Exactly one year ago today, my now-husband and I were betrothed.
Saying that to most people always elicits a question about betrothal in the first place. Usually, there’s a conflation of betrothal and engagement. However, they’re actually pretty different.
For further clarification, if you’re new to my blog, my husband and I are Roman Catholic and we are very traditional, which is important for context if you’ve never heard of betrothal. I won’t talk in extreme detail about the ceremony itself, since I don’t have the credentials to talk about the rubrics of the ceremony. Instead, I will talk about what it means and why we chose to do it.
Basically, when we began our courtship, we chose to have a gradual escalation of affection. Prior to engagement and betrothal, we did not allow ourselves to show much physical affection at all. In the few days between engagement and betrothal, we did allow ourselves to hold hands. After betrothal, we were much more affectionate and there’s a reason for that.
(As for the affection, here read: held hands, actually sat close on the couch, but not much beyond that kind of thing. We still even had a first kiss wedding, so by no means did we ease up on the having chaperones and being careful about how much affection could we show)
The main difference between engagement and betrothal is that the engagement was an agreement between Max and I, whereas the betrothal solidifies everything in the eyes of God and the Catholic Church.
Another aspect of the betrothal is essentially an agreement to be married (except giving some extreme unforeseen circumstance). And again, this agreement is done in the eyes of God and the Church. We even had to sign a document as part of the betrothal ceremony, certifying our desire and commitment to be married in the future. The idea is that you are completely serious about your intentions of being married and that you agree not to let trivial issues come between you.
One of the main reasons we chose to put off more signs of affection until after betrothal was that exact commitment. Our belief was that there tends to be a serious problem in many relationships with giving physical affection too early and thus becoming too emotionally entangled before they’re sure of each other. I know several people myself who carry emotional baggage from having been too affectionate with a boyfriend or girlfriend that they eventually broke up with.
Even though we had been fairly certain of our path very early into our relationship, we wanted to be sure our “sureness” wasn’t because of an emotional high because of physical affection. That often clouds people’s judgements as well and we wanted completely clear heads as we each made the decision on the person to spend the rest of our lives with. Catholics do not permit divorce, nor would we wish to have one regardless. This was something so important to us that we wanted to make the best decision.
So we decided to refrain from physical affection, until we were certain of the course of our relationship, certain enough to make preparations for marriage in the presence of a priest. Looking back, this gradual escalation of affection was also favorable because it made us appreciate it even more. Since we weren’t initially allowing ourselves to hug often or hold hands, once we could, we didn’t take each other for granted. Being able to be physically close was a blessing and was more pronouncedly so since we’d denied ourselves earlier.
As for the betrothal itself, the ceremony was beautiful and I was so happy to promise my commitment to marrying Max before the eyes of God with my family present. I highly recommend getting betrothed, whether your opinions about physical affection during courtship line up with mine or not. It was so lovely and meaningful that I couldn’t help crying during it.
One of the other most exciting parts of the betrothal was the blessing of the engagement ring. The wedding ring itself would be blessed in the wedding day, but there is a special blessing for the engagement ring at the betrothal. It gave so much more weight to the engagement and having the ring blessed was one of my favorite parts of the ceremony.
If you want to get betrothed yourself, you’d need to ask your local priest about it. If you’re from a Latin mass parish or know a priest who says the Latin mass, you have much better odds of them knowing not just what you want but how to do it.
There are people who say betrothal is a thing of the past or unnecessary. I cannot emphasize how much that is incorrect and how wonderful being betrothed was. Bonus, for any others who love medievalism, history, and such, there was nothing quite like saying we’d been betrothed. It felt like being part of history, connected to another time. For those of us who attend the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass, it felt like a fitting piece to the larger outlook we have about the Church.
All in all, if you’re planning to get married, I recommend making betrothal part of your path. It was a beautiful addition to the course of our relationship and I am so pleased we did it.