What does engagement (of the marriage variety) mean?

I can’t believe I missed the discussion in this post from Kyle about breaking your engagement. Still, I got the chance the read through all 50+ comments. And it made me consider.

What does engagement mean?

How much of a commitment is it? Is it like a trial marriage? Is it a chance for friends and relatives to try to scare us out of the decision (to make sure we’re ready for marriage)? What do feel about it?

Here’s part of my answer: when I ask someone to marry me, I’ve already answered the question myself. For me, if she says yes, I’m deathly committed.*

Now, change my mind. Or agree with me. Or find somewhere in the middle.

Let me know.

*[An exception that came to mind right before I hit “Publish”: say I get both my arms blown off. I might try to break off the engagement.]