I can still remember the months I spent engaged to Nathan, 7 years ago in July. On the night he popped the question we enjoyed a date at The Melting Pot, and the next day my family visited so all of us could celebrate together. We were both excited for our future to start and we couldn't wait to finally be together. I was busy finishing school and planning our wedding while he began working at his first full-time job after college.
It didn't take too long for that season to become more difficult than I imagined, however. For the first time, we had to maintain a long-distance relationship, an area in which neither of us was particularly skilled. We would see each other on the weekends as time allowed but it never felt like enough, and I often cried when it was time to say goodbye.
On top of all that the engagement felt so long, even though it only lasted 6 months. We wanted to be married so bad and we had to wait for January 22 - which felt like it was an eternity away at some points. I began to wonder in my mind why there is an engagement period at all - why not just get married right away? Of course weddings take time to plan, but I knew there had to be a better reason.
And oh there are several! What I learned during those months, and what I have seen since then, is how necessary the time of being engaged really is. So for all you weary brides who are just ready to say I do, here are some words of encouragement and some ways you can be intentional - instead of frustrated - during this time.
- You can start planning - REALLY planning - your life together.
Of course Nathan and I talked about marriage before he proposed, but once we were engaged we could actually start planning our lives together. We figured out where we would live and looked at houses together. We began to plan financially for the future. I started applying for jobs in the area, knowing with security that I would be living there at the end of January. Dreaming about the future is fun, but planning is vital - and being engaged gives you time to do just that.
- Pre-marital counseling is one of the BEST things you can do.
I have talked to several couples (and we were in this group!) who claims to have already talked about everything because they have dated for so long. I can say without a doubt that pre-marital counseling is one of the most helpful things you can do for your relationship, whether you have been together for 10 months or 10 years. Find a pastor, counselor, or another professional who will ask you tough questions that you may not have discovered on your own. Having a third party there to help guide the discussion is invaluable. You have nothing to lose, but there is so much to gain as you work towards being a husband and wife for the first time.
- Being engaged and being married are not the same - and that's a good thing!
Nathan and I never once talked about breaking up when we were engaged, but it was incredibly difficult. I say this with caution and gentleness because it is always my desire for two people to fall in love and end up together! However, after walking through engagement break-ups with a few friends, I have seen how important it is to have a period of semi-permanence before marriage - when you are committed to each other but not yet married. Most engagements end up in marriages, and that is always the goal, but there are blessings to be found in having time together before you have said yes to a lifetime with each other.
- Patience is a (frustrating, incredibly difficult) virtue.
This is not exactly a reason why couples should be engaged, but it is a valuable lesson I learned during that time in my life. I tend to want things right now, and I don't like waiting for them. But the beautiful part was that when I finally walked down the aisle to meet Nathan, I knew it was right. The timing was perfect, we had talked through the difficult subjects and planned our lives as much as we could at the time, and all of it was worth waiting for in the end.
My hope and prayer for you, engaged brides-to-be, is that all of the time you spend engaged to the man of your dreams is well worth it. Use this time to your advantage, learn as much as you can about each other, and fall more in love before you even get married. You won't regret it - I promise.
Engaged? Want to make the most of your marriage before it starts? Here are some resources:
Resources for Your Marriage
Beyond the Big Day Series
The Biggest Change in Our Marriage