How long should an engagement be?

The Bible does not provide for a specific length of time for an engagement to marry. We can, however, draw some inferences from scripture and historical cultural references.

Families were very involved with bringing the couple together. Traditionally, the intended bride would ultimately have to agree. Today, the engagement period is a good time to introduce the families to each other. Blending two families can be a real blessing that everyone benefits from. Of course, there are some families that cannot be blended. To the degree it is possible to blend them, create opportunities such as dinners, planned activities and games to give blending a chance.

The engagement time is an excellent time to evaluate your own heart toward others. Remember that one of the characteristics of Isaac’s intended wife was her willingness to serve beyond what was ask of her. Marriages where both husband and wife have this heart of service are wildly successful. Make a list of what you are actually doing to evidence a service heart. If your list is short or empty, take the engagement time to exercise your servant heart. Re-evaluate in a couple months. Make sure your list is longer.

“No man had relations with” Isaac’s intended wife, speaking of her sexual purity. She was a virgin. Commit to sexual purity during the engagement period. If you have already been sexually active, forgive and repent and make a new commitment to sexual purity during the engagement period. Be mindful of creeping expectations.

For couples that had not been married before a traditionally engagement would last one year. During this time, the intended husband would prepare the home for his intended wife. This was also a time that the intended husband would give his intended bride gifts. She would also receive gifts from her intended husband’s friends.

Taking one year for an engagement seems to be further supported when you consider that under the law, new husbands were excused from military service and business for one year after the actual marriage. In the alternative, the husband was charged with making his wife happy during this time.

Now this is not to say that marriages with shorter engagement periods are doomed. To the contrary, there are many notable marriages that had short engagement periods. Also, Paul warns that it is better to have a short engagement if you cannot remain committed to sexual purity. Even so, it is hard to argue that any new venture, even marriage, does not benefit from a year of self-examination, planning, preparing and making provisions.

brandon blankenship (c) 2014

References:
Gen. 24. Also see Judges 14:2 -7 for interplay between intended husband and his parents.

Gen. 24: 16 Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Ketv. 2; Shulh.an ‘Aruk, Eben ha-‘Ezer, 56.

Deuteronomy 24:5