How Long Should An Engagement Last?

Don’t know how long an engagement should last? Read on for our top tips and advice.

By Shameika Rhymes

How Long Should An Engagement Last
Photo by Krisandra Evans Photography

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 The Knot 2019 Real Weddings Study, the average engagement length for U.S. couples was 15 months. That said, the duration of your engagement is up to you and your partner, but many couples wait at least a year before taking that trip down the aisle. Some engagements are shorter, like a couple of 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 and when you will exchange vows, here are a few things to consider:

Pros and Cons of a Short Engagement

How Long Should An Engagement Last?- SR Photo Credit // Unsplash

If you don’t want a long engagement, then a short engagement may be the 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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • Missing Out on Building a Foundation: A short engagement can lead to skipping many of the necessary steps of building the foundation of the marriage. “It puts the couple at risk of not knowing who they are in situations they haven't encountered or discussed,” says Farmer. There's also a lot of things to plan before your big day. From engagement photos to choosing a wedding dress, consider all the steps that the bride and groom have to do before walking down the aisle. This is a process you’re not going to want to rush!

Pros and Cons of a Long Engagement

How Long Should An Engagement Last?- SR Photo Credit // Unsplash

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.

Pros

  • More Time to Plan and Build: With a longer engagement, it allows for time to plan out 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. “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.

Cons

  • 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.

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.

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