As of yesterday, I’ve been engaged for 6 months. Our wedding is in 19 days. Over the course of this crazy time lapse that somehow is going too fast and lasting too long all at once, I’ve learned a lot about weddings, marriage, and mostly, myself. It’s been stressful, busy, eye-opening, wonderful and surprising. To say the least. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’d do anything different if I’d known better. The only way to really know better is to just learn. Just to go through it. I feel these lessons in wedding planning I’ve learned too late, the hard way. I’ve learned them in the kind of way you learn not to hold a scolding pan in your hand for more than 2 seconds. The way you learn that if you don’t turn around to watch the sun setting beneath the mountains, you’ve missed more than you wanted to. But the only way out is through, they say. The only way to be molded into a more beautiful version of yourself is to accept the immersion into the Refiner’s fire. I had to go through exactly what I had to go through to learn, and anyone going through anything in life will have to do the same thing. You can’t learn much by reading a blog post, the only way to really get it is through experiencing something yourself.
All that being said, I’d still like to share my experience and share some advice on how to survive an engagement. I guess now I have a tiny bit of expertise and a bigger bit of opinion. Maybe it will help you if you’re planning a wedding, but more likely, this will just be a list of things for you to “Mhmm” at if you’ve already been through the fire, through the molding, through the wonderful part of life that is your Engagement.
Tip #1: Use Pinterest!
The internet is really an awesome tool for gaining insight and inspiration, and I definitely sucked any and all ideas I could get out of Pinterest. People have found some amazingly simple ways to make different things for their weddings. Be encouraged that a lot of these seemingly crazy DIY projects are really going to save you money, and you really can do them without a ton of creative know-how. Don’t think up every idea for every detail on your own. Be of good faith, there is help, there is inspiration, there is a way. Being able to organize your ideas into categories and easy-to-retrieve files is really helpful when the time comes to implement your plans. Plus, you’ll be able to share ideas, websites, or products with your friends, bridesmaids, and partner.
Tip #2: Then, for the love of God, stop using Pinterest
. Social media is a breeding ground for envy, greed, and discouragement. I think I might say this in a few different tones over the course of this post, but let me introduce to you a revolutionary idea that you will be forced to face over and over as if your head has a magnetic draw to a hard, brick wall. Here it is. You NEED to stop comparing yourself to other people. The information age has bombarded us with images and advertisements and allowed us all to create and view pretend-versions of the imperfect people we all are, and it’s incredibly, undoubtedly unfair. If you want to get married in your sweatpants with just you and 2 witnesses, that is beautiful. If you want to get married in a barn and invite 500 people, that is beautiful. Make your wedding about you, not about outdoing the blogs and the pins and the Facebook posts.
Tip #3: Don’t ask for help at first
The minute you get engaged, everyone and their mothers (literally, all cousins, their moms, and their moms’ moms) will be compelled to help you. It’s super great, and awesome to remember that you have tons of support, but be careful about how open you are to hearing people talk
with at you about your wedding. They have their own ideas of what a great wedding looks like, but you have yours, too. Trust your gut, and talk to your partner about both of your ideas. Just like staying away from too much Pinterest, stay away from too much advice. Don’t inundate your already overwhelmed brain with other peoples’ plans for you.
Tip #4: But then, for the love of God, ask for help
. Once you have some clear ideas about what you and your partner want for your wedding, enlist experienced friends. Lots of your friends have expertise. Lots of your friends are so excited about your love story that they will help you for free. But remember – they can’t help you until they know what you’re looking for. Be clear and communicative. That’s why Tip #3 is important. You need to know what you want to be able to communicate it to people who can help you. If you go to your baker cousin and say, “We don’t like cake,” they won’t know how to help you. But if you and your fiance talk beforehand and realize you both really love apple pie, then you can bring that idea to your cousin and let her run with it. With her know-how, she can come up with a great solution for your wedding dessert. (Spoiler alert: This is exactly what we are doing for our wedding.. Thanks, Hannah!) Help will be very unhelpful if you can’t tell them what you need help with. Like in relationships, communication is key. First, you must be communicating thoroughly with your partner about your wishes, and then you can bring those desires to your amazing friends and family, who will be happy to help you achieve the perfect day. You will be surprised by how smart and helpful people can be, and it will make you feel incredibly blessed that people are more than willing to come to your aid. That will only make the day more special, remembering that the special witnesses to your love were instrumental in making it happen.
Tip #5: Brush off certain advice and opinions
. Like I said earlier, everyone will have something to say about your engagement and your wedding. Be completely prepared for this. Do not for one minute think you’re exempt from this reality. The minute you’re engaged, someone will be really upset that they didn’t get a personal phone call with a long description about the ring. A member of my extended family was angry before the engagement because they thought they deserved their own “father of the bride”-esque talk about Eric’s intentions. Since then, plenty of opinions and unwarranted advice has been expressed on topics that range from centerpieces to a bitter sermon from a divorced great-uncle on “the idiocy of marriage.” Your skin will thicken in the months leading up to your wedding, I promise. Your partner will become a great source of support and encouragement. You’ll look into his or her eyes once a month with a puffy red face and say, “Yes, okay. No, I definitely want to marry you. I just need to forget about bitter old Uncle Whoever.” Opinions and unwelcome advice will come at you in life. It’s not over when you get married. I’ve heard that a mother-in-law has a superhuman sense of knowing the moment your biological clock begins ticking and will routinely drop sentiments of child-rearing opinionated advice into everyday conversation before you’ve even announced that you’re “trying.” It’s an odd part of life, and sometimes I wonder how humans came to the conclusion that spending so much time with others was key for survival, when often I believe I would rather live on the Lost island than hear one more snarky statement about the difference between “white” and “off-white”. You have to learn to brush it off. Smile with grace, say, “Yes, I hadn’t thought about that, thanks!” and whisk yourself out of the conversation to get another piece of pie.
Tip #6: But then humbly realize that some advice is worth listening to
. Your family and friends are, in fact, important to survival. Evolution has actually taught us that if you are a part of a close clan, you have a serious advantage in natural survival. Humans are apparently pretty stupid when we exist by ourselves. We have no protection, no hope. Sometimes the people closest to you know you better than you know yourself. Sometimes they can see things that you can’t see. I’ve had to learn to listen and sift. I’ve had to learn the great act of discernment. Uncle Whoever is obviously bitter from his divorce, but when your Dad tells you you might have a lot to learn before you get married, it’s probably wise to take his words to heart. The fit of rage I found myself caught in when he gave me this loving advice was only proof that he was totally correct. I had been knocked down over and over by peoples’ opinions of me, and he told me, wisely, that I would have to learn to stand my ground against adversity. In so many ways, I told him his opinion of me was wrong, that I was right, smart, and completely mature and he was a big dumb Dad who didn’t know what he was talking about. Case in point. Whenever people smarter and bigger than you have a few years of marriage experience on their belt and are telling you that marriage is hard, you should be open to listening. They may point out things about your relationship that you don’t see – unhealthy behaviors or communication patterns that will make planning a wedding and a life together more difficult. They will, if they are good advice-givers, give you some tools and suggestions to help you along the journey. None of us are perfect, but your friends and family are part of your life because they love you and want the best for you. If someone is giving you advice that doesn’t seem like it is coming from this place of love, respect and trust, then revert back to Tip #5 and brush them off.
Tip #7: Hold on tight
. Hold on to what you know in your heart to be true. That your partner is an excellent, supportive partner. That you really want a small wedding. Or a big wedding. That everything is going to work out (even though you’ll threaten to kill the 100th person to tell you so).
Tip #8. Then, for the love of God, let go
. It won’t all work out. You’ll forget your veil. Your housing situation will fall through in the middle of your engagement. Your plans will be shattered. Family members die, life gets hard, you fight, and you cry a lot. Welcome to being a human. It doesn’t seem like the true hardships of life pause just because there’s a diamond on your hand and you’re trying to get 150 invitations lettered by the end of the night. Learn to laugh. Learn to be grateful for at least one thing every day. Planning a wedding is total chaos, but through it all, I’ve hung tight to the notion that God is good, He is taking care of us, and I can let go of my compulsive need to control and stress and worry about every detail. And I can go to sleep peacefully each night in the midst of logistical disarray remembering that I am loved by a great man and a Great God. No number of undeliverable invitations, hurtful pieces of advice, family feuds, or off-colored table runners can change either of those facts.