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engaged - when and how

Engagement To-Dos: Who, When, and How to Tell

Congrats -- you're engaged and you want the world to know! But wait: Prioritize who you tell first. Here's how to spill the beans with care.

Photo: Hilary N. Bullock

There are few times more fun than the hours and days following your engagement, when you're practically exploding with happiness and anticipation. You're so excited you could run naked across a football field with the words, "We're getting hitched!" tattooed across your chests. But a little restraint can go a long way. Here's who to tell, when, and how.

Kids Come First

If either of you has children from a previous marriage, they should be the first to know -- even before your mom and pop. They're the ones who are getting a new stepparent (and maybe a stepsibling or two), and they'll need time to get comfortable with the idea. Give your kids lots of undivided attention: The two of you should have a one-on-one-on-one with each child. Also organize a fun stepfamily outing (picnic, bike trip, or movie and dinner) -- you might find that the old saying "the more, the merrier" is right on target. If not, give it time. Ex-spouses can wait -- your kids shouldn't hear the news from them first.

Unless your parents are already well acquainted, tell each pair separately.

Parents or Pals?

Who you tell next depends on how your parents feel about your relationship. If you know they'll throw a fit, turn first to friends you know will be thrilled. After they've showered you with love and approval, then tell your parents; you'll be fortified against their potential disapproval. Likewise, if you're not speaking with your parents for whatever reason, send them a thoughtful letter. Now is a time of new beginnings -- perhaps the spirit will be contagious.

Immediate Family

Traditionally, your parents are the first to know and, if you want to get technical, the bride's parents have first dibs on the news. How you tell them depends on how well your parents know your mate's parents, how well they know your new fiance, and whether they will be ecstatic or dismayed.

Unless your folks are already great friends, your best bet is to tell one set of parents at a time, so they'll be able to express their emotions freely and avoid uncomfortable group-hug situations. If they like your new fiance, tell them together. Invite them over for dinner, or wait until your next planned get-together. In your perfect universe, they'll leap from their chairs to hug you both, crying with joy. (Of course, if you get engaged on a trip or live far apart, by all means call!)

If your parents don't know your intended, this is the perfect time to visit home, but we don't recommend introducing your one-and-only and announcing your engagement on the same occasion. If you can, wait until at least the second visit. If you're pressed for time or simply feeling awkward, it's A-OK to go solo when telling your parents about your engagement; in fact, they may appreciate your discretion.

Definitely break the news sans partner if your parents are less than enamored with the love of your life, are overprotective, have concerns about religious or cultural differences, have seen you go through one (or two or three) messy divorce(s), or are otherwise opposed to the idea of you getting married. Telling them solo means you'll be able to have it out openly, without dragging your beloved through unnecessary and unpleasant stress and strain.

After you've told family and friends, you still need to tell acquaintances, but the biggies are out of the way. Your next assignment? Enjoy your time on cloud nine!

-- The Knot

See More: Just Engaged? , Just Engaged?