Congratulations—you’re engaged! With an engagement comes lots of questions, and no doubt, one of the most pressing includes: how long should an engagement last?
According to Zola's First Look Report, the average length of an engagement for today's couples in the U.S. is 18 months. That said, the duration of your engagement is up to you and your partner, though many couples wait at least a year before taking that trip down the aisle.
Some engagements are shorter—around six months—while others can last for several years. “There’s no set time limit on the length of an engagement. It depends on the couple’s comfort level as individuals within the relationship and how they will proceed forward as a union,” says Sharea Farmer, LCSW, owner of RS Counseling and Wellness.
Before deciding on the length of your engagement, here are a few things to consider:
If you don’t want to wait a while, then a short engagement may be your best option. By having a shorter engagement, you can quickly get moving on life-changing decisions, like where to live—especially if children are involved. Here are some pros and cons of a short engagement period.
Avoid Stress: You can put the anxiety and stress to rest if you have a shorter engagement, says Farmer. “[A short engagement] helps to avoid much of the stress involved with planning a wedding and allows you to start working on your new work and life balance sooner.” Wedding planning can be fun, but it can be overwhelming, so a shorter engagement cuts down on the amount of stress and allows you to focus on what’s important: your relationship.
Excitement Factor: An advantage of having a shorter engagement is being able to soak up every single detail in a condensed period of time without dragging it out and increasing anxiety and diminishing excitement. “You have the rest of your life to be married, a few months doesn’t change that,” says Dr. Ish Major, relationship and marriage therapist, and star of WEtv’s “Marriage Boot Camp” series.
Starting Your Life Together: If couples have been holding discussions—where to live, finances, and expectations—throughout the relationship, then a short engagement will allow you to get to the main event quicker. “If the couple is on the same page, they can get to the marriage they’ve been working towards,” says Farmer.
There are some pros to having a longer engagement period. If you and your partner are busy with other commitments, are long distance, or just want more time to plan to have your dream wedding, then a long engagement might be the best route to take.
“A few months, another season, or even another year won’t change how much you love each other. If you think it will, use that time to take a closer look at the person you’re claiming to love,” says Dr. Ish Major, relationship and marriage therapist, and star of WEtv’s “Marriage Boot Camp” series.
Here are some pros and cons to having a longer engagement.
Time to Plan and Build: Longer engagements give you time to plan the type of wedding and the kind of marriage you want. “The benefits of a longer engagement are having full conversations about the expectations of your relationship, also identifying what you want your wedding day to look like, as well as your marriage. It allows you to explore how you will respond to adversity and difficulty in your relationship,” says Farmer.
Time for Meaningful Conversations: “The things couples should talk about while planning their wedding usually don’t get talked about until they start planning their divorce. People avoid these subjects, because they feel like if they disagree that may mean they weren’t meant to be together; it doesn’t mean that at all. It simply means you approached your marriage like an adult from both the romantic and business partnership point of view,” adds Dr. Major.
Time to Save More Money: Planning a wedding also means you need to budget to have the type of celebration you want. Couples can use extended engagements to do thorough research on wedding vendors and venues and get the best deals possible. It also gives time to save more money for the honeymoon.
Relationship Could Suffer: It shouldn’t take any couple very long to seal the deal. “If your engagement lasts for 10 years, then you’ve been engaged nine years too long. Engagements are about detaching from those things that will no longer serve your relationship and planning and making space for the things that will,” says Major. If you wait too long, it could put a damper on your relationship. “You slip into a routine of taking each other for granted and forecasting about what your future marriage will look like, and it’s only human nature to note all the bad stuff and not so much the cool stuff.”
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen: The longer you wait, the more likely you are to involve other people in the planning process, which can add to your stress level. “You run the risk of involving more people in the conversations around your engagement and relationship, which can lead to more conflict and increase engagement anxiety,” says Farmer.
Deciding on the length of your engagement doesn’t just come down to pros and cons (though, those are very important). The amount of time between your engagement and “I do’s” is entirely specific to you as a couple, as well as your wants and needs. If you can’t seem to land on a timeframe, consider the following.
How elaborate is your ideal wedding? The time it’ll take you to plan your wedding largely contributes to your engagement timeline. Bigger, more intricate weddings with long guests lists, more than one venue, and a slew of vendors will take longer to plan than a smaller courthouse or backyard wedding. That being said, most weddings take time—even the simpler ones. To help you land on your required wedding planning period, compile a list of high priority things you’d like. This should give you an idea of how long it’ll take to plan.
Do you have a season or venue in mind? Deciding on a wedding date (and, thus, engagement period) often comes down to one of two things: Your preferred wedding season or venue. Having a specific season (or month) you’d like to be wed will heavily influence how long you have between your engagement and wedding day. Likewise, knowing where you’d like to get married can dictate your wait, since you’ll be working with what the venue has available.
Are you financially prepared? Many couples decide to have longer engagements so that they can save and put more money towards their wedding. While this might seem like a bummer, this extended period also allows you to really look into vendors. Put in the extra time to find those you truly love, as well as discover great deals. This also gives wedding planners more time to do the same.
We know—easier said than done. With so much excitement, it’s common to want your wedding soon after you’ve slipped on your engagement ring. That being said, there are plenty of reasons why taking your time (be it six months or sixteen) isn’t something to stress over. Some of them being:
Wedding planning can be stressful. Planning your standard wedding involves a decent amount of juggling. You’re both researching, sending out correspondences, communicating with vendors, compiling a registry—the list goes on. Longer engagements give you more time to handle each and every thing. There’s less time pressure, which can help you put together your dream wedding.
The engagement period is fun. Plain and simple, this is an exciting time! Typically, this only happens once, so enjoy your time being an engaged couple. This is a period when all of your loved ones, including you and your significant other, are celebrating your love. Give yourself enough time to soak it in.
You have nothing but time. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the rest of your lives to be married to each-other. Giving yourselves a longer engagement ensures that you aren’t rushing through this exciting and unique time.
Ultimately, there’s no correct answer on how long an engagement length should be. Do what makes you and your partner happy and reserve ample time to plan your big day together. To help you enjoy the process of your engagement and wedding planning, Zola is here for you. For more tips on how to get started on wedding planning, click here.