Look at that happily engaged couple, standing in a field, whispering private jokes to each other and laughing. They look so happy, right? So easy going? SO CALM??
Our planners may have told a slightly different story. One that involved a lot of double booked date nights, late nights, and take out.
In March, I will be the maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding. Holly is the friend I lived with while I was engaged, and she saw me through all of my pre-wedding craziness, namely the leaning tower of wedding decor and craft supplies that slowly accumulated in my bedroom, and the many afternoons she came home to find me trying out various centerpiece arrangements on our coffee table.
Note to self: Stamp library cards, put table numbers on sticks. Buy sticks. Tea lights: real or LED? Bridesmaid flowers in clear mason jars or turquoise… schedule manicure appointment. Will coffee table fit in tiny apartment? Wrought iron legs on coffee table bad for small children, should consider buying new coffee table. How many children will we have? Must bring up at next pre-marital counseling session. Iron table cloths.
ANYWAY. Holly’s fiance is one of my close friends, as well as one of my husband’s close friends (we both knew him before they started dating), and Will is a groomsmen in the wedding. Do you hear the sound of dreams coming true!? It’s essentially the perfect couple friend situation.
Monday night, I went over to her house to stuff invitations with the other bridesmaids. It was such a fun time getting to help Holly out with such a special task. So much of the maid of honor duties involve planning with the bridesmaids and not the bride, so I loved getting to do something just for her!
On the drive home, I started thinking back to my own invitation stuffing/addressing party. I remember the sweetness of having all of my best friends gathered in my living room, writing out the names of all of our loved ones on the gold and green envelopes I picked out for our invitation. I also remember obsessively checking each and every one afterwards, and staying up until 1 in the morning to get them all done. Cue bridezilla, I was my own brand.
To put it mildly, Will and I do not look back fondly on our engagement. We were stressed out, I was sick for most of it, and we just generally wanted the whole thing to be over with. We wanted to be done with saying goodbye at the end of the night, done with making decisions, done with spending money. We wanted to start the next chapter of our life and get on with it already!
What my usually neat and tidy bedroom looked like for the duration of our engagement. At least the bed is made but maybe that was because I wasn’t sleeping?
I loved my engagement party, my bridal shower, and my bachelorette party. The rest lives in a messy, dusty corner of my memory.
However, now that I have some distance from our engagement, I actually do (kind of) miss it. The anticipation, the growing together, the decision making- it was all so much sweeter than I made it out to be. Getting married is a really really big deal. And yes, there are some super stressful times. But then again, are there?? Like, picking out a caterer and bridesmaid dresses? Shouldn’t that just be fun? And parts of it were fun… but those parts got a little lost for me.
I was talking to Holly about this last night, and she told me that during one of their pre-marital sessions, our pastor reminded them that the period of engagement is meant to mimic our longing for Jesus to return. We are supposed to wait in eager anticipation. That is part of the sweetness of marriage. That it is something so longed for coming to fruition as a gift from God.
I know I can’t retroactively go back and enjoy my engagement, but I can choose to view it through this lens- as a sweet period in my life of waiting that lead to something wonderful.
Here are a few ways I thought of to enjoy engagement (i.e. a few things I wish I had done differently and/or better!)
1. Remember that this is just a season, and you will never be here again.
Engagement has a time stamped end date. So, suck it up and quit whining. Romeo and Juliet couldn’t wait to get married and look what happened to them. Learn your lessons from literature.
2. It goes: relationship first, wedding planning second.
You are getting married after all!! The wedding day will come and go, but you’ll be married for the rest of your life. Pray together and ask for joy and peace in your waiting period. Ask the Lord to bless people through your engagement and marriage. Then, actively look for ways to bless people through your engagement and marriage.
3. Part I: Plan dates where you do nothing wedding related.*
Don’t even mention the wedding. Will and I tried to do this, but we were both so pre-occupied with wedding stuff we might as well have been discussing wedding stuff! We needed some serious relationship boundaries when it came to wedding planning and had no idea how to establish them.
*These dates are especially important leading up to the wedding. Those last minute things will start to pop up and before you know it, you’re writing a non sensical thank you note to your aunt while wrapping bridesmaid gifts and looking up processional etiquette. Just put Pinterest away, and go get ready for your date. Go. Now.
Part II: To combat being pre-occupied with wedding stuff, plan dates where you only do wedding stuff.
Cross those to-do’s off your list, and reward yourself with a no-wedding-talk dinner. And dessert. Because you work so hard. Treat yo self.
4. If you need to vent about something, and chances are, you’ll need to vent about something, give yourself 10-15 minutes. Then, let it go. Whatever it is. Get it out, and move on.
I had one friend I had been pretty close skip my wedding without a particularly good excuse. She and I had drifted apart in the previous year, but we were still friends, and I was really hurt that she didn’t make an effort to come to any part of the wedding (which was about a 20 minute drive for her). For some reason (I blame crazy bride brain), I was so hurt by her absence that this hurt became the hurt that eclipsed all over annoyances and grievances that popped up during the wedding planning process. On our honeymoon, I ended up sobbing one night to Will about it. I look back and think… so she didn’t come to the wedding- so what? There were so many people who made the effort and who I had a blast celebrating with. I was surrounded by people I loved and who loved me. I wish I had focused on that instead of the one person who didn’t come.
5. Let people help you in whatever way they want to help you (even if it’s not particularly helpful).
Your bridesmaids, your family, your friends- they want to be involved! They will feel special and honored and included if you give them tasks. Remember, getting married is not just about you and your husband- it’s about your family and friends as well. This is a big time for them, so let them be a part of it!
6. Above all, remember this: love is patient, love is kind, it is not self-seeking (see: Bible for rest of verse, plus a lot of other good stuff about how you’re not the center of the universe and don’t exist for yourself). That’s all love. Love for your future spouse. Love for your family, your friends, your caterer, your musicians, God, the world. Be a loving bride. Be a kind bride. You will never regret being kind.
Kind people = happy people, I’m sure of it.