Is the engagement still in keeping with the times?

The engagement is a promise to marry one’s partner or mate. Engagement rings are exchanged and can be done in the usual environment, or anywhere. There is no official act on this, hence no written law on how this should be done.


The engagement as a cultural phenomenon

The betrothal, as a promise of marriage, represents an important stage in the gradual approach to marriage, especially in cultures where marriages are arranged by parents.

It is preceded by the courtship, which in turn can be highly institutionalized, for example where it must be initiated by a third party (matchmaker, Schadchen) or brought forward by its own emissary of the man’s family or the man himself, the bride’s suitor. This can also take place during the childhood of the two spouses-to-be.

During the betrothal period, not only is an (emotional) relationship established and strengthened between two people who often did not know each other at all or only vaguely before, but usually also a political-legal alliance between the kinship groups of the two people involved. Thus, the engagement serves not only to get to know each other future spouses, but also to check each other’s future alliance groups.

During the betrothal period, the relationship between the betrothed implies stronger or weaker social and economic rights and obligations between the families/kinship groups involved. The engagement is an unenforceable promise of marriage.

The engagement traditionally means walking down the aisle within a year. However, this is not binding. In modern times this period is seen rather loosely.

In earlier decades, the engagement was associated with a family celebration in the circle of close relatives or family. In the meantime, however, the two future marriage candidates usually only communicate "we have become engaged" by greeting card.

Do we have to get engaged before getting married?

It is not mandatory to have an engagement before the wedding. The engagement takes place when both partners are sure that they want to marry each other later on, but want to wait with the wedding for various reasons. It can also be merely a sign of intimate attachment, a sign/state to be valued higher than a normal partnership/friendship. If one is engaged, however, there is still no legal, but moral obligation to marry the fiancee.

In Switzerland, the betrothal can be found legally in the family law in the Civil Code (ZGB). It will be in Art. 90 to 93. The engagement is considered in the ZGB as a marriage promise, nevertheless, on the basis of an engagement can not be sued for the right to enter into a marriage. The engagement of minor or incapacitated persons is binding only with the consent of the legal guardian.

Organize a party?

The engagement party is increasingly being celebrated in a more simple manner or dispensed with altogether, as there are still plenty of parties and opportunities to celebrate with the bachelor party, the civil wedding and the wedding day. A small party where the bride’s family and the groom’s family can get to know each other better would be a good way to bring the two families closer together.

The celebration usually takes place at the home of the bride’s parents. The costs are usually borne jointly by the two families.


Fewer and fewer couples announce the engagement. Friends and family receive written notice if celebration is taking place; otherwise, formal notice is usually waived.

Engagement rings

According to good custom, the man buys the engagement rings. However, there is nothing to prevent both partners from buying the rings together. It will be worn on the right hand until marriage.

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