I’ve been around engaged couples for over seven years and was recently engaged myself. My husband, Brandon, and I were publicly engaged seven months after we started dating and married five months later, one week before our first anniversary together.
Our way is not the only way, of course. The most important part? Discerning, on your own and as a couple, whether this is the relationship you’re going to be in for the rest of your life. If you’ve done the discerning, made a decision about getting married, and feel at peace with it then, well… this is for you.
There are things I knew before I got engaged that I wish everyone knew about. There are things I learned after I got engaged that I wish I’d known before.
These are (probably not all of) those things.
A compilation of things I think all those nearly/not quite/so-close-yet-so-far/almost engaged should know, in no weighted order:
A proposal only requires two parts: an invitation and an answer. A ring is nice, but you don’t need a fancy one to get engaged. Heck, you don’t even need a ring AT ALL to make things official, y’all. When the fancy ring we had ordered was going to be delayed another TWO MONTHS (!!), we stuck to the theme in our relationship and went simple with just a solid gold band. Brandon bought me a beautiful diamond for my wedding ring instead.
Talk about when you want to get married before the proposal. You don’t have to have a date, but setting expectations around how long you’ll be engaged for is important. Remember: God’s pace brings peace.
Let your proposal reflect your relationship. Of course, a grand gesture is incredible and the woman you’re proposing to is most definitely worth all the effort in the world, but something that speaks to your intimate knowledge of her heart – even if it’s delightfully simple – is what’s going to be memorable.
Commit even more to your prayer life leading up to & after engagement. The enemy likes a good reason to distract you, and the excitement around about to be/being engaged is an easy target for him to get under your skin. He’s not a fan of marriage, so armour up against attack as you prepare for engagement. This is an engagement-long thing, too, so don’t be disheartened if you’re feeling attacked! It probably means you’re doing something right!!
Pause after the proposal. Don’t rush through the moment. Don’t worry about a photo right away. Don’t call anyone if you’re alone. Take a deep breath and just be with each other. Stay there a while and thank God for this stake-in-the-ground moment of your story.
Talk about what kind of wedding you want. It’s okay to talk about the actual wedding before you’re engaged!! What’s most important to you? For us, it was remembering the day forever (photography), having a relaxed atmosphere for kids (outdoor venue, summer), eating & drinking with our people (good food & an open bar), and actually SEEING our people (smaller guest count). Setting expectations early with just the two of us, and before the thrill of being engaged set in, helped keep us in check as we began putting plans into motion. We knew what WE wanted, so other people’s opinions didn’t really influence us.
Pray about a guiding word or phrase to help make decisions in wedding planning. For us, we heard the word “simple” and that was what we measured everything against. It was a word true to how we wanted our relationship to be, so it made sense to use it to plan the event that set the stage for our marriage! Is this the most simple way to do it? Is this overcomplicated? Is this helping us keep “simple” at the forefront of our minds? And so on, and so forth.
Remember that as soon as you start telling people you’re engaged, they’re going to start asking questions about a date, a venue, bridesmaids – but there’s no rush to have an answer. You’re allowed to say you don’t know yet! They’re just excited for you and want to engage with your engagement. Smile and nod.
Bring up the budget beforehand. How much money do you each have to contribute? Will any parents be helping out? These are things that might affect when you get married, if you decide that waiting to be able to spend more money than you currently have allotted is a real thing for you. You do NOT need to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful wedding. It’s also not a bad thing to spend money on a wedding. Balance, clear communication, and setting expectations with everyone involved is important – especially when it comes to money.
Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Pizza for dinner? Heck yes. Walk down the aisle together? Heckin yes. Ask why you want e v e r y t h i n g you’re going to be planning on having at your wedding so that you know why it’s important to you/why you’re going to spend money/time/energy on it. Whatever it is, remember that your wedding is a way to thank your guests for their support of your marriage and to treat them to special things. And the most special thing is your company and witnessing your marriage beginning.
Talk to your priest about a date FIRST. You usually need to have an in person meeting with him to officially do this, soooo you could set up a meeting to happen quickly after being engaged… Or before you’re engaged because really, if you’re at this point it’s okay to be talking to your priest about the logistical next steps! We had to wait a month to get that meeting with our priest because of his schedule/vacation! It worked out well for us since we made the meeting in January (and unofficially booked our wedding date because our priest was the true keeper of the calendar haha) but only got engaged the day before we saw him to get the paperwork started!
Take half a split minute to just BE ENGAGED before starting the wedding planning. Don’t pick your bridal party, don’t buy anything, don’t do anything. Just be engaged.
Remember that you’re getting ready to be MARRIED, not just throw a party. Keep asking questions. Keep getting to know each other. Meditate on what it means to love freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully (download my FREE Advent devotional on the subject here).
If you’re having a Catholic wedding mass, get “The Order of Celebrating Matrimony Liturgy Planning Guide” soon after you’re engaged and start praying with the readings, your vows, thinking about the music for the ceremony, all that stuff. This is the mass where you get to pick almost ALL THE THINGS and wow it’s so cool. You usually get the guide at your marriage prep course, but I’m sure there are other ways to get your hands on it.
Sign up for marriage prep ASAP. Like, as soon as you get engaged so you can be sure to get a course before your wedding date. BUT ALSO – your priest determines what you need as marriage prep (at least, that’s the case in the Archdiocese of Vancouver). You DO NOT need to go to a diocesan marriage prep course, but since they’re usually running all the time it’s the most commonly chosen option. We didn’t get anything out of ours soooo our priest (who is also Brandon’s spiritual director) gave us other things to do. I’ve got LOTS to say about marriage prep, but I’ll keep digesting my thoughts until the time is right. Let me know if you want to hear more on the subject, mmk?
ALSO, remember that in these last days/weeks/maybe months? before you’re officially engaged… you’re still dating. Keep dating each other. Keep communication open and clear about expectations for when you’re going to get engaged (“sometime between here & here” works great – no specifics, it’s allowed to be a surprise! But follow through on the WHEN you’ve BOTH talked about).
Keep loving and serving and praying and growing together. None of that ends when you get engaged. You’re gonna need to double down on putting the other first when you’re engaged, and then EVEN MORE when you’re married. Dating is training for marriage. Train well.
I’m sure I’ve missed something, but if I think of anything else – you’ll be sure to hear about it.
Share this with one of those almost engaged, wouldya? <3
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