The engagement, Italy-style - A practical guide for the engagement ring, the engagement invitation ...

An engagement is the agreement to marry, and also refers to the time between proposal and marriage. The concept of an engagement may be born in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council, headed by Pope Innocent III, which decreed that "marriages are to be... announced publicly in the churches by the priests during a suitable and fixed time, so that if legitimate impediments exist they may be made known."

Nowadays somebody might smile listening to this word. In fact Italian young people start going out and separate without causing any embarrassment as it happens all over the Western world. Perhaps their parents are disappointed because they got used and often grew attached to the boy or the girl, regular visitor of their house.

Well, why am I writing these pages? Because I'm sure that talking about the step-by-step engagement rules according to Italian etiquette might help who runs into difficulties in the period before the marriage.
Once (but it isn't an age-old custom, I'm talking only of some decades ago) two young people met, fell in love and, when they decided to get married, a rigid ceremonial began.
The boyfriend had to know her girlfriend's mother. He presented himself well dressed and, only after the meeting, sent her a beautiful bunch of flowers accompanied with a card in which he thanked her for the kindness.
The girlfriend had to know his boyfriend's mother. She presented herself well dressed and with a little bouquet.
They both were under the impression to be on trial. The most intelligent mothers tried to make the young woman or man comfortable. The most intelligent young people tried to be themselves avoiding colossal efforts in order to appear different. By far the meeting that frightened more was between the boyfriend and the girlfriend's father. More often that not the unfortunate was turned inside out as a sock.
This ceremonial was concluded with the choice of the engagement date, the choice of the ring, the official dinner party and, naturally, the choice of the marriage date.
About the engagement ring we have a lot to talk about.
The boyfriend can present his girlfriend with a a family heirloom or buy a new gem; this is valid today as well as yesterday. In the first case the choice is conditioned by the insufficient finances; in fact the boyfriend's mother gives up one of her rings.
The girlfriend accepts every ring even if she doesn't like it because it has an old setting or she wanted another kind of gem or a more precious gem. But in any case remember: don't look a gift horse in the mouth! This old saying is always valid and especially between two lovers. Nowadays it would be better to avoid any surprise in every case even when the boyfriend wants to buy a new ring. I suggest that the boyfriend could visit his preferred jeweller's shop to choose gems and settings according to his means. Then he will take his girlfriend for the final choice. All the gems go well for the engagement except pearls and opals. Obviously all the women would like a a solitaire but these days I ask if it wouldn't be better to think about the house for the example. The girlfriend will present her boyfriend with a gold object (a bracelet, a pair of cuff link, a tie-pin, a wristwatch of worth) but she isn't obliged.
Two things out of curiosity. The engagement ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand according to a Roman tradition. In fact they thought this finger to be the beginning of the "vena amoris", the vein of love that leads to the heart. The tradition to present his girlfriend with a ring may have begun in the 1477 with the Emperor Maximilian I that gave a diamond ring to his lover Mary of Burgundy.
Go on with the official dinner party. It was organised by her parents with a rigid procedure, seating arrangement included: the two lovers were neighbours at table, next to the girlfriend there was the boyfriend's father and then the girlfriend's mother, an old man, a young woman, a young man ... the boyfriend's mother, the girlfriend's father and an old woman next to the boyfriend. It seems difficult but it isn't true!
In the page dedicated to themed dinner menus you'll be able to find some ideas for planning an important dinner party, Italy-style. Somebody organised a cocktail party too for all the friends and relatives.
This is a facsimile of the announcement by which the girlfriend's family announced the engagement; you can still use it..

(text - Mr. And Mrs. James Arthur Harding announce the engagement of
their daughter Caroline Sydney to Mr. Charles Edward Perkins)

If the parents are divorced, their name and surname must be written in two different rows. We also suggest a facsimile of an engagement invitation:

(text - Please join us to celebrate the engagement of Cristopher Walker and
Shelley Whall Saturday, 17 June, 2006 7:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Address )

If you want a formal invitation, the facsimile may be the following:

(text - Mr and Mrs James Winters request the pleasure of your company at the party for
the engagement of their daughter Pauline to Mr Charles Perkins Saturday,
17 June, 2006 7:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Address R.S.V.P. by June 1 Phone number)

You can write these cards by hand or print them according to the style you want to give.