Before getting engaged, my partner and I — together for six years, living together for five — had broadly been talking marriage for a while. But one night last November things went from abstract to concrete real fast. After a moment of silent recognition that we were talking real details, I looked at him.
“So, we’re doing this?”
He smiled. “Yeah, I guess we are.”
That was our engagement moment, and a week later we went home for Thanksgiving. Before we arrived, we decided not to tell our families we were getting married. There was no Facebook announcement, no excited phone calls home — nothing. To be frank, we wanted a little time to enjoy our engagement ourselves. We didn’t want to be inundated with wedding talk while we stuffed our faces with turkey and dressing. We didn’t want to have the same conversations over and over when we only had a handful of days to see our family and friends. But most importantly, we wanted to have our wedding completely planned before we made our announcement.
This wasn’t out of any ire toward anyone. We love our families (and each other’s families) and value their opinions on all manner of things. We simply didn’t want to get swept away in the conversations about dresses, bridal parties, religious versus non-religious ceremonies, registries, flowers… well, you know.
More than once we had joked about just heading to the courthouse and getting a Justice of the Peace to hook us up. But, being from a small, Midwestern town, we thought our families might be disappointed to miss out, and to be frank, I wanted our families and friends to witness and celebrate our commitment.
We decided to tell our families at Christmas, so we had a little over a month to plan what we wanted.
Here’s how we were able to plan a wedding in a month, all before even announcing our engagement:
Neither of us wanted a church wedding (he’s an atheist; I describe my religious identity as “complicated”) or a large wedding (big crowds are disconcerting and large weddings in Chicago are expensive). Luckily, I had read a post on Offbeat Bride about a monthly event in Chicago where you can have a City Hall wedding in the (beautiful!) Chicago Cultural Center.
We decided to do a boozy brunch in lieu of a reception, because there’s nothing Chicagoans love more than boozy brunch. We rented a private room at a local brewpub for a small, intimate meal for about 30 of our nearest and dearest family and friends immediately following the ceremony — no DJ or dancing, no flower or garter toss.
I used MyWedding to create a free website, mostly to keep everyone in the loop about what was happening and where, evites for our invitations, and SoKind for a very small registry. The website was very useful while planning a non-traditional wedding for a relatively traditional family, as we were able to explain our choices in a friendly manner. All of this was kept “unpublished” until we announced our engagement.
I picked out my floral wedding dress from Etsy, which the vendor made according to my measurements and I later had slightly altered by my dry cleaner. My partner used the opportunity to purchase a new suit for work and formal occasions.
I contacted a friend from a local nonprofit who does a lot of the organization’s photography. He and his wife were more than willing to do ours, and the results were incredible.
And that was it. That was all the planning we wanted to do for our small, frugal wedding. And we had it all done and ready to go or planned and in process by the time Christmas rolled around and we told our families we had decided to get married.
Are there a few lingering desires left over from the constant inundation of what a wedding “should” be? Sure. (I sometimes wonder if my mother missed that bridal boutique moment.) But had we called our families the morning after our engagement, would I have been taken dress shopping, when I knew the last thing I wanted was a traditional white dress? Would we have been talked into ordering flowers or favors? Would our guest list have grown from 30 to 60 or 100? Would we have drawn out our five-month engagement to plan a bigger wedding? Maybe not. But also, maybe.
Instead, my partner and I worked through what we wanted (and didn’t want), which brought us even closer together. We created a celebration that reflected who we are and what we value; we put it together and paid for it ourselves; we learned to communicate not only what we wanted, but also why those desires were important for each of us. And to be honest, we actually had a BLAST wedding planning.
You know we love short engagements. Let's just get to it — ammaright? So leave your short engagement planning tips if you got 'em!