Here's what all the starry-eyed, soon-to-be-newlyweds should do during their engagement!
Congratulations - you've just gotten engaged and you probably can't stop smiling! The wedding will be here before you know it, and because we know how fast it goes, we want to make sure that we help you savor the season. It's a sweet, fun one (albeit stressful), and there are many things that you can do to enjoy it, learn from it, grow in it, and prepare yourself for the thing that matters the most - the marriage.
We did our research, thought about our own engaged seasons, took what we've learned from other couples, and came up with 8 strongly recommended rules of engagement! Every couple is unique, but most of these universally apply to everyone soon to say "I do".
#1 - Get Organized
You really have so many things to do, and it's so important to keep track of them all in order to cut down on stress and not let any details slip through the cracks. Even if you have a long engagement, there are a million different little things that go into throwing a wedding and starting a life together. So right from the beginning, make a plan for staying organized!
Using a wedding planner tool like ones from WeddingWire or TheKnot is the best way we know to list out exactly what you have to do and when you have to do it (they have a checklist, a guest list tool, and so many other helpful . Create separate folders in your emails to keep track of responses from different vendors. Make notes on your phone and share them with your soon-to-be-spouse so you can both contribute ideas and information. Ensure that everyone knows who is responsible for doing what. Little things like that make the big picture much simpler!
#2 - Have the Big Conversations Right Away
Marriage is the hugest deal, and planning a life together means that you both need to talk about your dreams, your goals, your current situations, and your expectations for the future, if you haven't already. (And if you have, it's never a bad idea to revisit them and make sure you're both on the same page). You don't have to know all of the specifics, but since marriage is forever, you need to know what you're getting into before you get into it.
We suggest talking about kids (do you want them? when? how many? what do you want your parenting to look like?), about finances (are you savers or spenders? what are your financial goals? what do you currently make, and how are you planning on affording things in the next few years?), about spiritual and political beliefs (are you on the same page? can you be okay with being on different pages, and if so what beliefs will you raise your kids on?), about sex (do either of you have past sexual trauma? do you know what you want your sex life to look like?), and about other major aspects of a marriage that will be important in the first year and beyond.
#3 - Don't Assume Anything
Even if you've talked about wedding details and wishes in passing before, now that you're officially engaged, you may have changed your mind about certain things and your fiancé may have as well! Don't assume you know what they want for the wedding or for the marriage, or even how involved they want to be in the planning process. (Some grooms actually are very particular about their weddings!) Talk about everything; communicate openly and often about the other's wants and expectations! The biggest arguments during engagements are often because one person assumes and makes decisions, leaving the other person not feeling valued, cherished, or respected.
Also, don't assume you know how your partner is feeling about everything! Ask often how they're doing emotionally, what you can do to serve them, and what they need from you.
#4 - Set a Budget Early & Try to Stick to It
Weddings are really, really expensive. This comes as a surprise to many sweet, naive, newly engaged couples once they start planning. The industry is ridiculously expensive because it can be - it stinks, but that's just the way it is.
So before you make ANY decisions, or get your heart set on anything specific, talk about what you can realistically afford. Are your parents helping you? Great - clarify (gratefully, tactfully) how much you can expect from them. Do your diligent research, too; understand the general price of each common item (venue, flowers, dress, catering, honeymoon, etc.) before you plan.
Once you set a budget, commit to sticking to it as much as you can. It's so easy to get caught up in the romance of it all and want to splurge on extras, like buying a dress that's $2,000 more than you wanted to spend or inviting 50 extra people, but going into marriage with debt is something you really want to avoid, if possible. We don't recommend that anyone be legalistic about their budget, per say; this is the most special day of your lives, and some things are worth spending on! But just be careful and be wise about your finances during this time. Things add up quickly!
#5 - Don't Take or Ask for Everyone's Opinion
There are probably many people whose opinions matter to you, and many more who will offer them unsolicited (trust us). But the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen ruins the sauce" is ABSOLUTELY true when it comes to wedding/marriage planning. Yes, some people's opinions should affect your decisions, like your fiancé, of course, and your mother's if she's helping pay for a large chunk of the wedding, for example. And you may have a ton of best friends or absolutely adore his family and want their say in everything. While we're not recommending you exclude them, we're just giving you a word of caution - your stress level will rise with every new person's opinion you have to take into account. People mean well, but don't always know what's best for you. Listen to the advice of people closest to you that you trust, and take the rest with a grain of salt.
#6 - Do Premarital Counseling
Traditionally, this is something many faith-practicing couples do, but even if you're not religious, we REALLY think you should do this. Research shows that couples who undergo premarital counseling are 30% less likely to get divorced than those who don't. You don't have to be having relationship problems to go - even the happiest couples can benefit from premarital counseling. Basically, this prepares you for the realities of your marriage. It gives you a chance to talk about those big conversations we discussed earlier with a professional, who can also give you advice about conflict and communication patterns and help you both talk to each other about your expectations.
Premarital counseling can be hard, and expose things that you may not have known about yourself or about your future teammate for life, but that's the point - marriage is forever, so this makes sure you're as ready as you can be!
#7 - Don't Spend All Your Time on Wedding Planning
It can easily take up all of your date nights and free time if you let it, especially if you have a short engagement, but we beg you not to. The wedding is just one day, and it's a beautiful big deal but it's not worth wasting precious, quality time together while you're engaged! Enjoy the engagement. Enjoy your forever person. Go to a park or museum, take a beach day or a bike ride or cooking class, snuggle up for a movie and wine night, tell each other why you love each other and why you're excited to marry the other person. Schedule intentional time of no wedding talk - this could be one night a week or one night every two weeks, depending on your wedding timeline and you and your partner's emotional needs.
#8 - Write Everything Down
Trust us, it flies by, and this is such an exciting and romantic time of your life - in 30 years you're going to forget those sweet details if you don't journal about them or memorialize them in someway. Take engagement pictures and write down your proposal story, for starters! Take little videos of venue hunting and cake tasting. Write down all of the beautiful things that he says to you when you're spending time together. Write down your dreams and plans to look back on later. Just don't let the majority of the season fade away in memory!
What are other rules of engagement you think are important? Which one is your favorite off of this list? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on our social media! And we'd love to be part of your special day - check out how our beautiful bridesmaids robes can help you de-stress even before the wedding!
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