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

Monday, April 1, 2013

Q & A: Engagements & Courthouse Weddings

Image courtesy of thespottedsparrow
Kindred Spirit Question: My boyfriend and I have been together now for over eight years, we've owned a house together for three and have a lovely family of cats and dogs. I recently lost my job, so my health insurance benefits run out at the end of this month. Even though we never got around to getting engaged, we're planning on getting married at our local courthouse next month, surrounded only by our closest of friends. A real ceremony will follow when we are financially stable again.
Would it be silly for him to propose now? Unnecessary? We have a family heirloom engagement ring, so it's not like he needs to spend anything extra. He and I aren't quite seeing eye to eye on having a proposal. I feel like I'd be lying if I send out engagement notices to my family and we never had a proper engagement. What are your thoughts on this? Am I being unreasonable? 
Also, what is appropriate attire for a courthouse marriage?
Ooh, I love both of your questions because they highlight an essential aspect of wedding planning (and--let's face it--our lives): Despite what everyone and everything around you make you feel, there are no rules. It's up to us to figure out what our values and principles are, what resonates with us, what will make us feel proud of ourselves at the end of the day, and then to make it happen.
So let me tackle the easier question first: Wear whatever you want! Honestly, there is no such thing as "appropriate attire for a courthouse marriage" (well, aside from following the legal requirements posted on the door, such as "Shoes and Shirt Required.")
Please, please, please think long and hard about what will make you comfortable (both physically and emotionally, both as an individual and a couple) and then go for it! It might be a sundress or a skirt or shorts or even a traditional wedding dress. I'm sure the court has seen it all.
The engagement question is trickier because you and your partner disagree. Honestly, disagreement is a healthy and normal part of the wedding planning process, too (it better prepares us for a lifetime of compromise!). I recommend using the strategies you've cultivated over the past eight years together to reach agreement. Sometimes, Matt and I resort to a really formal style of discussion when we need to hash something out (e.g. "I hear you saying..."). Sometimes I just cry and storm out of the room (and then pull it together and engage in a real conversation).
So it's time to really listen to each other. Figure out why a formal engagement is important to you and try to unearth why it isn't something your partner wants. Maybe you could each propose to each other in creative ways? Maybe you could figure out how to word an engagement announcement in a way that authentically represents the situation instead of feeling fraudulent (e.g., "After years of writing a shared history together, it's time to write the next chapter.")?
The best we can do in these situations is hear each other out, engage in introspection to figure out why we're responding to the situation in the way that we are, and figure out how to reach a compromise that contributes to (rather than detracts from) our partnership and shared life together.
Wishing you and yours the very best!

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