A free and faithful promise of future marriage between two persons. It was an ancient Roman custom for a man to give a woman a ring as a sign of betrothal. The usefulness of betrothal was associated with prenuptial arrangements involving the couple and their families, such as dowry. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but she was found to be pregnant before they lived together. An angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife because the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18-20). Betrothal is now archaic. The term does not appear in the BCP. However, the Declaration of Consent in the marriage service may be understood as a final ratification of the engagement (BCP, p. 424). These promises were originally made prior to the marriage. They are the couple's public acknowledgment of their free consent to the responsibilities of marriage.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.