Last updated on January 2, 2021
I am a young man. In one month I am from graduating with a two-year college degree, and I intend on continuing after that. In the last few months, I’ve begun a relationship with the girl in my church. She is a few years older than me.
My question is: What kind of timeline would you recommend for such a relationship, how long would you recommend a status of “dating” or whatever you call it before engagement, and what kind of time for engagement before marriage? We’ve already decided that we are going into this with the intention of marriage, and the intention to glorify God in marriage, but I don’t know what kind of timeline would be wise in such endeavors.
There is no set time in the Scriptures for dating or engagements. Much depends on the maturity of the individuals and how well you come to know each other. Dating should be long enough that you have seen each other in various situations and are confident that this is the person you want to commit your life to. Engagement is when you are committed to this one person and you begin preparing for marriage and addressing how you are going to manage life together. I put together a sample list of topics an engaged couple should talk to each other about Getting to Know Each Other.
Engagement is not a marriage. Either person can say “No” before the wedding if they discover something that makes them doubt they have the right person. This is one of many reasons why sex should not take place during dating or engagement.
While you want to take time to get to know each other, you also don’t want to drag the process out so long that you are tempted to have sex without getting married (I Corinthians 7:9). You also don’t want the engagement period so short that you don’t have time to prepare for both the wedding and moving in with each other as husband and wife. A general rule of thumb is to have a year-long engagement, but that is not a hard rule.
I also strongly recommend studying about the roles and responsibilities in marriage during your engagement.