Tyler and I got engaged last year on Thanksgiving Day. We were in his hometown celebrating the holiday and he took me to the lake just down the road from his parents’ house in the mountains of North Carolina. We walked to the spillway near the dam, and in the very spot where his dad proposed to his mom some 30 years prior, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his bride.
After saying, “Are you serious? Is this really happening?” about four or five times, I joined him on the ground and cried as I emphatically agreed to forever.
I couldn’t have been more overjoyed to take the next step toward marriage with Tyler and I was beyond ready to be his wife. In fact, we were both so beyond ready to be married that we settled on a six month engagement.
Did we survive? By God’s grace, we sure did. And I wouldn’t change a thing about our rainy wedding day. But was it tough? Yes. And do I wish we could’ve maybe thrived just a little bit more in the midst of it? In an ideal world, of course! Our season of engagement proved to be the toughest season of our relationship to-date – but not for the reasons you’d expect.
We didn’t bicker or argue over napkins or table-runners – but we did struggle through engagement in different aspects. When you plan a wedding in just six short months (if you’re us!), you run the risk of burning out in that classic, “Oh, let’s just elope already!” way. If surviving engagement becomes the focus – you miss the opportunity to thrive amidst the challenging bits of the season you’re walking through together.
Here’s three lessons we learned (the hard way) on how to thrive through and not just survive engagement.
1. Decide what’s important to you and your fiancé and let that be the filter through which you make every wedding decision.
If having every last one of your sorority sisters at your wedding is important, find a way to make that happen. If keeping it small and intimate is more your style, make decisions in service to that goal. Whatever you and your fiancé decide is critical to your day, commit to protecting it as sacred. Tyler and I knew we wanted to have a Gospel-centered ceremony in a picturesque church. So when Tyler and I found the most perfect chapel but later learned it only held 80 people – we opted for a smaller guest list to help us reach our “non-negotiable” goal.
2. Realize that unsolicited advice is just a part of the process and do all you can to gracefully respond to every last piece of it.
When people care about you, they want to help you. Often times – especially in these monumental seasons – people see “helping” as offering advice. When you’re engaged, you kind of just have to prepare yourself for months and months of unsolicited how-to’s and what-not-to-do’s. And the truth is that it can get really, really overwhelming. If you have even the tiniest bit of people-pleasing in your bones, it’s tempting to want to yield to every bit of it. To save your sanity and to protect the meaning of your day, make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page in terms of how you will respond to the deluge of advice. Family dynamics may be different for each of you, so figure out what it means to respond gracefully within each family and hold each other accountable.
3. Make time to date your fiancé.
This sounds so cheesy and like something straight out of every marriage book you’ll ever read, but it really may be the most important tip on this list. The reason you are getting married lies within the love that you and your fiancé have cultivated up until this point. That same love needs continual nourishment even as – especially as—you prepare for marriage. Set aside dedicated time during your engagement that is reserved for dating. This means no wedding talk, no planning – just being together. Take time to laugh with one another and do the very things you did as you fell in love with each other.
The road ahead may be long, friend. But there is joy – immense joy – to be had when we commit to thriving instead of just surviving.