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5 Things No One Tells You About Being Engaged

147 days. That’s how long Renée and I are going to be engaged for. Less than 5 months, all up, but thank God it’s not a day longer.

It’s not that engagement is bad. For us, it’s been a time of sharing our lives in a deeper way and looking forward to our future together. But it’s no fairytale. Engagement has been full of challenges.

Most of these challenges we didn’t see coming, because no one really spoke about them. It seems like people in the Church have a lot to say about dating, and A LOT to say about marriage, but not much to say about being engaged. Here’s 5 things no one told us about:

1. YOU FIGHT MORE

At least, we do. When I envisioned engagement, I didn’t expect that there would be a lot of conflict. But it makes sense that there would be.

If you’re Catholic, you’re going to have to go through some form of marriage preparation during this time. Good marriage prep leads you through all of the big topics: family, career, sex, money and relationship expectations. These topics can be challenging to talk about at the best of times, but marriage prep is specifically designed to identify where you disagree.

On top of this, the two of you are planning a wedding! There’s no shortage of things to miscommunicate about: from family expectations, to budgeting, to the size of the guest list.

The thing that Renée and I are constantly having to remind ourselves is that these conflicts aren’t inherently bad. If we think about things like family or budgeting differently, it’s so much better to communicate about that now than for it to come up for the first time when we’re already navigating it in marriage!

Sure, it can make for some emotionally exhausting evenings, but we know we are investing in the future success of our relationship.

2. PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES GET HARDER

As I wrote in a recent post, Renée and I have had our fair share of struggles with physical boundaries. Engagement has taken those struggles to another level.

One amazing part of engagement is that your emotional intimacy and your attraction for each other deepens. But this, in turn, leads to a greater desire for physical intimacy.

On top of this, it might be easy to tell yourself that you’re pretty much locked in. You love each other, you’re getting married, and you’ve got the ring to prove it – so what’s the big deal with going further physically?

The big deal is what we’re ‘saying’ with our bodies through physically intimate. As I wrote in a previous post, sexual intimacy doesn’t just say “I just like your body” or “I’ll take you for a little while.” Sex says, “I totally give myself to you.” Until we get commit to each other in marriage, we know that we can’t honestly make that total self-gift with our bodies.

In the meantime, there’s a lot of… uh… anticipation. That anticipation is a good thing – there would be something seriously wrong if we weren’t excited for sexual intimacy in marriage. But it does make respecting boundaries especially hard during engagement.

3. SAY GOODBYE TO ALL YOUR MONEY

Holy moly, being engaged is expensive. The average cost of a wedding in New Zealand (where we are tying the knot) is $35,000 dollars.

Prior to planning my own wedding, I remember hearing that and thinking “How absurd. Look at all of these silly people getting caught up in consumer culture and spending on all of these unnecessary frills.”

But it turns out, weddings are really expensive. To be fair, Renée and I aren’t working to a shoestring budget. We’re having a sit-down dinner rather than a potluck, and we’re going on a tropical getaway for a honeymoon.

But we are trying to cut costs where we can – my aunty is making the cake, a good friend is doing the videography, and we managed to avoid the extortionate price of renting tablecloths (seriously!). Even being budget conscious, the numbers have climbed far higher than we initially anticipated.

Added to wedding expenses is the fact that we’re going to be moving into our own place after the wedding, which requires a bond, a couple of weeks rent in advance, and buying an apartment’s worth of furniture.

All of this is well worth the expense, but it has meant that virtually all our money over the past 5 months has gone to the wedding and our future life together. If you’re planning on getting engaged, start saving.

4. WEDDING PLANNING CAN BE ALL CONSUMING (IF YOU LET IT)

Weddings are a peculiar thing. You take two people, who probably have no experience in large-scale event planning, and charge them with organising an event that costs thousands of dollars and will be attended by potentially hundreds of people.

There’s a lot to organise – catering, photography, videography, church, reception venue, celebrant, bridal party, guest list, invitations, sound system, music, alcohol, outfits, wedding rings, cake, flowers, hair and makeup, transport and napkin rental (we went with seafoam green) – to just name a few of the items on our to-do list.

It’s easy for wedding planning to become all-consuming. Even when you set aside time each week for it, it slips into day-to-day conversation that you just heard back from the photographer or that the person making your cake needs you to respond with icing flavours ASAP.

You definitely want to stay on top of wedding planning, but you don’t want it to consume every waking moment you’re together. The health of your relationship is more important than your wedding.

One more time for the people in the back: your relationship is more important than your wedding.

With this in mind, one of the best things Renée and I have done during our engagement is give ourselves a couple of rules: (1) we set aside time each week to work on wedding stuff, rather than it always having it on the go, and (2) we also set aside time together each week where there is a hard ban on any kind of wedding talk.

Rule No.1 makes sure that we don’t get overwhelmed by too much wedding admin piling up. Rule No.2 protects some time each week to invest in each other and just enjoy being together.

5. ENGAGEMENT IS A REALLY WEIRD PHASE

Engagement can feel like a really weird phase. You start making decisions about your future together and you talk a lot about The Big 3: Family, Sex and Money. In the midst of all of this, you’re constantly counting down to this one big moment, after which your life is never going to be the same.

Through all of the above challenges, we’ve learned a lot about each other and grown as a couple. So while it sometimes feels weird, for us engagement has been exactly what it’s supposed to be: solid preparation for marriage.



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