Here's how to navigate this sometimes-tricky scenario, according to etiquette experts.
An aerial view of a man presenting his girlfriend with an engagement ring while sitting at a table in a restaurant together.
Credit: Tom Werner / GETTY IMAGES

Congratulations, you're engaged! Even as you revel in this celebratory moment with your partner, you're likely wondering about how you should share the exciting news with your family and friends—especially if they haven't met your future spouse yet. Whether you've had a whirlwind romance or just haven't had an opportunity to introduce them since you started dating, there are a few etiquette-approved ways to communicate accepting a proposal to someone your inner circle doesn't know. Here's how to go about the process, according to experts.  

Tell Them Sooner Than Later

According to etiquette experts, it's important to share news of your engagement sooner rather than later. A shorter timeline will keep them in the loop, which should help prevent emotions from running high when they eventually find out you are engaged to someone they haven't met yet, says Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. "Before sharing the news on social media, make sure your closest family members and friends are informed to avoid hurt feelings," she says. "Even when your future [spouse] has not met your parents, it's important to let family, especially parents, be the first to know."

Consider the Order

Stick to this order when communicating news of your engagement, Gottsman says: Tell parents, grandparents, and siblings first—then loop in other significant family members and close friends. After that point, you can feel "free to post it publicly after you have checked all of the boxes," says Gottsman.

Your comfort level should also inform who you tell (and when), says Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert and the founder of the Swann School of Protocol. Approach this task by using the "onion method:" Start at the core of your group, then move on to your next-most important supporters (so it's just like peeling back each layer of an onion).

Communicate Quickly and Personally

It's best to share news of your proposal and introduce your spouse-to-be to your family and closest friends stat, our experts say. Whenever possible, facilitate the introduction in person, over the phone, or on Zoom. Always avoid communicating by text, since it can seem impersonal, says Gottsman. "You certainly don't want your closest family and friends to hear the news on Facebook or Instagram for the first time," she adds.

Be Respectful, but Share Your Truth

Let's face it: Some of your family members are probably accustomed to a more traditional engagement process, like asking for permission in advance of the proposal, says Swann. Under this circumstance, respect is key. Go into the conversation with the understanding that it could be uncomfortable—but stay polite and don't succumb to anger. "Be aware that the conversation is going to be awkward if you have kept them in the dark," says Gottsman. "On the other hand, they [may] know all about your significant other and have not had the opportunity to meet them yet." 

How to Introduce Your Partner

If your loved ones don't know—or know of—this person at all, stick to this script: "[We have] been dating for several months and we have gotten very serious in this time frame and have decided to get married," says Gottsman.

To get ahead of any big reactions, make sure the announcement is upbeat and inclusive of your loved ones. Try saying something like, "We are so excited to share the news with you and can hopefully celebrate our engagement in person very soon," Gottsman suggests.


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