The word has such a charming sound to it. Engaged. It even comes with a special, delicate sounding French word, fiance, to describe the person who used to be your boyfriend or girlfriend before that magical moment when those four immortal words were uttered.
It is a special time, too. You exist, briefly, in the netherworld between the not-always-serious dating stage and the ultra-serious married stage. Your family treats you as if fairies sprinkled star dust on you, your friends squeal with delight and help you plan your wedding. The world is charmed, for a time, like a black and white Cary Grant movie.
Or is it?
In reality, as thrilling as it is to be the golden child bride-to-be, as nice as it is to watch your future mother-in-law turn pink with delight when she hears the news, there is no reason to be engaged for any real length of time.
The reason, of course, lies in our changing world. These days, when people are getting married later and later, when they've been living together for some time already and come into marriage complete with a house and belongings and joint bank accounts, if not children, an extended time period to prepare for marriage is completely unnecessary. >br>
Our mothers and grandmothers faced marriage with nothing but the good wishes of friends and maybe a toaster or two, so naturally they and their beaux needed time to set up their marital household. What must they think of their thoroughly modern progeny, entering in marriage with more belongings, more stability, more capital than they saw in their whole lives? The point is not to gather property and belongings and investment portfolios before marriage, but to earn these things together, as a couple, and enjoy the journey.
For most modern couples, the only thing that happens during an engagement that couldn't be done after the wedding - you can buy a house after you're married, it is possible - is the wedding preparation, the long and involved lead up to the Big Day. This is the reason most couples cite for putting off their wedding anywhere from six months to four or five years.
This is where I have a problem. No matter how wonderful you think big splashy weddings are, no matter how badly you want half the population of Texas to watch you walk down the aisle, you should realize that putting off a wedding for any length of time makes it clear that you value getting married more than being married.
Think about it. It's important.
People who put off marriage until they can organize or afford the wedding are doing their relationship damage. A marriage can't start out well if it's so overshadowed by a fifteen minute ceremony, so completely eclipsed by the desire to turn a private, meaningful ceremony of love and commitment into a lavish public spectacle.
An engagement is really just a moment - a brief, exciting moment when you breathe the words for the first time, when you first say "we are getting married" and know that it isn't a dream anymore, that it will happen, and soon. It is a shining moment just after he whispers "Will you marry me?" and you say "With all my heart, yes." It is the look on your mom's face, or the way your dad's heart skips a little when he realizes his little girl has grown up. It is the moment you realize that you have a marriage to prepare for and look forward to, not just a wedding.
But there is, of course, another reason for a long engagement...and not a good one. Unless your intended has been shipped out on a naval destroyer - and you could still marry him before he left, by the way - the only other reason to stay engaged for years is that you really don't want to get married.
Some people, regrettably more men than women, see an engagement as a way to get themselves off the hook with their mates, to stop the pleas for marriage and distract them from the fact that one half of this equation doesn't want to see what happens on the other side of the equals sign. They propose, and then refuse to set a date, citing all manner of problems or excuses or impediments that must be overcome. They see proposing as "good enough", assure their lovers that they really do want to get married, honestly...but let the years pass by without ever moving toward that goal.
The truth is, no matter what excuse you cite, a willing couple in love can get a license and say their vows three days later. Even if you want something a little more special, it doesn't take more than a couple of months to choose a location, buy a nice dress, collect some fresh flowers and exchange your rings.
Think about why you want to put off your wedding. Think about whether you'd rather spend the next year planning to be married, or actually being married, and why. The answer might surprise you.