Here's the Average Length of Engagement for Couples

And how the pandemic has affected that timeline.
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
Former Associate Editor
  • Maddy is a Brand and Social Content Manager at Birdy Grey, and was a former associate editor at The Knot.
  • Maddy has written for several different publications, including HUM Nutrition, Insider, Bustle, Real Simple and Apartment Therapy.
  • Maddy has a Bachelor's degree in magazine journalism and a Master's degree in health, science and environmental reporting (both of which are from Northwestern's Medill School of Journa...
Updated Mar 02, 2022

The duration of your engagement is ultimately up to you, but many couples are waiting at least a year before exchanging vows. According to The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study, the average engagement length for U.S. couples was 16 months. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that this number is a national average and takes into account a variety of responses. Some engagements are shorter (like a month, for example) while others last for years—and many couples were forced to extend their engagements due to the COVID pandemic.

Our study showed that those who postponed their weddings were engaged for an average of 24 months, while those who did not postpone had an average engagement length of 14 months. Whether due to COVID or not, the length of engagement has increased in recent years—it was 15 months in 2020 and 14 months in 2019. We say there's no "too long" or "too short" length of time to be engaged—every relationship is different, and you and your partner should decide what's best for you.

Similarly, there's no science behind popping the question. In fact, the length of time couples dated before the engagement varied widely. According to The Knot Jewelry and Engagement Study, three-fourths of all couples who exchanged vows this year dated for two or more years before getting engaged. However, 30 percent of couples dated for less than two years—and nearly half of those couples dated for less than a year.

The takeaway? How long you decide to be engaged is completely up to you. But if you're on the fence about how long you should wait before saying "I do," here are a few things to consider when it comes to your time frame.

Pros of a Long Engagement

While the average length of an engagement in 2021 was 16 months, there are some benefits of having a longer engagement. If you and your partner are long distance, busy with other commitments, or would like more time to plan your celebration, a long engagement might be the best choice for your love story, according to experts.

"Long engagements are helpful when individuals are at significantly different places in their lives," says Scott Haltzman, M.D. So if you or your partner are still finishing school or living abroad at the moment, it might be better to start thinking about the wedding once you've completed those chapters in your lives—then your marriage can signify the start of a brand new one. Haltzman also says that a prolonged engagement gives couples extra time to engage in premarital education, so that they can learn skills that help improve marriage.

One of the most common benefits of a longer engagement is it means having more time to save. Couples also reported that an extended engagement allowed them to do thorough research on vendors and get the best deals possible.

For some couples, those extra savings are important, as weddings can cost a fair amount of money. According to our 2021 Real Weddings study, the average cost of a wedding is $34,000, including the price of the engagement ring. Our study found that couples typically pay for 49 percent of the wedding (while parents of the bride contribute 38 percent and parents of the groom contribute 13 percent). Because of the cost, some couples require more time to save up for their nuptials.

A longer engagement also means taking more time to plan and organize logistics, especially if you're without a wedding planner and you're hiring a range of vendors. (Our internal data found that couples hired about 14 professional vendors for their wedding day in 2021.) And with the current wedding boom still very much in effect, a longer lead time will give you more options when it comes to selecting your wedding pros, as many vendors are booking up years in advance.

Another pro of a long engagement? More time to think about personalizing your wedding. More and more couples are adding thoughtful details to their big day for a unique experience. Our Real Weddings study found that 54 percent of couples provided photo booths at the reception, while 26 percent arranged a musical performance (a 16 percent increase from 2018) and 17 percent provided games. If having sweet and special details like these are important to you, a longer engagement allots you more time to plan them.

Pros of a Short Engagement

If the national average engagement length seems too long for you, perhaps a short engagement is the best route. A brief engagement may work better for you if you're eager to make big life decisions (like having children or moving in together).

Another advantage of having a shorter engagement? You, your partner and your loved ones will be extra excited about your nuptials. "One of the problems with an extended engagement is the level of excitation begins to diminish over time, not only with the person who is engaged to get married, but with friends and families as well," Haltzman says. According to real nearlyweds, this is a major pro of having a short engagement. Some couples claimed a shorter engagement time meant they could really soak up all the excitement in a condensed time period.

An extra benefit of a short engagement period is that it gives you and your partner less time to stress out. Let's face it: while the wedding planning process can be fun, it can also be overwhelming. Less time spent planning can mean less time to worry about all the tiny details so you can focus more on your love for each other.

So, there are pros and cons for both a long engagement and a short engagement. Our advice? Do what makes sense for you and your partner—whether that's a three-month, six-month or a three-year engagement—and enjoy this special time in your lives.

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