Love + Sex, Life Stories, Weddings

How to enjoy your engagement before the wedding chaos starts

Planning a wedding is all about enjoying the moment and managing expectations

Perhaps it’s because I’m a cynic, but I’ve always been skeptical of the idea that marriage changes anything in your relationship. My partner of six years and I have discussed marriage, coming to the decision that we would like to wait. As the child of divorce, he really wanted to make sure this was what he wanted before he committed, and as someone who has only dated a few people in my life, I was on the same page.

As we are both fairly early on in our careers, I was prepared to wait until my partner felt ready and we were settled. However, during a whirlwind road trip in which he convinced me to drive three hours to the eastern shore of Maryland to catch a meteor shower, he surprised me. We woke up at 2 a.m., piling on layers to fight the biting cold, trekked out the beach, and set up sleeping bags and his camera. I lay there, enjoying the starry sky we weren’t privy to in the city, as he tried to capture meteorites with long exposures.

After an hour or so of him getting up to check the camera, he finally said, “I’m not getting any good ones, let me just take a photo of us to document it.” Completely oblivious, I agreed. He set up the camera to point at me, futzing around, all the while (unbeknownst to me), getting a ring out of his camera bag. Finally making his way over to me, he got down on one knee to tell me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He was so cold (and maybe even a better nervous) that he forgot to specifically ask me the question, but despite this, I said “Yes!”

It was a moment that I had thought about a lot once I realized he was the one for me. It was a rush of so many emotions: happiness, shock and a little bit of trepidation that this momentous next step in our relationship had arrived. To be honest, I realized that I was wrong — it was a lot more than just living with someone, and I was a little frightened by it. But it was the good kind of scared. It was like the rush a climber gets looking down at the immense height. It’s intimidating, big and bold but you’re glad you did it. 

The days after were made up of us basking in the joy of our loved ones’ as well as our own. But then, the questions started coming. It literally began the day after when we started calling everyone.

“When are you getting married?”

“Where are you getting married?”

“Will you have a bridal party?”

It felt overwhelming. Here we were trying to enjoy our engagement, and we were already getting attacked with an onslaught of questions. Of course, I appreciated everyone’s enthusiasm and knew it was coming from a good place. But it was making the experience stressful, and it had barely even begun.

My boyfriend (now fiancé, which feels so weird to say) and I sat down and decided that we would have a long engagement, both so we could enjoy it and so that we could save up for the event. But sticking to that agreement was harder than it sounds. Some of my family and friends were so excited by the prospect of a wedding that they immediately started sending me venue ideas and advice. While I appreciated it, it felt slightly overwhelming.

About a month after we got engaged, my fiancé brought this up. I was so glad he did. While we agreed that time management was key to a successful wedding, we also realized that we wanted to enjoy every aspect of it, rather than just trying to jump right in and start looking at venues, decide if we would have a wedding party, and so on and so forth.

The average cost of a wedding in the US is over $33,000. Think about that. For that amount of money, you could pay off 30k in student loans, put a down payment on a house or buy a car. All that money spent on just one day seemed to be incredibly wasteful for us. Your wedding is a day to celebrate your love, but it is one day in the rest of your life. It should be up to you and your partner to decide what you want your day to look like.

Realistically, some flexibility is always necessary to accommodate your family’s wishes, but it shouldn’t feel like you’re losing control of your vision. After we came to this conclusion, we decided to take it one step at a time, first by drawing up a budget and then a plan. We’re excited to look at venues, DIY some centerpieces, and try menus, but we want to enjoy it. 

If you’re feeling the same way, I would suggest first of all to stop, take a moment and just breath it all in. You’re starting a life together! It’s an incredibly exciting, scary, momentous step! Before you dive into hectic, seemingly never-ending planning mode, think about the day itself. What do you want it to look like? Do you want to be surrounded by nature, in a barn, in a religious setting? Have some fun with it. If you’re a booknerd, can you weave in elements of some of your favorite books like book favors for guests or themed decorations or music? This is where Pinterest can actually be helpful. There are loads of ideas and you can build your own vision board to help figure out what you would like.

Another way to enjoy your engagement is to take a mini-trip or staycation with your partner so you can just be together and bask in your joy. Go on a road trip or stay in and watch movies, or whatever helps you relax. Go on a spontaneous date and knock something off your bucket list. While I’m excited to plan a wedding, I also just want to dwell on the idea of being married to the person I love most. We’re trying to make the most of our engagement before it passes us by, and you can too!