A woman rides piggyback on her boyfriend's back during their engagement shoot; image overlaid with text that reads How long should you date before getting engaged in 2022?

How Long Should You Date Before Getting Engaged in 2022?

One of the things I enjoy the most about getting to be a wedding photographer is how every couple’s story is completely different. Everyone walked a different journey to get to their wedding day, and celebrating that journey is a huge part of what the wedding day is all about. I’ve photographed engagements for couples who have known each other for years and those who were swept up in whirlwind romances - but is one ‘better’ than the other? How long should you date before getting engaged?

Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no ‘right’ answer for how long should you date before getting engaged. While most couples date for between 18 months and 4 years before getting engaged, everyone will have a timeline that is different for them!

A changing dating culture

A survey of Americans found that 20% of people they surveyed thought that the right answer for how long should you date before getting engaged is between one year and 18 months. For another 38%, however, that felt too soon, with people suggesting that you date for longer than a year and a half before getting engaged.

The way people have answered the question of how long should you date before getting engaged has varied widely over the years as the way we view weddings and marriage has changed. The median age that people in the United States were getting married for the first time was 26.8 for men and 25.1 for women in 2000. Compare that to the statistics from 2020, when the median marrying age for men was 30.5 and for women was 28.1. As you can see, people tend to be dating for longer these days and delaying their weddings until they can throw the party of their dreams.

How long should you date before getting engaged in 2022?

If there’s no universally ‘right’ amount of time for how long should you date before getting engaged, then it’s more about the quality of the relationship and where both of you are in life. I think it’s more helpful to think about it not in terms of time periods but in terms of milestones in a relationship, so I’ve put together some relationship milestones to make sure you’ve reached before you get engaged.

You feel like family

Relationships are primarily about the love two people have for one another, but they are also about two lives joining together. Your family is a crucial part of your life, and so as you think about getting engaged, you should consider your wider network of family relationships. Has your significant other met your family? Do they like each other? Can you imagine doing family holidays with one another for years to come?

Having your family like your partner isn’t necessarily a requirement for getting engaged - and sometimes it just isn’t possible. But when you’re thinking about how long should you date before getting engaged, make sure you have dated for long enough to fully explore the relationship between your partner and your family. And, of course, between you and your potential future in-laws!

You’ve spoken about your core values

It’s pretty classic relationship advice, but it does hold true. Before you plan to make a lifetime commitment to one another, it’s important to make sure that you will be living that shared life by similar values. When you’re deciding how long should you date before getting engaged, it’s so important to ensure that you have had the time to consider whether the values you live your lives by are the same. This extends to everything from how you relate to family to if you want kids - from how you manage money to the way you will handle conflict in your relationship.

Don’t be afraid of these big topics and scary conversations! Digging into your core values and deciding what really matters to you can bring you close like nothing else.

You’re both excited to get married

The sense of excitement and anticipation around getting engaged is so fun - and if only one of you is feeling it, that’s a recipe for heartache! Before you plan to get engaged, make sure that it is a dream that both of you share. If there’s one golden rule for how long should you date before getting engaged, it’s that by the time you do, both of you should be wildly excited for it!

A couple smiles as they open a bottle of champagne together after celebrating their engagement; image by Nikk Nguyen Photo

You share the same goals for the future

When you start to think about getting engaged, you’re also beginning to plan your future - and I don’t just mean what you’re going to eat at your wedding! When you’re thinking about how long should you date before getting engaged, you should consider your plans for the future. Make sure that you’re on the same page about where you’d hope to live and what you’d hope to do in your careers.

For example, if one of you has just been offered a promotion in a long-term job and the other is dreaming of taking time off to travel, it might not be the best time to get married! But when your goals and dreams for the future are beginning to align, that’s a clear sign that it might be the right moment to start thinking about getting engaged. 

Final thoughts on how long should you date before getting engaged

Thinking about getting engaged is such an exciting and magical time in your life - I’m so happy for you! I hope that, as you’ve read this article, you’ve started to get the sense of whether or not your relationship is ready to take that next step. There might not be a universal answer for how long should you date before getting engaged, but there is a right answer for you. 

And if you decide to take the plunge and plan an engagement, and you want a photographer to document every blissful moment of this life-long memory - get in touch! I would love to help you pull off the perfect engagement day.

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A couple holds hands while walking a dog; image by Nikk Nguyen Photo and overlaid with text that reads How long should you date before getting engaged in 2022?
Couple smiling as they pop open a bottle of champagne; image overlaid with text that reads How long should you date before getting engaged in 2021?

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