Dealing with a Very Long Engagement

Military Couple

Couples choose a very long engagement for a variety of reasons, and dealing with an extended courtship can be a strain not only for the bride- and groom-to-be, but also for family members and friends who are eager for the impending nuptials. To deal with this extended engagement takes a strong relationship as well as a healthy dose of patience.

Why Have a Very Long Engagement?

There are many reasons why couples choose an extended engagement period. Some of the more common explanations include:

  • Military service including possible deployments overseas
  • Finishing a college degree at a distant university
  • Saving enough money to pay for the wedding independently
  • Serving a religious or humanitarian mission
  • Moving to a new home or buying a house
  • Not wanting to coincide with another friend's or family member's wedding date

Whether the couple plans a very long engagement because of personal, financial, or social reasons, they must be prepared to weather questions and concerns from well-meaning people who want to see them finally wed. Being prepared to deal with those questions and knowing how to plan through an extended engagement will help the couple draw closer during their courtship than they might during a whirlwind engagement.

What Makes It Long?

The typical engagement period, from the time of the marriage proposal to exchanging vows, is typically 8-12 months. For some couples, even a year may be a long time, particularly if their lives are in a state of upheaval and they're experiencing a lot of changes, or if they've already been together for several years. On the other hand, for a couple planning an elaborate wedding or with other immediate concerns, even two years may not seem long. What makes a very long engagement depends on the couple, and even though a few months may seem like an eternity when you are eager to begin your life together, those planning months are critical to developing your relationship for a successful marriage.

Long Term Engagement Planning

If you know from the moment of the proposal that you are in for a very long engagement, it is best to plan for that period of time accordingly. Because most people expect an engagement to last no more than a year, it is wise to spread the word quickly about your long term plans with appropriate explanations to deter any rumors, speculation, or pressure to operate in any way other than what you are willing to do.

Engagement announcements can help alert friends, family members, coworkers, and other individuals in your social circle about your very long engagement from the beginning. Including an anticipated wedding date with a newspaper, email, or printed announcement will help people realize how long you have to plan, and you may also want to include a short explanation if appropriate.

To preserve the memories of a long engagement, you may want to schedule engagement pictures with a professional photographer. Not only is it a great way to capture the moment as you begin planning your life together, but pictures can also be used in announcements, thank you notes, party invitations, and so on.

Dealing with Family and Friends

Depending on a couple's individual circumstances, family members and friends may or may not be pleased about the idea of a very long engagement. An engagement party can encourage their support and let them get to know both the bride- and groom-to-be while celebrating the couple's new status. Honesty is critical when explaining the length of your engagement, and be sure to illustrate how a long term courtship is the best option for your situation.

It is also important to remember that your relationships may change during a long engagement. Try not to commit to including certain people in the bridal party or other critical wedding roles until the wedding date is nearer and your plans are being finalized.

Dealing with Vendors and Other Wedding Plans

In some instances, a very long engagement is advantageous when planning a wedding, particularly if the ceremony or reception location is very sought after and may be booked far in advance. At the same time, it is crucial to remember that your plans may change over the months and years of your engagement, and you have the time to research many different options. It is not wise to register for wedding gifts too far in advance of the event because the styles, colors, and other preferences you choose may not be available when guests begin to shop for potential gifts. As with family and friends, be honest with vendors about your timeline and do not commit to firm dates unless you have investigated several options and are certain of what you want.

Shortening a Very Long Engagement

For some couples, a shorter engagement period is more appealing, and there are ways to shorten a long engagement, such as planning a smaller wedding that can be arranged more quickly, including eloping, or transferring schools or rearranging voluntary service missions to coincide with wedding plans. Another option is to consider a promise ring rather than an engagement ring, which gives the couple a stronger connection than a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship without the pressure of wedding planning until closer to the wedding date. If you do choose to shorten your engagement, be sure that your choices are well thought out and you are not rushing into the marriage in your rush to get to the alter.


Very long engagements are appropriate for some couples, while others are forced to deal with engagements longer than what they'd anticipated. Whatever the circumstances, it is important to be true to your relationship in each stage of the process, whether those stages are days, weeks, months, or years apart.

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Dealing with a Very Long Engagement