Thoughts on engagement length

Posted on October 9, 2008. Filed under: emotional, reality |

This weekend would have been our wedding weekend, had we not decided that we needed more time. How do I feel? A little bit relieved and very much at peace with our decision.

All along, the F was very clear that he wanted to be married to me, and soon… but he had very little clue about getting married (read: wedding stuff). As I became accustomed to (and excited about) the idea of marrying my favorite man, the greater my desire to do it quickly. Honestly, I wanted to get it over with*.

A long engagement seemed to me to be a side effect of the need to make your wedding a big production. Long engagements implied that you needed time to save money so that you could spend as much as possible on your wedding day. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying that we didn’t want to break the bank on one day. And if we didn’t need time to save money, why NOT get married soon?

I also thought of it as a kind of a cop out. Why get engaged if you weren’t ready to be married? A long engagement felt like a symptom of a bigger problem, like ambivalence or concern. I have friends who consider an engagement as a kind of trial period — we’re deciding if we want to be married. I disagree. Engagement, to me, is a commitment to marriage. Unless something really unusual comes up during our engagement (a shocking discovery of the worst kind), we’ll. Be. Getting. Married.

And so, we picked a date in October — not too late for us to have an outdoor wedding, not too soon so that we could accomplish tasks around the house in time to have a party. “I’m a planner by profession,” I thought. “I can plan a party for 50 people in a few months!”

The shorter our engagement, went my thinking, the less drama and decision-making angst. I can be terribly indecisive, remember?

Sigh. *shaking head* What a dolt I was.

Being engaged is a commitment. And yes, we will use the time to plan the details of our wedding day. But it’s more than that, so much more. Being engaged is an opportunity to grow closer and to learn (and practice) the skills we’ll need to be a successful married couple – things like compromising, getting along with our in-laws-to-be, making decisions together, budgeting, spending large sums of money (I don’t care how small your wedding is, it’s likely to involve larger sums of money than you’d spend at, say, the book store), and becoming a team. Our entire engagement is a rite of passage, and when I think about my task list that way, every item becomes meaningful.

Build a guest list? We’re getting acquainted with each others’ social and family circles. We’re dipping our toes in each others’ family traditions and assumptions. We’re defining our community!

Invitation choices? We’re defining ourselves as a couple — casual or formal, traditional or modern, spendy or thrifty. How much emphasis (and money) are we putting on something many people will throw away that is also the first announcement of our big news?

Deciding on a menu? My culture and family norms meet his. Mine are a potluck, casual, super spicy kind of people. His are casual as well, but the food is more southern and likely to be takeout. Being from different cultures (Hispanic v. Southern), this is where we’ll showcase those differences for our families.

Our engagement isn’t too long — about nine months — but just right for us. Every day I am more excited, more centered, and more capable of being a great wife for my fabulous husband-to-be. I’ve learned that engagement length is a personal decision based on so many factors, and at the end of the day, only the couple can know what is right for them. I’ve learned that you need to plan and save, but also to grow and transition into the couple you’ll be.. and that takes time. I’ve learned that wedding planning, while often stressful and crazy, is important and meaningful.

So, your turn. Why is your engagement as long (or as short) as it is? Did you, unlike me at first, consider your emotional growth when deciding on wedding date?

{As a second-time bride, I’ll admit that I thought, I’ve done this wedding planning thing already. Let’s skip the drama this time and keep it short and practical. Why drag my family through it all again? If you’re getting remarried, like me, learn from my mistakes. This is a new marriage, a new couple, and a new life. Don’t shortchange yourself (yourselves!) or feel embarrassed about having a lengthy engagement or traditional wedding elements. Your past has passed, and you have every right (in fact, obligation) to embark on this journey with new joy and happiness. A marriage creates a new family, and thus requires it’s own transition steps, ie: wedding tasks.}

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[…] book also helped clarify for me the point of an engagement.  I’ve blogged about it before, but I didn’t really understand that the engagement period is a rite of passage guiding you […]


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    I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and divorce papers) to prove it. Here I am again, pledging my life to my (new) love with eyes wide open (and heart racing) knowing full well how emotionally traumatic this can end… and doing it anyway.

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