The engagement season is the time when, as they say, you get all of the responsibilities but none of the benefits of marriage.
Like many Christians, I found the engagement season to be difficult. I was elated when my girlfriend (now wife) said “yes” when I asked her to marry me. But shortly after, the reality of wedding planning and engagement and seminary and work and everything in the middle felt overwhelming for both of us. I look back on those days as some of the most stressful days of my life. I’ve been reflecting on those days lately and before I get too far into marriage and forget that season (though it may be hard to forget!), here is some advice and resources for Christian couples who are engaged.
Continue to pursue the Lord
Holiness is still your main priority. Don’t skip devotions for wedding planning. And don’t let the euphoria of a new season prevent you from seeking the Lord. Christ is better than love and sex and romance and money and the perfect wedding day and everything else in the world.
While you may feel stressed out and busy, don’t let this season prevent you from mirroring Jesus who, when faced with the incessant demands of ministry, would often “withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16).
Get married soon
Denise and I were engaged for seven and a half months before we got married. Looking back on it, our engagement season was too long.
Within reason, try to get married sooner rather than later.
If we had to do it again, we’d only be engaged for five months. That’s enough time to plan a wedding.
Why get married soon?
1. Because marriage is a million times better than engagement.
2. Because you don’t need as much time to plan a wedding as you think.
With that said, you may want more time. And that’s totally fine.
In his book for engaged Christians, Rob Green suggests 6 months to one year and a half for engagement. For us, we weren’t able to get married sooner because of my seminary schedule. For you, it may be something different like money, work, or accommodations for out of town guests or whatever. Again, that’s fine.
All I’m saying is that I wish we could have gotten married sooner. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Christian couple that regrets having a short engagement.
Be content and don’t break the bank
The media, magazines, and movies often portray the picture of a wedding ceremony that most Christians simply can’t afford. This is especially true on Pinterest and Instagram, two highly visible social media avenues that can make you feel depressed for not being able to measure up.
For my wife and I, we were willing to spend good money on our wedding video, our photography, our rings, her dress, and our honeymoon.
Everything else? As cheap as possible.
Your marriage is more significant than your wedding day, for a lifetime together is more important than a 50-minute ceremony. Focus more on your personal character in this season than putting on a beautiful wedding day.
I found it helpful to read a lot about godly engagement/dating during that season. Here are a few resources to check out:
Don’t skip premarital counseling
Premarital counseling is meant to help you learn more about your family of origin. By doing this, you understand yourself better. There’s also helpful conversations on money, sex, communication, and other aspects of marriage that you’ll want to learn more about. No, premarital counseling is not the perfect system, and no system can compensate for a lack of character. But I think that, if given the chance, every Christian couple should take advantage of premarital counseling with another godly couple. In fact, many churches require it. And that is a good thing.
Find a godly Christian couple that you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Accountable for what? Sexual sin, personal walk with the Lord, feelings during the engagement, etc. My wife and I had the support of a few couples, and we found their friendship and accountability invaluable.
Something will eventually go wrong and that’s OK
At some point, something will go wrong (hopefully something minor).
A beloved family member who says they wouldn’t miss your wedding for the world suddenly comes down with an unknown sickness. One of your ushers wore the wrong suit. Your grandma sneezed obnoxiously loud during the ceremony. Someone you didn’t invite shows up.
I repeat: something will go wrong.
You know what? It’s not a big deal.
At some point during engagement, I made this vow to myself: “As long as Denise and my pastor show up, and as long as we have two to three witnesses for our marriage documents, then I’ll be happy.”
And happy I was.
Don’t let the stress and struggle of engagement hinder your focus, which is marriage. You’re getting married — and that is a monumental blessing, one that you shouldn’t take for granted. So prepare your heart for something to go wrong at some point, but just know that it’s probably not that big of a deal. After all, better to have the wrong kind of side dish at the reception than the wrong kind of character in marriage.
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