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Did Shane pop the question to Elizabeth too quickly?

Does it matter how long couples wait before getting engaged? Kerry McKittrick and Laura McGarrity on an age-old dilemma

The recent whirlwind engagement of Liz Hurley and former Australian cricketer Shane Warne after dating for only seven months has led to some sniping that it has come too soon.

But how long is long enough to get to know that a new partner is The One? For some they believe in love at first sight, knowing immediately they want to marry this person, for others their slow burning and lengthy courtship could lead to a long overdue engagement.

Seven months seems to be enough for Warne to undergo a Hurley makeover, it also seems long enough for fighter Alex Reid to forget he is still married to Katie Price and propose to his now fiancee Chantelle Houghton on RTE's The Saturday Night Show, but is it long enough to get to know someone well enough to marry them? Or is every relationship different?

We spoke to four local couples about their engagements to try and find out when is the right time to get engaged.

Slow and easy or a whirlwind romance ...?

... engaged after six months

Brenda Shankey (40) runs Jason Shankey Male Grooming with her |husband Jason and lives in Belfast with their children Lauren (10) and Will (8). She says:

Jason and I were friends for ages before we actually got together as a couple — we'd met through work.

We got engaged when we'd been together for six months. It wasn't anything that we'd talked about before, it just happened very quickly.

One day we'd been working together and Jason said he would take me into town and treat me to a Lancome lipgloss, because he knew how much I loved them.

After we bought it he told me there was a shop he wanted to look at around the corner. It turned out to be a little jewellery shop in Queen's Arcade and we stood at the window looking at the rings.

It was me who said ‘those look like engagement rings' to which Jason replied, ‘they are, do you want one?'

That was it, that was my proposal. We bought the ring and in the car on the way home I turned to him and said ‘you do realise this means we're going to get married, don't you?'

I don't think we were too quick to get engaged — as soon as Jason and I met we both knew we'd found ‘The One'. When you know, you know.

At the time we were both 27 and had been in long-term relationships, so we knew what we were getting into. Everyone was really happy for us too — they knew how besotted we were with each other.

We got married 18 months later, because that was how long it took for us to organise the wedding.

It was a decent length of time though because it ensured that we could get to know each other even better in the run-up to the wedding.

Obviously we didn't rush into anything, because we're still together 11 years later.”

... engaged after 10 months

Carrie Neely (36) art consultant and TV presenter. She lives in Belfast with her husband Rob Grundy a doctor of neuroscience and pharmacology and children Jaxon (4), Marley (2) and two month old Nainci. She says:

When I met my husband Rob I really wasn't looking for a relationship. I had two kids at home and no time really to have a boyfriend. It was August two years ago and I was out in The Spaniard pub in central Belfast. Rob and I got talking after one of my friends tried to chat him up.

He asked me out, but it took ages for us to organise a date because being a single mum I was so busy.

Within four months of starting to go out, we talked it over and decided to move in together.

Rob and I have always been very open and communicative. We both agreed that we wanted to have a baby and because I hadn't been married when I had my first two children it was really important to get married before trying for another child.

Rob proposed in May 2010 when we were on holiday in Greece. We were on a boat off the Greek island of Kefalolnia and when we were having our lunch Rob asked me to marry him.

The age that Rob and I are, we have both had previous relationships and you know when it is right, so there was no point in waiting.

When we told our friends and family no one was really surprised because they could see how serious we were about each other and how happy we were.

We are coming up to our year anniversary now. We got married in November last year at The Crawfordsburn Inn, in Bangor six months after getting engaged.

I am a firm believer in each to their own, so I don't think there is a right length of time to wait before getting engaged.

Rob and I both thought we weren't the type to get married, but we are so contented and happy so it was right for us.”

... engaged after three years

Brian Houston, singer-songwriter from Belfast. He has been married to his wife Pauline since they were 21 years old. They live in Belfast with their children Stephanie (22) and Danny (21). He says:

My wife and I actually met when we were in primary school, but it wasn't until we were 15 when we started going out. Well, I actually got a friend of hers to ask her out, as you did when you were that age.

It sounds silly, but I remember from about age 12 I used to think, would I want to marry this person? So, as soon as I started going out with Pauline, I knew we would eventually get married.

Pauline and I broke up for a few months when we finished school. I went off to France and Pauline went off to Canada. During that time apart I realised how much I wanted to marry her and that I was at risk of losing the prize.

When she came back from Canada I met her at the airport and we went back to my mum's house and I proposed.

It was low-key, but I suppose it was a bit of a risk, considering we weren't even together at this point. She was shell-shocked and told me she would think about it, but I blame it on the jetlag, because she then agreed to marry me a few days later.

Looking back, although we were young we had been going out for three years before we got engaged, so it wasn't rushed.

We then saved up, bought a house and got married when we were 21. We had no master plan and were acting from our heart, not our heads.

If one of my children said they wanted to get married now, I would be a bit wary, because I think life experience is invaluable when you come to get engaged.

I don't think there is a correct time to go out with someone before getting engaged. It is better to have had a few previous relationships and therefore know what to avoid.

These days, youth seems to last right the way into your 40s, so although I am so happy my wife and I got married young, getting more life experience allows you to know what a good relationship is.”

... engaged after six years

Pete Snodden (31) presents the breakfast show for Cool FM. He lives in Bangor with his wife Julia and their daughter Ivanna (8 months). He says:

Jules and I met when we were both 19 and at university. I knew I wanted to marry her quite early on. I can remember saying to a friend of mine — before we even started going out — that this was the girl I wanted to settle down with.

We went out for about six years before we got engaged — there were things we wanted to do before we did, like buy a house and get established in our careers. I think society has moved on in terms of marriage. There isn't as much pressure for you to do it sooner rather than later.

These days people prefer to become financially stable and have lived a little before they settle down. Also, it's important to realise that marriage isn't just something you do on a whim. You have to know a person well before you get married and know you've made the right decision in choosing the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with.

I eventually proposed to Jules on a trip to London. She was under the impression that we were going to see a band showcase, but I went down on one knee on the London Eye. She was gobsmacked and turned to a complete stranger beside her to tell them she'd just got engaged.

We got married one year and 13 days after we got engaged. We didn't want to wait around for years being engaged — there was no point in waiting as we wanted to get married.”

Celebs that put a ring on it

  • James Bond actor Daniel Craig and actress Rachel Weisz got engaged after six months of dating and married three months after that in June of this year
  • Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson engaged and wed four days after meeting each other in 1995. They divorced in 1998
  • Actress Kate Hudson and Muse singer Matt Bellamy announced their engagement in April of this year after dating for only 11 months.
  • Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart got engaged in 2009 and married a year later after being in a relationship since 2002
  • Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged in October 2010 after meeting at university and going out for eight years

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