The problem with a formal engagement (like the ceremony I went through yesterday) is that nothing fundamentally changes in your life. Especially if things had already been “fixed” well before the engagement and the engagement was more of a formality to let people know and to get family and friends from both sides introduced to each other.
Once the ceremony is over, you return to your respective homes. You wake up early the next morning, like you always do on Mondays, and go back to work. The only thing different is that ring on your finger. And maybe that you are now wearing those nice brown shoes you’d bought for the engagement.
In fact, when I mentioned to my boss (who is American) about my engagement ceremony, he didn’t quite understand what was going on. He said he was engaged when he took his then-girlfriend our for dinner, put a ring on her hand, asked her to marry him and she agreed (by that count I got engaged seven months back).
At the other extreme, in hastily-arranged arranged marriages, the formal engagement ceremony is significant since it performs the role that is performed by the going-down-on-one-knee-ritual in normal marriages. Again, there since the couple may not know each other too well, exchanging expensive gifts and getting their families to know each other does help bind the couple.
A colleague kindly informs me that there is no concept of the engagement in the Hindu scriptures and that modern ceremonies are essentially an adaptation of practices in the west (this is not strictly true – in North India they have a “roka” (stopping) function where they effectively instruct the to-be-weds to “stop flirting and settle down”). But then, given what my boss says about how engagements happen in America (over a dinner, with one ring and the groom down on one knee), I’m puzzled where this concept came from.
All said and done, I’m quite enjoying all the attention that I’m getting currently due to my recent change in relationship status (75 messages on facebook today! beat that! ) and so I’m not cribbing. Yet, I’m puzzled about the concept of a formal engagement function.
PS: I know why we organized the function yesterday. It was essentially to enable my extended family to interact with my extended family-in-law. And it was a completely non-religious ceremony. We exchanged rings (I’ll write about this in another post) and cut an awesome chocolate mousse cake and that was it.