What does it mean to be engaged?

What does it mean to be engaged? From the foregoing it is obvious that a good deal of ambiguity and haziness surrounds not only the act of becoming engaged but the very state of being engaged. Perhaps no situation in any society is ever completely defined by the symbols which relate to it, but the engagement situation in our society is one which is left almost completely undefined by its symbols. The symbols are commonly the wearing of a ring or fraternity pin, the announcement of engagement at a party and in the newspaper, exclusive courtship over a long period of time, the words "I love you. Will you marry me?" and so on. The significance or meaning of engagement, however, is not at all standardized or universal. While the symbols remain fairly constant throughout our society the meaning varies from couple to couple. Even more striking is the fact that the functions which the engagement period fulfills are not regulated by the formal customs of our society. In this respect modern America differs from most other societies. This will be appreciated when we survey the varying customs and functions of the betrothal among groups other than our own.