Engagement is such a fun and unique time in a couple’s journey. It’s a time that you’ll never get to experience again, hopefully! After saying “yes!” you are immediately surrounded by love, support, and encouragement. Getting engaged is so much fun in the beginning! It’s all about planning your big day, finding your dress, being surrounded by love and support, planning your life together, and all the fun stuff. Then a month or so passes by and the hype from everyone else dies down. You are then left to your own devices to figure out this changing and unknown season by yourself.
Let me first start with my biggest piece of advice to anyone wanting to get engaged: engagement season is a time of growth and learning, but it isn’t the time to figure out your relationship. A good friend of mine said it best, “when you get engaged, you’re basically saying that you would be comfortable marrying that person the very next day.” So often people use the engagement season to see if it could work or to test it out. Engagement season is not the time to do that. Emotions get involved and that just makes things messy. So, be wise in your decision to take that next step. There is no rush to get married and it is much smarter to wait a little bit longer to get engaged than to walk into that season with doubts and uncertainty.
5 Things You Should Know If You Are Engaged or Plan to Get Engaged
1. Time is of the essence.
Brad and I had a 6 month engagement, which I thought was too long while I was in it. Time moves so slow, yet so fast when you’re engaged. I heard someone say once that engagement season is the one season of life where it feels like time stands still. I’d agree with this 100%. Time seems to drag when you’re engaged. I’d compare it to the last few classes of the day when you were in school. The clock seems to be moving at snail speed and you feel like your time is never going to come.
You feel that way while you’re engaged, but then after the wedding is over you can’t stop saying how fast time flew by. Time seriously flies by, I am still in shock that I’m a month and a half into marriage already. It seriously blows my mind. Cherish it and never take it for granted. Soak it all in while you still can. Life happens really fast after the wedding and reality sets in very quick.
I would advise going on lots of date nights while you’re engaged, having serious conversations about your marriage and what you want it to look like, work on the wedding planning together, and hangout with married people. These things will help make the engagement season beneficial to you and not just wasted time. You’ll understand more why I said these things if you keep reading.
2. It’s okay to look for inspiration, but be careful not to compare.
A wedding is a BIG deal, especially in this day and age. We have pinterest, instagram, magazines, tv shows, movies, etc. There is so much information out there. It is very helpful, but it can also cause a lot of damage.
It was really hard for me because I got engaged at Christmas time, which is like the golden time for engagements. Then we got married in the summer, which is still considered “wedding season.” I really struggled with comparing my wedding plans with everyone else’s. I even compared my engagement story to other’s engagement stories. It’s so hard in this social media culture we live in to not be bombarded by everyone else’s highlights. I even struggled with comparing my engagement journey and how I was feeling emotionally with other people I knew and people on the internet. It is not healthy how much we, especially women, compare ourselves. My encouragement to you, the bride-to-be who is comparing herself to others, is that you aren’t alone in this. You may not be alone, but this is still a battle worth fighting against. The way I would fight against the comparison battle during my engagement was by writing out everything I loved about my wedding plans, engagement, and even about Brad. It helped bring things back into perspective that this is my story, my wedding, and soon it will be my marriage. It made me love my wedding day that much more because I was constantly reminding myself that it is so much more than a “big day” and that my wedding was a perfect representation of our relationship.
Let me warn you, comparison can not only bring about damage to your own self worth, but it can also be extremely damaging to a relationship. Comparison has become even more of a battle for me after getting married. This is something I wish I had worked harder to avoid while I was engaged so that it would be less of a fight for me in our marriage. So, be careful of letting your heart, or your head, go there during this season and even after this season is over. Maybe you’re already there, or you aren’t yet but you want to fight against it, I would advise speaking this scripture over yourself and your marriage:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
3. Seek advise and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I had never been married before and neither had Brad, so it would be silly for us to think we would be able to figure this marriage thing out on our own. It would be naive of us to believe that we could have a successful marriage if left to our own devices. Luckily, we have a handful of close friends who are married, family who have been married for years, and other’s who we looked up to as influences in our lives. We took our engagement season to ask questions, propose ideas, and work through our curiosities with our community. This is so important. This can save you a lot of hurt and frustration, and help you avoid certain problems that would have come up otherwise.
Brad and I also love to read and watch podcasts. I watched Matt Chandler’s series on marriage. I read Sacred Search (for the 4th time) and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I am constantly reading the posts from Beating 50 percent and Fierce Marriage on Facebook and Instagram. There are SO MANY resources out there and those are just a few that I used. These people have chose to share their knowledge about marriage and I would be silly not to listen. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I am still seeking out these resources. I am still reading the books, reading the posts on instagram, and watching podcasts. The seeking of knowledge doesn’t stop after “I do.”
It is so crucial to seek wise council and listen to what others have to say, but be mindful that everyone and every relationship is different. You will learn what works best for you and your relationship. Do those things. Please don’t feel like you have to take every single piece of advice you get.
4. Talk about your expectations.
This is so important and something I think couples constantly have to do. It’s very easy to believe that your partner knows what you want and what you expect in your marriage. It’s easy to believe that they want the same things you want when it comes to marriage. That isn’t always the case, honestly it isn’t the case more often than not. Take this season of learning and growing to have those conversations. I would advise you at least talk about what your expectations are about communication, dealing with conflict, and intimacy. These are the three that I think every couple must discuss before getting married. It will save you a lot of frustration being on the same page about communication, conflict, and intimacy before the wedding day. There are other things, for instance, what you expect from your husband when it comes to romancing you. Another could be what your husband expects from you when it comes to talking about your marriage, or him, with your friends or family.
It is wise to know what your partner expects of you before it creates conflict. It’s also a very respectful and loving gesture to ask your partner what they want to gain out of this, what they expect from you, and then to have them see you work towards those things. It shows that you care, that you’re paying attention, and that you want to be those things for them.
It is also good to warn you now that you may have different expectations. This is not a bad thing. I’ll also warn you that expectations change. Their expectations when you were dating might change once you get engaged. Their expectations when you were engaged could change when you get married. This just means you will have to work through those things and find a compromise that both of you are okay with. It builds strength in a relationship to be able to navigate through disagreements together and come out on the other side.
5. Realize from the beginning that your wedding won’t be perfect, but it will be perfect for you.
I spent a ridiculous amount of hours planning this perfect day. I got the flowers, the DJ, the dress, the decorations, the signs, the Photo Booth, and everything you need (at least that’s what we tell ourselves) to have a successful wedding. It left me feeling really overwhelmed and stressed out the last week before the wedding. I wanted so badly for everything to go well and to look good. It was a few nights before the wedding that I came to terms with the fact that something would go wrong at my wedding. I was right. On our big day there were things that weren’t perfect. There were things that went differently than I had planned, but in the end, I loved my wedding day. Actually, I am obsessed with my wedding! I have been counting down the days until I receive my video and my pictures!
So, one of my biggest pieces of advice when it comes to the actual wedding day is to expect something to go wrong. I promise that will ease some of a the stress and worry when something does go wrong. My dress had a button pop off the back when they were zipping it up, Brad lost his wallet and didn’t find it until minutes before walking down the aisle, and we never did figure out how to bustle my dress. BUT my day was still beautiful, it ended up being better than I ever imagined, and I wouldn’t have changed anything about it.
BRAD BONUS: Have those serious talks again.
Courtney asked me what advice I would give to someone considering getting engaged or someone who just got engaged. My best advice would be to have those serious talks again. Now that you’re not “just dating”, and the pressure isn’t there to say the right things or avoid saying the wrong things, have those hard conversations again. You want to go into your marriage knowing that you have had those talks again. Hopefully those conversations reassure you of your decision and only made things easier. If they did not, you are able to assess and navigate through those issue in a mature way. This, especially for a man, helps eliminate any doubt you might have or feelings of cold feet. The comparison game happens for us, men, too.
Let me warn you, if you find yourself shying away from saying how you truly feel to avoid conflict, that is a red flag. That might not necessarily mean that you shouldn’t marry that person, but just be mindful that bottling up your feelings, no matter how big or how small, could cause some major problems later on in your marriage. It may seem like you’re saving yourself the hassle, or an argument now, but it will come again later on. Also, keep in mind that you don’t always have to agree. That will save you a lot of stress and worry. My best advice would be, if you are struggling to have those difficult conversations to meet with someone you trust and see if they can help walk you through those conversations. I believe that one of the best things Courtney and I did was go to premarital counseling. Premarital counseling really helped us by making those more difficult conversations feel natural and happen more organically. I would strongly recommend going and it doesn’t mean that you have major problems or whatever else the stigma portrays about attending counseling.