Is there a lifetime for a commitment?
Yvonne Ncube, showbiz journalist
If you recently answered “yes” to the big question, “will you marry me?”, you may be wondering how long you should wait before getting married.
Already your mood has brightened and you only hear the wedding bells.
You’ll probably also want to start window shopping for the white dress.
You dream of the theme you prefer.
Already your excitement has been amplified as well as the anxiety.
Believe me when I say it’s not just you who are curiously waiting for the ringing of the wedding bells, but the whole community is also secretly curious.
Over the years, the average length of an engagement has fluctuated.
In recent years, the average is around 13-15 months as couples with varying budgets and circumstances prepare to say “I do”.
While other couples prefer a short engagement to ensure the excitement isn’t lost, others prefer a longer engagement to secure the wedding they want.
When it comes to saving money so you can spend it all on the day of your dreams, long commitments can be more advantageous than short ones.
However, the extra time can make the bride or groom impatient.
There is no written rule regarding the length of an engagement, rather it is a matter of the couple’s preference and the planning required.
How long an engagement lasts is entirely up to the couple, but many couples often don’t wait more than two years before exchanging their vows.
Other engagements last for a month while others last for years.
However, every couple is different.
Similarly, there is no science behind the matter, just as the length of time couples dated before engagement varies widely.
The average length of contemporary engagements has dropped from engagements of yesteryear where couples could go over 10 years or even a lifetime without getting married.
Experts said a shorter engagement would make sense if the couple have been together for a long time and the wedding is just a formality, while a longer engagement would suit couples who have been together for a year or less.
Africa is rich in traditions and culture.
When it comes to weddings in particular, people tend to make sure that every procedure is followed because a wedding in Africa is not just the union of two people but the union of two families.
Most of these traditions include the spending of money. As a result, a number of men who spoke to Chronicle Showbiz said these practices contribute to extended engagements because they eat into the budget.
Nkosilathi Ndlovu, a resident of Bulawayo, said the length of the engagement is determined by the money available to the groom.
“I always tell people that when you decide to take the next step in your relationship with your girlfriend, make sure you have set aside as much money as possible.
That’s because once you got her engaged, you pinned her hopes on marriage.
In addition, the parents of both parties are now waiting for the wedding.
“However, you also have to consider that the man has to follow a number of cultural procedures to get married.
These include isivulamlomo where you are supposed to pay money for the in-laws to talk to you.
Mangaziwe where a man has to make himself known to the bride’s family also comes with an expense and the lobola (dowry) itself among others.
“You find that all these expenses are directed towards the man whereas the woman, on the other hand, does not have any.
This is also the reason why many African engagements extend beyond five years.
However, if you budget enough money before going further in their relationship, they can get married just a year after the engagement, which I think is the ideal lifespan of an engagement,” Ndlovu said.
Another resident, Takunda Hove, said there was no reason to wait after identifying his kindred spirit.
“Three to five months is the ideal length of a commitment! Once you’ve decided to marry someone, why wait?
The longer the engagement, the more you start to question things when your first instinct is usually the right one.
Of course, I’m not saying to plan your entire wedding in a week.
“Prepare for success by slowly settling into the process, then give yourself time to plan.
I think the ideal duration of a commitment should not exceed one year.
If you share a birthday during the planning period or see an entire cycle of seasons change, you’ve been planning too long,” he said.
Hove, however, said it all depends on the couple although the longer the better.
“A slightly shorter engagement keeps things exciting and means less time to get dragged in different directions by family and friends.
Longer than that, you’re likely to occasionally change decisions that will seem irrelevant at the end of the day.
One Emmanuel Nxongo said people should take time to get to know each other before getting married, thus agreeing to an engagement of up to five years.
“Relationships evolve from when someone wants to be more than friends and the moment you enter that zone, you start to see things differently.
The moment you propose, you are saying that you are ready to marry this person and live the rest of your life with them.
“However, it is not yet a guarantee, but it is a promise or a glimpse of your intentions.
Living the rest of your life with someone is scary, so people need more time to get to know each other after the engagement because it’s a decision that will affect your whole life.
“The moment you take the big step, you get a new revelation of things.
You start to see things differently, which is why I advocate that a commitment should not have a time limit.
Whenever you feel like yes, that’s the time, so that’s it.
“Even if it takes 10 years, it’s fine.
This is why some people marry when they already have three or four children.
There should be no pressure when making lifelong decisions,” Nxongo said.
Andile Moyo said a commitment should not exceed one year.
According to her, more than a year proves that the other party is not decided.
“When your fiancé starts to delay the wedding after an engagement, it shows he’s not sure about the move he just made.
When a man has decided that’s what I want to do, I’m sure he can go against the odds to achieve it, so crying about finances is just an excuse.
“If he has to delay, it should not exceed two years. More than that, it’s extreme patience,” Moyo said.