Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest Post: The Benefits of a Long Engagement

Matt and I kind of fell into a "short" engagement just by virtue of our circumstances. We were both teaching in public Montessori schools in Denver and knew that we would be moving back to Houston at the end of the summer. We figured we would much rather get married in the cool mountains of Colorado than the heat and humidity of Houston (although I've been to some awesome Texas weddings!). Since we got engaged in December, we ended up with approximately seven months of planning time.

I put the word "short" in quotation marks because seven months is actually quite a substantial amount of time. However, in the wedding planning world, a seven-month engagement is pretty short (it can take months for dresses to come in and then you have to think about alterations!).

There were aspects of our short engagement that were difficult. For example, most of the venues we considered were already booked, and we ended up not having much choice at all (primarily because the mountains of Colorado are a very popular summer wedding destination).

In the end, however, I think a shorter engagement saved us from going insane with the wedding planning process. Because I was so excited about the wedding, I was thinking about it all the time (which honestly started to turn into an obsession). I started coming up with more and more project ideas. Flower pins, cilantro seed wedding favors, a coordinated bandanna for the dog--oh my!

However, this guest post from Sarah looks at the benefits of a longer engagement. Although she addresses several different benefits, the most obvious benefit for her is that a longer engagement prevented her from getting into a marriage that wasn't right. I so appreciate her candor and her willingness to share her experience!

In the end, each of us needs to do what feels right for us and carve out our own paths that authentically align with what we value and what makes sense for our lives.

By Sarah Watts

Let me preface this by saying that my fiancé and I are no longer together. It was a good decision, and I think we will both be better off. So, for the sake of continuity and honesty, I will refer to him as M for this post.

We got engaged in July. We knew that the wedding would not be immediate; we had no money, and he has a very low-paying job, so quick savings was unlikely. We also both lived with our parents, which meant we’d also be saving up for a house. I’m a bit of a snob; I don’t like renting. I just don’t see the sense in paying the same amount each month on something you don’t own, and never will.

So those were the two things necessary to save for before we could even consider marrying. We also both wanted to take a honeymoon of some kind. Not necessarily expensive, but another expense. We therefore decided to set the date at least two years down the line. M suggested that we should get married on September 7, because “it would be the seventh day of the seventh month”. He then realized that September was indeed the ninth month!

But September 7 it was. It was a convenient Saturday in 2013, so we picked it and began saving. Although we recently called off the relationship, I got far enough into planning to realize several really great reasons for a long engagement.

First and foremost is money. We didn’t have any, and saving over a period of three years is much more easily accomplished than in one year. Though we were planning a small budget wedding, it still seems like much less when you have years to accumulate funds, rather than months.

The second benefit was our age. I’m 22, and he’s 23. There was no reason for M and I to rush into anything. Actually, I wanted to wait because I didn’t want to be the girl who married right out of school. There didn’t seem to be any kind of rush.

Another benefit of a long engagement is “first dibs” on things like venue, decorators, photographers, bakers, and other vendors. With a date so far in the future you can secure great rates, and guarantee that your people are out there gaining experience, while you’ll be paying for none of it! For example, a photographer friend of mine signed up a couple at the beginning of her career to do a full day of photography (and all the extra stuff you get) for $990. Her rate three years later? $1600.

Having your venue and vendors booked early can also allow you access to popular or exclusive places and people, that you may not have had time to book with a 16 month long engagement (this is the average length of an engagement in North America).

Finally, the greatest benefit for M and I was that we had the opportunity to get to know each other even better. We’d been a couple for four and a half years, but without the prospect of marriage, it’s easier to blow off behaviours or attitudes that you find unacceptable. With the looming possibility of forever, we both learned that we should probably end our relationship on good terms, rather than divorcing further down the line.


If you would like to write a guest post to share your perspective with fellow kindred spirits, please e-mail me your topic idea!

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lizzie said...

excellent post...so honest and lovely.

we've been engaged for two years and i definitely would not have done it differently.

we've had the opportunity to talk more about the future and what we both expect - luckily we were on the same exact page, same paragraph, yadda yadda..

we also had to go through more together...more time to plan...time to get better jobs and what not...it's been lovely.

GK said...

In my experience, the longer the engagement, the shorter the marriage, if any. I think long engagements are an excuse, as are big expensive weddings. If a couple truly loves each other, there is no need to wait to marry. Purchasing a house or having the perfect wedding wouldn't be an obstacle. Those are material things that could be attained single or as a couple.

I believe that the long engagement led to a separation because this couple was too young to get married.

My advice is simple, and a little old fashioned. Follow your instincts and trust your heart. If you say "yes, I will marry you, but..." you should give it deeper thought.

I was engaged for 3 years and I knew the whole time I didn't want to get married. I said "yes, but..." and it never happened. The relationship ended and luckily I met the man of my dreams and I knew, right there and then that we would be married someday. Three years later we were married (after a short engagement) and I've never been happier. I could have married him the day he asked me, in my jeans and t-shirt. That's how you know.

I am sorry for disagreeing with you, Sarah. This was my experience. I see so many girls saying "yes, but" and then concentrating all their efforts on a perfect, expensive wedding and then suddenly, they are in a marriage.

I wish you the best, and I know you will find that man very soon and you will just know. As silly and as romantic and as cliche as that sounds.

"I knew. The way you know about a good melon." from When Harry Met Sally


Alice said...

I personally have never had a single friend whose engagement lasted over a year... and in general... less. The only stats on marriages tend to be provided by the wedding industry itself... I'm quite suspicious that the 16 month average is total BS and is just an attempt to give the wedding industry more time to convince you to buy more stuff that you never knew you needed. Nonetheless, I know long engagements work great for some couples but I'm pretty sure I'd end of interned at a mental health facility if I had to deal with wedding planning for that long. After 7 months of engagement and planning (and 6 weeks to go), I'm already completely worn out.

Sara E. Cotner said...

I did a poll awhile back of 2000 Dollar kindred spirits. Out of over 600 responses, the average was almost tied between 6-12 months and 12-18 months.

@ GK: I don't think a long engagement means a short marriage. There can be lots of circumstances that couples factor in when planning their weddings. Meg over at A Practical Wedding, for example, had a very long engagement and was quite happy with that process.

Anonymous said...

My fiance and I will have been enaged for two years by the time we get married next year.

The reason why we chose to get married next year was because of my school situation and work. I lost my hours and work so I need to find a new job so I can continue saving for our wedding. My fiance is also saving too. Having our wedding a year and half from now will give us a chance to really save for the wedding.

I'm graduating school this year. I thought I was graduating college last year. My fiance and I were going to plan our wedding as soon as I finished college. Then when I found out that I goofed up and had to take a few more classes we figured it would be best to get married next year. I actually, thought it would be best.

Now,that my school semester is ending and my classes aren't that hard him and I are plannning our wedding for next year and I'm happy about that. My mom believes that a longer engagement is better.

Right now, my fiance and I have a year and half of planning time. It's a perfect amount of time for him and I to do our six months of marriage counseling, plan our DIY wedding on a small budget and more. I think if my fiance and I were to have gotten married this summer it would have been way too hard on us.

I love this post. I think so many young couples nowadays should wait to be married until they know for sure that they are ready.

-Jodi :)

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