There is a distinct order of whom to tell and when. You'll want to start with those people closest to you -- parents, siblings, and grandparents. However, if this is a second marriage for either party and there are children from the first marriage, they, and the former spouse, should always be the first to know. Then you'll want to tell extended family, friends, business associates, and acquaintances. It's important not to exclude anyone just because you fear that it appears you are soliciting gifts. In fact, most people will revel in being included in your joyous news and won't feel obligated to send anything but, perhaps, a congratulatory note.

Modern Technology

Getting engaged is the kind of news that you want to shout from the rooftops. Once you regain some composure, though, you'll probably head straight for the telephone. But what if, after calling your family and close friends, you don't have the time or the budget for all the phone calls? If you have a circle of close friends, separated by miles, and you often share the details of your lives through e-mail, then it's perfectly acceptable to announce your engagement to them this way. Be aware, though, that some people feel news like this is best shared in person, so if there is even the slightest possibility that someone you know will be offended by these modern modes of communication, avoid any hurt feelings by putting them on your "to-call" list.

The Party

Many couples announce their engagements at parties thrown for them by parents or close friends. Some will keep the reason for the party a secret, and announce the news during a toast at the beginning of the evening. Others send out printed invitations with the reason for the celebration detailed on the cards. Be advised: A guest at your engagement party will probably expect an invitation to your wedding. So plan this first guest list wisely -- or consider having a celebratory meal with only your immediate families instead.

The Printed Card

Many years ago, the mother of the bride-to-be sent out handwritten notes to notify family and friends of her daughter's betrothal. Handwritten notes became rarer in the twentieth century, as did engagement announcements. Today, they are still rare -- chances are you have already told the most important people -- but not unheard of. Printed cards can be an elegant way to deliver your message, and they make a wonderful keepsake.

The wording of these announcements, usually sent by the parents of the bride, is simple: "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Murphy announce the engagement of their daughter Catherine Jane to Mr. Joseph Black." The card can also be sent by the couple, in which case the wording reads: "Ms. Catherine Murphy and Mr. Joseph Black are pleased to announce their engagement." Some couples choose to include the city and state where they got engaged and the date.

The Newspaper

Nearly every American newspaper allots space in its lifestyle section for couples to announce their impending nuptials. But each newspaper follows its own protocols. For instance, for some, such as the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times, you must pay a fee to get your announcement published. Others, such as the Palm Beach Daily News, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, and the Boston Globe, run them for free. Some newspapers encourage photos, while some run only text. Typically your newspaper will publish its guidelines, or they can fax, mail, or email you a form to fill out. You can submit your announcements to several papers if you and your intended come from different cities, or if your parents or future in-laws live in other states.

Newspapers require the information as much as four months before the wedding, though it may take a month or more to print it. They typically request the names of bride and groom, their hometowns, parents' names, and date of the wedding. The paper's staff is almost never able to give the specific date on which an announcement will run. So count on spending a few minutes each day thumbing through the paper to find yours.

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