Tailor the length of your engagement to the length of the relationship, and other advice from a newlywed

Guest post by Drea
Kissing on the bridge

Looking back over the few months of planning and the last few weeks of married bliss, I am happy to say it was all worth it. I think I have a little bit more to offer in terms of advice. So here are my reflections from a bride on the other side:

1. Tailor the length of your engagement to the length of the relationship

From my experience, being together for a long amount of time lent itself well to a short engagement. Also, this way, I was able to focus on only the wedding related things for that length of time. Because we had worked out all the daily living things, had the discussions about the future, and become really synced in our lives, we didn't need to have all the discussions about who does the dishes, do we want kids, why do you sleep in when I want to wake up early, etc. I was able to just focus on what we wanted to do for the wedding — that one day — because everything else was out of the way. Now, if we didn't have all that other stuff out of the way, then I would have wanted a longer engagement.

It's not about focusing one hundred percent on the wedding and stressing about everything — it's about finding balance.

2. Use your time wisely

It's not about focusing one hundred percent on the wedding and stressing about everything — it's about finding balance. Once you have your ideas and your plan, stick to it and use whatever organizational tools you need to keep you on track. I made boutonierres for everyone that came to the wedding. But I started with just the wedding party, then just the parents, then the wedding party spouses, then the parents' partners, then the siblings, then the aunts and uncle, then my grandma, and finally friends. And suddenly, I was done. I did this for everything. I started with what was absolutely necessary and worked my way out from there each time I completed a list.

3. If you are crafty, DIY it

I discovered so much about myself through DIYing my wedding. I discovered that I am patient, creative, talented, and motivated. I took ideas from everywhere and made them my own.

4. Love your dress

I had major dress drama because I picked it because it was inexpensive rather than because I loved it. Whatever you are going to wear, love it. Know that you love it before you buy it. Don't let anyone push you into something that you don't love. Also, take one or two people that you trust to help you.

5. Spend time with the people that came for the wedding

This is my biggest regret. I didn't have enough time to spend with people that came out for the wedding. I did get to spend time with them the day before and at the wedding but I didn't get to spend time with them the week before the wedding like I had hoped.

6. Make your budget realistic

We wanted a wedding on a budget and other than the reception, we were able to do that. My dad surprised me by paying for the reception. We spent around $1000 for everything including clothes, shoes, feathers, beads, and all the other kooky things we had. Set a budget and try not to go over it — but if you do, have a discussion about whether this is something you really want or is it something that would just be nice? If it is something that would be nice, it can wait. If you have “bonus” money, then you can do it.

7. Enjoy the day

Everyone always says the day goes by so fast. But I disagree. I was present in every moment. I enjoyed every aspect of the day. I just let myself relax and know that everything was taken care of. And it was. It was the perfect day. The only thing that went wrong was that the cupcakes were forgotten, but they arrived in time for dinner — no problem there. Everything else was just awesome. And I wish there was something to write about that didn't go right. I think it was because everything was very well planned and I gave everyone a job to do on the day so that I didn't have to worry about any of it.

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Comments on Tailor the length of your engagement to the length of the relationship, and other advice from a newlywed

  1. Drea, you sound amazingly awesome (I’m a fellow theatre teacher/Whedon lover). Thanks for this great perspective!
    Let’s be friends, mmmk?

  2. I totally agree with DIY-ing it if you’re into that sort of thing. Stuff I didn’t care too much about took on new meaning when I actually took the time to design and hand-craft it (ceremony programs). It also provided a very nice bonding experience with my mom.

    I wish I danced more though. I spent too much time hugging people good-bye and then retreating to the bridal room because people interaction makes me le tired and le crabby. I was able to be on the floor for “Fuck You” though. Ah, sweet catharsis.

  3. We had a destination wedding in Costa Rica on a budget. It was so much fun! I highly recommend going this route so that you can spend more time with your guests before and/or after the wedding, and you can even do a honeymoon in a different location of the country after! We couldn’t imagine doing it any differently!

    • How did you do Costa Rica on a budget? My friend is getting married there and it is going to cost hubby and I $5000 to attend (I am a bridesmaid, she is a dear friend). I would really love to get some ideas on how to shave some cost off of this trip. Airfare alone is half the cost. : (

  4. Great article! I’m about 2 months til wedding day! and right now the only thing I’d change or give as advice to others, is the engagement period. I’d have a much shorter engagement if I knew what I know now. 6 months tops. I know that probably isn’t advice for everyone, but the little over a year my engagement has been has been rough. More time for people to give you feedback, more time to over think, and my biggest issue: more time to procrastinate! Haha, it’s been fun, but I’m glad the wedding is almost here.

    • I’m actually really glad to hear this. We have an ~6 month engagement and most of my single friends have been SHOCKED and questioned why we’re “rushing” it. Um…because we want to get married? Nice to learn that people who’ve done it think that’s plenty of time. Thanks!

  5. So, so agree with #2. That’s exactly what I’m doing and it’s so helpful to know I can stop when I get to point A or keep going and stop at point B and so on. Instead of being this HUGE project, it’s a series of smaller projects.

  6. Drea, I’ve been thinking of listing my “lessons I’ve learned” and #1 was – it’s ok to have a short engagement period! We have been together 6 years and the engagement was 4 months. I could’ve used another month, but not for wedding planning/crafting (we kept the guest list tiny) – more for the emotional work of getting ready for an identity shift, and another visit to the premarital therapist. But the longer the engagement, the more time for others’ meddling and your own fussing.

    If you are someone with an anxiety disorder (ahem, me) a short engagement is intense but still a blessing. Wedding planning is like a goldfish in a bowl: it will fill up as many minutes as you give it. Keeping the timeline short forced me to make decisions and not waffle, and to accept non-perfection – great emotional exercises for me. Instead of spending 3 “leisurely” (angst-ridden) months debating a color for envelopes, I had to just buy a pack that day and decide it was perfectly fine. (This may not work if you have a bigger wedding or more of a theme, but it worked well for me – someone without a distinct vision of what I wanted from a wedding, other than to be married.)

    One of these days I’ll write up my own newlywed tips/reflections and post!

  7. I think being able to really enjoy and be present the day of the wedding would be really helped by feeling like everything is taken care of. I was SUPER stressed and anxious the day of my wedding because I was DIYing so much, and much of it was done the week before, night before, and day off the wedding. The morning of the wedding I was running through costco to find flowers for the bouquets, trying to tell people how to put up the decorations, helping my family figure out how to arrange and serve food that we were self catering, and just generally freaking out that I didn’t have time to get things done.

    I think the best advice I can give is that, if you’re going to DIY things like the food, music, photography, cake, decorations, etc, have someone who can be in charge of getting it all in place the day of, so you don’t have to be worried about it. Delegate so that you can enjoy the day. Try to pick a venue where you can decorate and set up the night before, and maybe even pack up and break everything down the next day.

  8. Drea, I can’t tell you how excited I was to see someone who I (sorta? I guess.. haha!) know’s wedding on OBB! I even facebooked Janelle about it. Great advice – all of which I will take into account during my own planning, and congrats!

  9. Sweet, Congratulations!

    I’d add that IF you’re super-mellow naturally, it’s fine to have a long engagement after a long relationship.

    We were together nearly 8 years before the official proposal, and the total engagement time will be almost 2.5 years! But rather than spending toooo much time evaluating every prospect, we’ve had a few bursts of intense productivity, with plenty of time for just normal life and enjoying being engaged, which has worked really well. Sure, a little extra time was spent considering options, but mostly we just found something/someone good and booked it, rather than evaluating each option!

    GL everyone!

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