioned way is tricky. I figured it would be terribly bad manners to send announcements to people if I wasn’t 100% sure I would invite them to the wedding. That didn’t mean that I didn’t want these people to know about the changes in my life, just that I wasn’t sure I’d have room for them on the day. Perhaps that’s a flaw in my own character, but I didn’t want to limit the number of people who knew about it to close family. I suppose I could have waited until I’d announced it properly and then logged on to Facebook, but, as per my point above, I feared that by then, the excitement would have worn off – or worse, someone else would have congratulated me in public and taken my moment.

Weirdly, as I touched upon earlier, there’s a certain generation of newly engaged couples who find their two realities (virtual and literal) somewhat indistinguishable from one another. I’m one of them. I’d say I live a (possibly unhealthily) sizeable portion of my life online. It’s where I chat to my friends, it’s where I find my breaking news, it’s where I deliver my breaking news. I wanted to make it official as soon as I could – and to me, official meant seeing the words “Engaged to John Gibbs” on my relationship status. Leaving myself in a mere “relationship” felt insufficient – no, it felt like fraud. OK, that’s a bit dramatic – but seeing it in black and white helped it to sink in for me too, which was just part of the process.

So if not Facebook, what other options are there?

Newspaper announcement

I love the American-style tradition of announcing your engagement in the newspaper, like it’s real news. That feels very special and fun in equal measure. The fact that David Mitchell and Victoria Coren (two of my comedy heroes) announced their own engagement in The Times (and not as a news item or a Tweet) felt very classy and speaks volumes. However, be aware that some newspapers may have waiting lists for their print editions and you may end up (you guessed it) opting for the online edition. Because it’s faster. Hmph.

Cards

Sending cards to your nearest and dearest is a lovely way to announce your engagement and really adds the personal touch. However, in my head (bear in mind I’m really not an official etiquette guide, I’m just making this up) it feels rude to let people know if you might not invite them to the wedding – for me, a personal announcement is tantamount to an invitation, so really think about who you want to send an announcement to.

A family meal

Gosh I LOVE the idea of having the family over for dinner and announcing it to everyone at the same time, being able to gauge reactions face to face. Sadly with John’s parents abroad and my parents at the time fully informed of John’s plans to propose (neither of us can keep a secret) it wasn’t really an option for us. But it’s such a romantic idea – family coming over for a nice wholesome meal and hearing the announcement first hand.

Video

OK, so technically this would go out on the internet (or you could post people copies) but the next best thing to telling people in person is to make a little “we’re engaged” video. You could even opt to make it a little vintage-age Hollywood parody as a bit of fun. This would be time consuming, but totally worth it.

And if you must announce your engagement on Facebook?

It’s very easy (with hindsight) for me to wax lyrical about the joys of savouring your engagement announcement – given that I just wrote “engaged” I think I’d be a bit of a hypocrite to tell you that you mustn’t do it that way! But if you choose to announce your engagement on Facebook, you might want to think about the following:

Do all the important people in your life know?

Imagine your parents finding out that their child is getting married – on Facebook. Or your best friend. Make sure you’ve called everyone you need to call before you click “publish”.

How can you bring the announcement to life?

You don’t have to announce your engagement with words right away – you can put up a teaser of a picture or video clip and leave people to fill in the obvious blanks. Or you can write something a bit more poetic and meaningful than “engaged” – something from the heart (I can’t do all the hard work for you now).

Be prepared for unsolicited attention

It’s one thing people you don’t know that well congratulating you, quite another for people you haven’t seen in years to suddenly start inviting themselves to your wedding or (in one case) even asking to be a bridesmaid. People (mainly people who’ve never had to pay for a wedding) can get funny ideas about being invited if they feel a part of your happiness in some other way, like say through Facebook…

I’m a firm believer that there’s no right or wrong way to announce your engagement – you just need to do what’s right for you. But I’d love to hear how you announced your happy news to your loved ones. Did you discipline your typing hand? Did you send out announcements? Or were you like me and eager to share your new status with your friends online? Leave us some comment love below!

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