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Rules of engagement: Future brides and grooms share the news in different ways

On a day she describes as “blue and sunny and gorgeous and sparkling,” Emily Bird, 39, accepted the wedding proposal of Bryce Schulzke, 38. It was Super Bowl Sunday, which may explain why their location at the bottom of a northern Utah ski hill was deserted when he asked and she accepted.

That may also explain why the friends with whom they watched the big game a little later were also the first to learn of their engagement.

“They were there and I was too excited to not tell anybody. If I had to do it again, I maybe should have told my mother first. But I wanted to tell my parents in person. I tried to tell as many as I could in person,” said Bird, of Salt Lake City, who admits that even weeks later she is “geeked out and giddy” about her upcoming September nuptials.

How she spread the news was a bit unusual, at least according to a survey of recently married and soon-to-be-married individuals that was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Austin, published in Science of Relationships. It turns out that the mother of the bride-to-be is typically the first to hear the news. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they do tell the bride’s mom first, about a third tell their future spouse’s family and the vast majority also share something on social media right away. The numbers don’t equal 100 because participants were allowed to select “all that apply.”

The couple's way

Linh Tran, 27, has proven not very norm-compliant as she's embraced her status as Jonathan Chan's fiancee. She laughs now that she blew the engagement tradition of being surprised and wooed in romantic fashion, spoiling it herself inadvertently just hours before longtime love Chan, 28, planned to propose in a well-designed gesture at Laguna Beach. She was on Chan's computer doing something when a message from her brother wishing him luck popped open. She pondered it a little, before blurting, “Are you going to ask me to marry you?” So he got the ring and dropped to his knees in his apartment to propose.

Almost immediately, though, they got back in sync with what the survey found is likely. She told her mom she was engaged before telling anyone else. Turns out the woman had an inkling, since Chan had asked for Tran’s parents’ approval two weeks before.

They next told his roommate and the roommate’s parents, with whom both Chan and Tran are close.

His planned proposal on the beach didn't go to waste, either. It made a lovely excursion to celebrate their decision to wed.

Online news

Online has become a shortcut announcement that's very common, according to the University of Texas-Austin survey, which found 76 percent of newly engaged people post news of the engagement through social media. Brides-to-be in particular seem to like posting a picture of the engagement ring.

Not Tran and Chan, though. The closest they got to a techie announcement was "Facetiming" close friends. They also called people and followed the call by texting a picture of the ring. Neither has changed their Facebook status yet.

That is what Kacie Judd, 19, did after Thomas Stoddard, 21, proposed to her. The two, who met in northern California and then both attended Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, were supposed to be on a double-date to get dinner about 90 minutes from San Francisco. He pretended to get turned around and drove the wrong way. When she pointed it out, he said that driving her dad's car, which they'd borrowed, made him too nervous to do any "risky moves" to change directions. He kept driving.

"She was frustrated 20 minutes in. 'I don't understand what you're doing,'" he laughed as he recounted the story. "I think she was starting to work it out in her head a little bit." He drove the wrong way for an hour, making excuses, until they reached the Marin Headlands — a spot she'd told him she loved. There, near the Golden Gate Bridge, he asked her to marry him.

Afterwards, they did get dinner with their friends. When Judd proclaimed it the "best day ever," Stoddard teasingly asked if that was because he'd proposed or because she was no longer starving. They will marry April 9.

After she'd accepted his proposal, Stoddard texted his parents, who knew he was going to ask her. Judd, of course, first told the best friend and her boyfriend who were with them, then posted a picture and changed her Facebook status to "engaged."

The broader world knew on social media first, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Stoddard said. After that, she called her parents. Thanks to the immediacy of technology, no real time lapsed between the postings and that crucial phone call.

Need guidance?

According to the University of Texas survey, guys and gals both tell her mom first. Then they diverge a bit. The fellows tell their own dad, a friend and the spouse’s dad, in that order. The women tell their own mom, then dad, a friend and siblings.

For traditionalist having a tough time figuring out the proper order of things, is one of dozens of wedding-related sites that explain who to tell first when the answer to that popped question is "yes." Start with those closest, it says.

If you have children, tell them first. And do it privately, so they don't have to react in front of the individual. "Hopefully, you've prepared them for this possibility," writes wedding expert Nina Callaway. "Consider that this may be hard news for them and reassure them that your new spouse won't replace them in your heart."

Next are parents, then other relatives including grandparents and siblings. After that, the site counsels, move on to close friends. Once that's done, a public announcement is dandy, the site says.

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