I was engaged for about four years before my wife and I tied the knot. Long engagements can be stressful, regardless of the reason why you’re stretching out the timeline. For us, we treated our engagement as a time to set the foundation for our newly formed family, rather than exclusively as a time to actively plan a wedding. When it came time to get married, our small civil ceremony was put together in about a month. So how did I not lose my shit while being engaged for longer than the WIC standard? Here are my tips…
Bask in the epic decision you just made
There are a lot of resources that say it’s nice to wait a few days after your engagement before announcing the news to friends and family so that you can be giddy and in love together. This isn’t bad advice. We spent the day together on an extended date and waited a full 24 hours (including overnight cuddles) before sharing the news or making it “Facebook official.” We also celebrated the following weekend at a horror convention and spent the day looking at each other with googly-eyes and having the shit scared out of us by Doug Bradley. Good times.
The point is that this time alone reminds you that this engagement is a personal relationship milestone that the two of you should celebrate, and it’s not necessarily a time to plan how you’re going spend thousands of dollars for a ceremony and reception. If you’re looking for a legal marriage, generally all you need is a marriage certificate and officiant; if you’re not so into the government aspect of a legally binding union, all you need is the two of you and the decision that from this point on, you’re married.
And there’s no rule saying you can only spend time together to be happy about your engagement right after it happens. We made sure to celebrate our dating anniversary every year and re-connected as though the engagement had just happened.
Know when to step away from the wedding porn and Pinterest
You’re getting married. You may not have set a date because of your long engagement, but you have decided that your partner is now your fiancé(e) and will someday be your husband/wife/life partner, or whatever terms you prefer. It can be really nice to discuss wedding details with your fiancé(e) without the pressure of having to make a decision RIGHT THE FUCK NOW but with the validity of this not being a hypothetical wedding. And maybe if you decide on more expensive or more DIY-heavy details, your long engagement will give you the time to save up for or craft said details. But if at any point you catch yourself obsessing or upset because the wedding is so far off, STOP. Take a breather and return to step one.
Remember to plan your marriage, not just your wedding
While I am definitely an advocate for openly discussing marriage and life plans before the proposal occurs (and while I believe the actual act of getting down on one knee — or whatever you do to propose — can be a surprise, the decision to get married should not be), there’s only so much you can preemptively discuss. Some things are just going to come up organically, or your opinions may change over time. A long engagement can be the perfect time to start honing your communication (and argument) style and make sure you’re having an open dialogue about life choices that are going to affect your marriage together.
You may not be actively planning a wedding ceremony or reception, but you are actively planning your future. That is so important! It's also a great time to start crafting traditions that are unique to YOUR new family, and the longer your engagement is/the more you split holidays now, the easier it will be to set aside time for yourselves to celebrate holidays on your own once you’ve finally tied the knot.
There are only so many things that can be done far in advance
You may think that you are ahead of the game by having a long engagement — if you get all this stuff booked early, you can spend the year leading up to your wedding relaxing while everything is done! Not so much. Most people spend about a year being engaged and actively planning their wedding. Not only does this mean that you may have trouble booking a venue or securing an officiant or caterer if you are getting married in three months; it means you’ll face the same difficulties if you’re getting married in three years.
You may run into an issue of a vendor closing their business and needing to refund (or not) your money; your dress you bought two years ago may not fit; the list goes on. And if you’re having a legal marriage ceremony, the marriage certificate has a finite expiration date — you generally can only get one of those a month or two in advance. Unless you’re more relaxed with the quick decision-making and slimmer options that come with planning a wedding last-minute, you don’t want to put off wedding planning too far into your extended engagement — but don’t start it too early, either.
Different timelines work for different people: you do you
My wife and I dated for four months before we got engaged. For some people, that doesn’t seem like nearly enough time. For us, it was perfect. My parents met, dated, got engaged, and were married in the space of about seven or eight months. Some people have engagements that last for longer than ours did and still move on to have happy marriages. Some people date for years and then elope in Vegas.
There are a select group of people who know what’s best for your relationship: you, and the person (or people) with whom you’re in the relationship. If a long engagement where you’re focusing on building your relationship is what’s going to make your marriage successful, then do it. Embrace this time period for what it is: the next stage in your life together. You don’t need to lose your shit over the length of it, because the length of it makes it right for you.
Holla if you’ve had a two-year+ engagement and are now married. What are some tips YOU have for surviving the long haul?