Announcing your engagement and wedding, whether at a party, in the newspaper, or via letter, phone, or even e-mail, is a true affirmation of your married life to come.

When a couple decides to marry, it is an exciting time not only for them, but for their friends and family members. The news will bring joy to those who hear it, regardless of how the word is spread. You and your fiance can't tell everyone personally, and shouting it from the rooftop only accomplishes so much. But there are many other ways to let the world know of your plans, every step of the way.

Your Engagement

First decide who should hear the news directly from you, whether in person or by phone or e-mail. In addition to your family, you might want to tell other relatives, co-workers, and close friends.

In the past, the bride's mother would send out handwritten notes to formally notify friends and family of her daughter's engagement. ''Today, some guests first learn of a couple's pending nuptials from save-the-date cards,''says EveWeinsheimer, co-owner of A Day in May Design, a graphic design firm with locations in San Francisco and Chicago. These cards serve the dual purpose of announcing the engagement and informing the recipient of when the wedding will be held. If a date hasn't been set, the couple can rely on other ways to make a prompt announcement.

Traditionally, the bride's parents would throw the couple an engagement party, where the news would first be shared; once the festivities were in full swing, the bride's father would proclaim the engagement in a toast to the couple. Today, the rules are less strict. Guests who don't already know may find out when they receive an invitation to an engagement party, which, these days, may be hosted by another relative or a close friend.

If you prefer to surprise people with your announcement, an engagement party in disguise is a great way to do it. Just see to it that you think of a convincing cover-up for the gathering, such as a Christmas or Super Bowl party, or a casual summer barbecue.

Though your news will travel quickly by word of mouth, newspaper announcements ensure that more distant acquaintances -- colleagues, old classmates, your first baby-sitter -- won't be left out. Every newspaper has its own format and deadline (and some run only wedding announcements, not ones for engagements), but most expect to print the notice two or three months before the wedding. Contact the paper by phone or check its website as soon as possible for guidelines as to the length and content of the announcement, possible fee, who writes it (you or the paper's editor), whether photos are permitted, and so on. If you and your fiance are from different parts of the country, you might want to submit announcements to the papers in both of your hometowns.

Your Wedding

For people whom you are unable to invite to your wedding, you can send a printed note telling them of your marriage after it happens (the desire is to share your happy news; they are in no way obliged to buy a gift).You don't have to send announcements to those you invited but who didn't attend, since they received a wedding invitation.

Wedding announcements should be mailed out within days of the event, so have them addressed, stamped, and ready to go in advance. If you are leaving for your honeymoon right after the wedding, arrange for a friend or relative to mail them for you. It's a good idea to order printed announcements at the same time you order your invitations; they are customarily designed in a similar style, and placing the order for all your printed materials at once or at least with the same vendor can often save you money.

The announcement is traditionally made by whoever is hosting the wedding. If it is the bride's parents, for example, the wording might be, ''Mr. and Mrs. Philip Smith have the honor of announcing the marriage of their daughter, Mary Smith, to Kevin Jones on April 18, 2005, at Key Biscayne, Florida.'' If a couple chooses to make their own announcement, it could read, ''Ms. Mary Smith and Mr. Kevin Jones announce their marriage,'' with the date and location following.

Engaged couples who elope or who decide to have a very small wedding will want to report the news quickly so friends and family are not waiting for an invitation that will never arrive. The card announcing an elopement should be worded in the same way as one for a traditional wedding; you needn't say you eloped.

Separate ''at-home'' cards, which let people know your new address as well as whether the bride has changed her last name, can be included in the envelopes, or you can incorporate this information into the announcement itself.

Many couples choose to announce their marriage in the newspaper, as well. Wedding notices for publication typically require more information than those for engagements; again, find out your specific paper's guidelines. Usually you'll include the location and date of the ceremony, the names of the officiant and both sets of parents, and your alma maters, degrees, and current job titles. Most wedding announcements also run with a photograph of the couple. Newspapers generally print an announcement the week or weekend after the ceremony, but the deadlines for submitting your information can be as much as four months before the wedding date. Some newspapers print notices free of charge, while others charge a fee of around $100, depending upon the length of the announcement and whether you choose to include a photo.

When you return from your honeymoon, be sure to slip a copy of the announcement into your wedding album. A headline proclaiming your marriage is something to be cherished.


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