Q&A – What does scripture say about engagement?

Q: Can someone at the church answer a question for me. I have been trying to see what Scripture says about engagement and how it is suppose to work. I haven’t been able to find anything. Is engagement biblical? What is the purpose of me getting engaged before I get married and how long should an engagement last?

A: Thanks for your email. The only verse in the bible where the word engaged is actually mentioned is in 1 Corinthians 7:36. The way we see “engagement” in our culture today is similar to what scripture describes as “betrothal.” In the Bible, the process for a man and woman becoming husband and wife had some differences to the way our culture approaches it today. There were three steps a Jewish couple went through to get married. First, the families agreed on the union and the intention to marry was made public. Next, the couple was betrothed to each other. Betrothal was a more serious commitment than what we would consider an engagement today. When a couple was betrothed in biblical times, they were considered bound together (although not married) in a way that could only be broken by divorce or one of the 2 parties passing away. After a period of betrothal, the couples would go through a public ceremony where they would be married.

I think that engagement is an important time that a couple has before they get married to prepare for marriage and continue to let God confirm His plan and purposes for their lives as He moves them closer to the day that they will be one flesh. Engagement is not something to be taken lightly. It is a big commitment to announce your intention to marry someone, and should not be entered into without a lot of counsel and prayer. But during an engagement if one or both people realize that marriage is not what God wants for the relationship, they should end the relationship with their fiancée. This is something that is always difficult to do, but when one person realizes that marriage is not God’s will, they should be loving and honest with their fiancée about what they know they need to do.

I don’t believe that there is a set amount of time that has to be mandated for an engagement. I do feel strongly that it should not be too short or too long. Let me explain. I have seen many couples that have not dated for a long period of time, gotten engaged and been married in a short amount of time without really being ready to enter into marraige. I don’t recommend this. I feel that it takes a certain amount of time to get to know each other and have adequate time to seek counsel before entering into marriage. I also don’t believe that engagement should be an indefinite amount of time. I have seen couples be engaged for years and years and due to one or both of them not being truly committed to the relationship, marriage is put off and the relationship never progresses. I personally feel that six months to a year is a very good time frame for engagement and never recommend an engagement last more than two to three years.

NewSpring offers a premarital class to help couples prepare for marriage. If this is something that would interest you, please let me know and I will give you more information.

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