Engagement Etiquette on Congratulations

If a couple you know have recently announced their engagement, it's in order to wish them well as they prepare for marriage. Certain etiquette is involved when it comes to congratulating the future bride and groom. Guidelines differ slightly when it comes to acknowledging the woman's newly engaged status as opposed to the man's, but it's always proper to extend happiness to the two.

Acknowledging the Future Bride

To congratulate a bride on her future wedding is improper etiquette. This suggests that the bride finally found a man to coerce into marriage. Older women, usually older than 40, are likely to take offense to someone congratulating them on their engagement, according to "SF Weekly." Women between the ages of 26 and 34 who were part of an informal poll revealed that they were not aware of this rule of etiquette. So it's safer to say something such as "I'm so happy for the two of you" or "I wish you and Bill the best."

Acknowledging the Future Groom

It's more fitting to say "congratulations" to the groom-to-be, because you're commenting on his good fortune in finding a wonderful woman to become his wife. Congratulating the future groom also means you're acknowledging the fact that his fiance said "yes" to his marriage proposal. Even though using the word "congratulations" for the groom is less offensive than saying it to the bride-to-be, it's best to just extend your wishes for happiness to the couple as a unit.

Sending a Gift

If you're not able to attend the engagement party for the couple, it's appropriate to send a greeting card and small gift to the bride's home as a way to wish the couple well. It's not proper etiquette for the engaged couple to expect gifts at the announcement of their intent to be married, or at the engagement party. However, if you're a close family member or friend of the couple, a heartfelt or practical gift -- such as a family furniture or jewelry heirloom or a couple's cooking class -- is appropriate.

Throwing a Party

If you have a close relationship with the bride-to-be, groom-to-be, or both, it's proper to congratulate your loved ones by throwing an engagement party. It's best to include the guests of honor in the planning process to ensure that the party date works with their schedules and the guest list is to their liking. However, it's not proper etiquette to invite people to the engagement party who aren't invited to the wedding. Gifts are not required for an engagement party, but if some people bring gifts, it's in good taste for the couple to open them after the celebration so guests who didn't bring a present don't feel uncomfortable.