The traditional British path from engagement to marriage is pre-ordained by centuries of custom and tradition.
These days it is considered perfectly acceptable to deviate from tradition, but if you want to adhere to British long-established British social customs, follow these basic recommendations:
It is usual for a newly engaged couple to tell the happy news to their parents first; they should then spread the word to friends and colleagues. The engagement may then be announced publicly in the 'Forthcoming Marriages' column of a local or national newspaper. This should be organised by the bride's parents. Wording should read:
Mr P Jennings and Miss K Ashton-Smythe
The engagement is announced between Peter, second son of Mr and Mrs Simon Jennings of Lewes, East Sussex, and Katherine, only daughter of Mr and Mrs John Ashton of Godalming, Surrey.
Traditionally, the mother of the groom-to-be should write to the bride-to-be's parents, expressing her happiness at the engagement. This is not necessary, but the exchange of a letter or card between the two families is recommended.
Once the engagement is made public, friends should send a letter or card of congratulations. The letter should be addressed either to the bride-to-be or her fiancé but never jointly, even if they are living together - well-wishers should write to the person they were friends with first or are related to.
Many couples will celebrate with an engagement party: anything from a small dinner party given by the bride-to-be's parents, to a larger party for family and friends hosted by both sets of parents, or a drinks party hosted by the couple themselves. The bride-to-be's father, if he is a host of a party, should make an informal speech and toast the couple. Presents are not expected, but if you are close to the couple a small present for the couple is a nice gesture. All guests should write thank you letters to the host.
If an engagement is called off, there is usually no need to give any detailed explanation as to why. Some families - perhaps if they are particularly well-known or well-connected - do decide issue a public announcement. The wording should read:
The marriage arranged between Mr Peter Jennings and Miss Kate Ashton-Smythe will not take place.
If wedding invitations have already been sent out, informal notes or printed cards should be sent to each guest announcing that the ceremony will not take place. The engagement ring and any presents the former bride-to-be has given her fiancé should be returned. Any wedding presents received should be returned with a letter of thanks.