Thursday is September 30, which just happens to be Pete’s and my “engage-a-versary.” Yup, thirty-two years ago this week, my husband and I got engaged. It didn’t quite go like in the movies. In fact, we more or less got engaged that day by accident.
Mind you, we were already planning to get married. We’d been talking about it since spring. Pete had even formally proposed that summer—in a field of wildflowers on the slopes of Washington’s Mt. Rainier. We had then asked my best friend if she’d be my maid of honor, as she was moving out of state and I wanted to talk to her in person. But the engagement wasn’t official, and we hadn’t talked to anyone else.
Wanting to honor his parents, Pete called to ask them for their advice—what sorts of things should we be considering in making this very important decision? He particularly wanted to give his dad a chance to express his opinion. His dad was noted for having strong opinions when his offspring were considering marriage.
So here’s Pete on the phone, with me sitting beside him, listening in.
“Hi dad… Leslie and I are considering getting engaged, maybe around Christmas time, and we’d like your wisdom. [A little flattery never hurts.] What sorts of things should we be thinking through?”
“Congratulations on your engagement!”
“No, no… we’re not engaged yet. We just wanted to ask for your advice. You were very concerned when [Pete’s two older brothers] got engaged, and had lots of things for them to think about.”
“Congratulations! We’re so happy for you!”
“No, you don’t understand. We just want to know what you think! Oh. Uh-huh. I see. Okay. Thanks!”
At this point, Pete hung up the phone, looked at me and said, “We’d better call your parents!”
So we did, and after they recovered from the shock, they agreed that I could marry this young whippersnapper I’d been dating. And lo and behold, we found ourselves engaged.
Celebrating our engage-a-versary has me thinking about engagements and betrothals. (An engagement is a verbal agreement that’s not legally binding—you can walk away if you change your mind. In Biblical times, and in some cultures today, a betrothal is a legally binding agreement that can only be broken by a divorce, but the marriage is not yet consummated.)
Why spend time being engaged? Why not just decide to get married and then go do it right then and there? Why torture yourselves, knowing that you’re meant to be together but waiting months or even a year or more for it to actually happen?
I’ll post my thoughts on this topic next week, but first I’d love to hear what you think. Is an engagement necessary? What does the Bible have to say on this topic? What benefits do we get from spending some time promised but not married? How long should the wait be, and why?