Congratulations! You’re engaged! Now welcome to Purgatory.
Ok, engagement isn’t that bad… for some people. Honestly, I was one of those brides who was generally a stressed out hot mess while planning. I don’t understand the (very few) women who are completely calm about the whole process and knock out the entire wedding plan to the last detail in just a few months. I love to throw a great party, but I’m also a complete perfectionist. I warn you now – this is a recipe for insanity. I found the planning process fun at first, but I was over it within a few months. So please, take my advice looking back on engagement from a year later, and hopefully you will be more successful than I was!
Avoid long-distance engagement at all costs.
I realize that this is not the norm, but we were engaged long-distance for the first three months of our nine month engagement. I understand sometimes this is unavoidable, but it is definitely not preferable. Being away from Nick during what was supposed to be one of the most joyous times of our lives turned it into one of the most trying. We fought more in those three months just trying to nail down a date and a venue when I was 600 miles away than we ever had before or since. We got engaged in April of 2010, but I didn’t quit my job and move until the very end of June. I wanted to give myself closure at my job and say adequate goodbyes to my friends in Tennessee, but looking back, I wish I had done that in May rather than waiting an extra month.
Decide your priorities early.
Pick a few aspects to focus on, and realize that the rest will get taken care of. It becomes overwhelming if you try to pick the perfect everything. We focused on three.
- We wanted the entire day to be a celebration (dance party included)!
- We knew we wanted to focus the theme of the wedding around story – the amazing one God had written through us, reflecting His bigger story of restoration and redemption for us all. This ended up deciding the direction of our ceremony, including a worship set, and even stretched as far as our table centerpieces.
- We wanted to make sure that all of the above was captured timelessly. Photography became our biggest priority budget-wise, so we did something kind of crazy and decided to wait until January to be able to have the photographer whose work I had been following for three years shoot our wedding.
Don’t be engaged longer than necessary.
We got engaged in April of 2010 and married in January of 2011 – that time span was a little too long. One of the loudest pieces of advice we were given from multiple older and wiser couples was that the ideal amount of time for engagement is six to eight months. I knew before I got engaged that a six month engagement would be ideal for me. I understand this rule may not apply to everyone, but we were trying to maintain a pure sexual relationship before marriage, and let me tell you, those were a trying 9 months! What I found was that I was ready emotionally at six months to be married, but I was stuck with an extra three months of planning and stressing over details just waiting for the day to arrive.
This is the essence of marriage, after all. If you can’t embrace compromise while you are engaged, how will you ever make in marriage? Decide what is most important to you and what is most important to your fiance and when you differ, try to meet in the middle. Your wedding should reflect both of you, not just the bride. You also may need to compromise your vision of your “perfect” wedding. When we first got engaged, I said I really wanted an October wedding, but my “dream” photographer wasn’t available until January. So I could either have my perfect time of year, or perfectly captured memories. Obviously, the latter won, even though I hate winter. While I absolutely love my pictures, I also realized that had I decided to get married in the fall, my alternative choice of photographers still would have done a great job.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Your wedding budget will be your best friend and your worst enemy. I was convinced I didn’t want to come anywhere close to spending what the average American wedding costs (somewhere around $26,500 in 2011) but once I started looking at the numbers and the kind of wedding I wanted to have (largely impacted by the sizable guest list because of our big families), I realized my desire for a wedding on the cheap probably wasn’t going to be realistic. However, we cut costs where we could. We had on off-season wedding. Photography and guest list were at the top of our priorities, so we ended up sacrificing in other areas. We didn’t do save the dates, I bought a sample dress, salads were axed from the menu, and I decided on handmade instead of fresh flowers. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to go crazy creative and fancy with all of those, but it just wasn’t worth it to completely break the bank.