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The royal engagement - does it reflect real life?

The rules of modern engagement
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

An official royal announcement, breaking news for the world's media, and a TV appearance watched by millions. Not every couple's engagement is as momentous as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's.

The combination of a much-loved royal prince and a glamourous American actress makes this engagement an enticing and entertaining event. Getting engaged is special and significant for everyone but for us it tends to be a much less formal affair.

Engagement etiquette

Some people still like to follow etiquette rules surrounding their engagement.

Debrett's, which has been the trusted source on British etiquette for almost 250 years says the parents of both bride and groom should always be the first to hear of an engagement. The news should be told in person or by phone if that's not possible. Then the rest of the family and close friends should be informed. After that a general text or email to everyone else should be sent before anything is mentioned on social media.

A formal announcement may be put in a national paper, usually The Times or The Telegraph, or a local paper. Sometimes the bride's parents make the announcement, or the couple themselves do. It may depend on who's paying for the wedding.

Old school announcements in the papers are popular with some celebrities. Olympic diver Tom Daley announced his engagement to his partner Dustin in the Times as did actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Kit Harrington to their wives-to-be.
"Formal engagements are about etiquette," says Dr Jonathan Spangler, a historian at Manchester Metropolitan University, with special interest in the history of the monarchy.

"For royalty in the past, announcements were also for political and religious reasons so that people could dig back into the past to make sure the pair weren't cousins," adds Jonathan.

Royal engagements were often about strategic alliances to cement trade and diplomatic ties with other countries or nobility. Royal couples didn't usually get engaged for love.

A more relaxed affair

For many couples the formal engagement etiquette rules seem a little fusty and out of date.

"People are way more relaxed when it comes to engagements than in the past. They tend to be driven by social media so you see the snap moment or a picture of the ring instead of a formal announcement," says wedding planner George Watts, aka 'The Wedding Fairy'.

"These days people tend to get engaged in a special place or on a special day, perhaps on a visit to New York, or at the restaurant they had their first date in. The celebration centres around the proposal," adds George.

"There are different means of communication, the phone, Facebook, or Twitter to let people know of an engagement but even so some people still go down the more formal route," says Jonathan.

It's probably best to tell your parents, if they are around, before anyone else, in case they hear from another more technically savvy relative on social media.

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