Wedding planning is a strange, stressful, and often asinine experience composed of linen samples, justifying your newfound alcoholism, and vomiting a little when you find out how much stamps cost in bulk.
However, the months leading up to your wedding are some of the most important months of your life; and not for the reason you may think.
Your engagement has nothing to do with choosing the perfect flower arrangements,
or fitting into that one-of-a-kind dress.
It has nothing to do with cake tastings and picking a trendy color palette.
The engagement period, the period between “Yes” and “I do,” is transitory, a life-changing transition. We spend a lot of time focusing on the big day. It is, after all, supposed to be the “best day of your life.” There are magazines, websites, and blogs dedicated to this monumental moment, but few people talk about the importance of simply being engaged. Marrying another person is a big deal. A lot comes with that commitment.
The night of my proposal, I was in literal shock. I didn’t cry. I barely smiled. It was beautiful. He was beautiful. Looking back, the moment brings tears to my eyes; but at the time, I was frozen. I was grateful. I was terrified. I was happy. I was in love. I was confused. I was full of so many emotions that I began to mimic a zombie (minus, you know, eating people).
The engagement period is so important because, in layman’s terms, you get to work through your shit. I was never going to run. I knew long before that evening that I was going to marry this man. My trepidation came from the simple fact that I was about to dive into the unknown.
During our eleven-month engagement, I got to explore why I was so fearful and I got to think about what promises I could make to my future husband that were more meaningful than “for richer and for poorer.” I got to work through my social anxiety and the debilitating fear that I felt every time I thought about walking down the aisle in front of a large group of people. I got to grow and strengthen both my soul and my mind. I began to live and breathe the phrase: “Love is a choice, not a feeling.”
I started to befriend my fears. I started to realize that the wedding industry is built on a lie. Love isn’t a fairytale. “Happily ever after” isn’t a thing. Marriage is hard because life is hard. It’s important to remember that. It’s important to know and accept that there will be days, weeks, and possibly months, where you don’t like the person you’re married to. It’s important that in those moments you remember that love is a choice and that while you may not like this person, you can still choose to love them. Accepting that and coming to terms with it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself and for my relationship. Marriage isn’t the finish line; it’s the beginning. The work doesn’t stop just because you have a new ring on your finger and can finally check off “married” on your tax returns.
The engagement period prepared me, healed me, strengthened me, and made it so when I woke up as the bride-to-be on that beautiful Saturday morning, I was calm. I was sure. I was filled with love because I knew that I was about to marry someone who I could do this “marriage thing” with. I knew that, despite the problems we may face down the line, we will give it our all.
Saying “I do” isn’t about being 100% sure that you will be able to conquer every storm, it’s about being 100% sure that you’ll both give it your all no matter the outcome.
Focus less on the flowers and more on tweaking your expectations. Are they too grandiose? Too impractical? Toss your naïveté aside and accept that your marriage will not always be perfect. Learn to choose your partner consciously every single day. Acknowledge his or her sacrifices and make it a point to always give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Talk with your bride or husband-to-be about what their love language is and what they need from you to create a lasting and strong foundation for married life. Finally, after you’ve done the work, enjoy the “big day.” Take it in. Lock eyes with that person you agreed to forever with. Notice his eyes. Notice her smile. When he holds your hands, notice how warm they are. When she kisses you, notice how she means it with every fiber of her being. Store these memories in your mind and come back to them every once in a while. Vow to never forget those little moments and, when life gets in the way, remember that infectious smile and that all-consuming kiss; remember the way the fading sunlight turned those brown eyes into a deep golden hue and always, always, always remember why you said, “I do.”