You’re Engaged! Now What?
By Ginger Kolbaba
CBN.com The night was perfect. Holding out a single rose, Scott picked me up at my apartment. Then we drove to downtown Chicago. After we ate at a dimly lit, romantic, and overpriced fondue restaurant, we walked along Lake Michigan. Then we hopped into a horse-drawn carriage, and to the tune of the horses’ clippity-clops, Scott bent on one knee, removed a box from his pocket, and took my hand. This was it!
Holding my hand, Scott began his prepared speech about finding someone with whom he could share his life, someone with whom he could grow old, someone who completed him. At least I think that was what he said. The longer he talked, the more I wanted what was in that box!
Finally! He opened the lid to reveal a beautiful diamond ring. When he asked, “Will you marry me?” I responded delightedly, “Yes! Yes, yes, yes!”
But soon I discovered there was a problem with our engagement. Namely, that while Scott had proposed, he just couldn’t seem to sit still long enough for us to pick a date. Finally after several months, I came to a realization: Scott wasn’t going to pick a date. So back went the ring into the box.
The second proposal was not nearly as romantic. No rose this time. No romantic dinner. Actually, we took a walk and it started to rain, so we ran under a picnic shelter. This was when he decided to present his soliloquy again. But this time it stuck, and he was ready to set the date. And no skidding heels this time. His second proposal came on July 30. He wanted to get married that fall—in October or November.
This time I would have been as excited about finding an oxygen tank to help me breathe as I was about finding the ring on my finger again. Two and a half months to prepare a wedding? my mind screamed.
“Are you serious?” I was finally able to gasp out. “You’re joking, right? Right? I mean, do you have any idea how long it takes to plan a wedding? Most wedding experts suggest a minimum of a year. A minimum!”
Scott just looked at me with this blank look.
“How hard can it be?” he asked.
How hard can it be? How hard can it be?!
That day I called my parents to share the news. “But, Mom,” I cried. “Scott thinks we can get married this year yet!”
“I’ll help you. Don’t worry about it,” she offered graciously.
That Monday I had lunch with my friend Ramona who gave me one of the best pieces of advice about wedding planning I have heard. She listened patiently to my saga, then said, “My husband and I got married in three months. This is how I looked at it: You’re going to have a lot of stress through the upcoming months. You need to decide if you want the stress stretched out over a year or compounded into a few months. You’re going to be stressed either way.” she said.
“Okay,” I said, still tentative about my decision, “let’s do it.”
And thus began the whirlwind of preparation.
Recently I was speaking with a coworker who informed me she wasn’t really stressed during her engagement period. I chuckled while I thought, She has obviously deceived herself into forgetting that period of her life. I was right. The longer we talked, the more her memories became clear. “Oh my,” she admitted, “I guess I did have some stressful moments.”
And who wouldn't? After all, this is one of the most important events in your life. Not only are you changing you life's course by entering into a legal, sacred, committed relationship in front of God and your closest family and friends, but you’re also throwing the biggest party you’ll ever have to plan. It’s okay to be frazzled. As a matter of fact, according to psychotherapist Linda Barbanel in her article “The Five Stages of Engagement” for Mademoiselle magazine: “The engagement period is a crisis time. Your emotions are running wild.”
You’ll be amazed as you watch yourself, an otherwise levelheaded woman, become completely overwhelmed by the rigors of planning this nuptial soiree. In short, your inner bride takes hold of your brain and screams, “This MUST be the perfect day!”
Are You an Overachieving Bride?
You may be one if you:
- invite opera diva Sarah Brightman to your wedding to sing—and honestly believe she’ll come
- have a bridal party larger than the guest list
- expect each flower at your reception to be hand-opened
- plan to have three ceremonies so all your invited guests will make at least one
- arrange to have a samba parade in which each member of the bridal party plays an instrument and dances through your town
- rent a glass carriage shaped like a pumpkin to take you to your reception
- ask your guests to wear cream and beige to accentuate the setting—and your wedding colors
If you’ve answered yes to any of these, don’t fret; you’re not alone. Believe it or not, there are brides who actually did the above—and lived to tell about it.
Whether your engagement lasts two years or two months, you have a lot of planning to do. At some point you will probably feel as if you have been sucked into a whirlwind over which you have little or no control: the hundreds of details to which you must attend, the seas of fabric, the seemingly endless sources of to-do list anxiety.
If my mom and several friends hadn’t stepped up to the plate to help, I couldn’t have done it. Which brings me to my first, most important piece of advice: Delegate. If you don’t learn that trick, you’ll end up under a psychiatrist’s care in a mental hospital—or you’ll end up in prison.
Your Wedding Timeline
Finally! You’ve got the man, you’ve got the ring, you’ve set the date. Now what?
You need a timeline. The timelines that wedding books present are designed to help you get organized so your preparation process will flow smoothly. But have you looked at those timelines? I mean really looked at them? If you did everything they suggest, it would take you about three years before you could walk down the aisle.
If you doubt me, here’s a timeline I compiled from several wedding planners. However, this one also includes the real (sometimes funny, sometimes nerve-wracking) story of what you need to do or what will happen to you in the months leading up to your day of bliss and euphoria.
This timeline is set for six to twelve months—that’s the average length of most engagements. You may have set your wedding for a year and a half to two years away (stretch out the timeline) or you may have set your wedding for two months from now (in which case you’ll combine most of the weeks and you will want to buy a bottle of extra strength aspirin right after reading this chapter).
Six to Twelve Months before the Wedding
Announce your engagement to everyone you know and then some—cashiers, stock boys, waitresses, bus drivers, phone operators. Call your Aunt Edith with whom you haven’t spoken in five years to share the news.
If you or your fiancé have not met the other’s parents and/or family, now is a good time to do that. It will save you from having to make introductions on the day of your wedding.
Select the date.
Set your budget.
Ask or hire someone to help you organize your thoughts and tasks.
Reserve the wedding and reception sites.
Select a new date since your reception site is already booked for that day.
Start every sentence with “My fiancé and I . . .”
Choose a caterer.
Compile the guest list.
Trim guest list from 758 guests.
Book florist, caterer, cake baker, musicians for the wedding and the reception, photographer, videographer, and limo or other transportation.
Choose your officiant.
Choose your attendants.
Choose your official wedding colors.
Try on gowns.
Vow to lose that extra twenty pounds you’ve been attempting to lose since birth.
Realize how much money this wedding is really going to cost and reset your budget.
Start considering which songs you want played—and which you want to avoid. Some to pass over: “Love Stinks,” “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” “Send in the Clowns,” “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
Schedule to have an engagement portrait taken.
Realize after you’ve set the date for the portrait, you still have to lose that extra weight. Call back photography studio and reschedule for several months from now.
Have an engagement party.
Schedule for your premarital counseling.
Buy bottle of extra strength aspirin.
Four to Six Months
“Discuss” with your fiancé why his second-grade best friend, BoBo, doesn’t need to be invited.
Cut guest list from 523 guests.
Look for bridesmaids’ dresses.
Threaten to choose new bridesmaids.
Complete bridal registry.
Order the wedding cake.
Purchase headpiece, jewelry, undergarments, accessories, and personal trousseau.
Schedule a physical exam with your doctor—that includes a Pap smear. And discuss birth control options.
Announce engagement in newspaper.
Order invitations and thank-you cards.
Reserve attire for groom and groomsmen.
“Discuss” with your fiancé why he and the groomsmen can't wear sneakers to the wedding.
Purchase wedding rings.
Remind fiancé of his responsibility to plan and book honeymoon.
Decide to “help” fiancé book honeymoon after he announces he’s found this great resort for twenty-four bucks a night.
Purchase wedding present for your groom.
Order cake topper, place cards, napkins, matchbooks, cake boxes, favors, toasting glasses, and any other decorations for the wedding or reception.
Make wedding day appointments for hair and makeup.
Provide travel fares and lodging information for out-of-town guests.
Reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests.
Practice saying, “That’s an interesting idea. I’ll have to discuss that with my fiancé.”
Have first of many inane arguments with your fiancé about— well, about inane things.
Two to Four Months
Buy another bottle of extra strength aspirin—but check the sale ads. You’re on a budget.
Discover invitations weigh too much.
Go to post office and purchase more postage.
Call half your guest list to get their current addresses.
Begin addressing invitations or hire a calligrapher.
Finalize arrangements with vendors: caterer, baker, florist, musicians, photographer, videographer, and limousine company.
Call fiancé fifteen times every day.
Reserve and plan bridesmaid luncheon: Finalize location, date, time, menu, program, and invitations.
Choose, order, and engrave gifts for attendants.
Notice coworkers and friends begin to complain that your attention span drifts when discussing anything other than wedding details.
Finalize honeymoon plans: Update or request passport, gather tickets, and get inoculations.
Discuss details of the menu with your caterer.
Discuss service with your officiant.
Decide what will happen in your ceremony: readings, special music . . .
Decide whether you will write your vows or will take traditional vows.
Discover you hate the way your fiancé laughs. Wonder if you’re marrying the right man.
Schedule your rehearsal time and rehearsal dinner.
Tell your fiancé you are not having the rehearsal meal at Pizza Palace.
One to Two Months
Discover every other sentence you use includes the word tulle.
As presents begin to arrive, discover you’re receiving two of everything—even of the items for which you never registered.
If your state requires a blood test, have that done.
Buy a guest book.
Finalize ceremony with officiant.
Plan seating chart for reception.
Prep and stuff the invitation envelopes. Include the extra postage.
Mail wedding invitations to arrive six weeks prior to the wedding date.
Address and stamp wedding announcements and arrange for a friend to mail them the day of the wedding.
Send biweekly updates by e-mail or newsletter to wedding party and families.
Have wedding programs printed.
Catch a misspelling in the program—after the printing is done.
Try to prepare your mother-in-law for the misspelled word— her name.
If you decide to change your surname, begin filling out the proper documents.
Send change-of-address information to the post office, magazine subscriptions, banks, workplace, your parents.
Write out place cards.
Mail rehearsal dinner invitations to arrive a few days after the wedding invitations.
If writing own vows, write them.
Discuss financial, business, and legal details: joint bank accounts, wills, change-of-address and name forms. Buy floater insurance to cover gifts.
Decide on a hairstyle and practice it with the headpiece.
Attend first of many bridal showers.
Plaster smile on face during quirky shower games.
Write thank-you notes as you receive presents.
Record and display wedding gifts.
Schedule final fittings for wedding attire.
Sit for formal wedding portrait.
Confirm duties with all wedding helpers: flower pinners, decorators, personal attendants, setup crew, candle lighters, gift and guest table attendants, greeters, seaters, servers, announcers, cake cutters.
Apply and sign for marriage license.
Arrange ceremony and reception parking for wedding party.
Skip writing the thank-yous and decide to do them later.
Receive first RSVP. Realize your wedding is really happening. Squeal with delight.
Become overwhelmed with everything you still have to do. Give serious thought to eloping.
Wake in a cold sweat from the nightmare of walking down the aisle naked.
Determine to resume your diet.
Put favors together.
Wonder why you chose to do favors after sticking three hundred handfuls of Jordan almonds in tulle and tying with ribbon.
Choose your “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Respond to calls from people who have sent gifts and haven’t received their thank-you cards yet.
Determine final guest count from RSVP cards received.
Make follow-up phone calls to all guests who never RSVPed.
Finalize seating chart and report final guest count to caterer.
Renotify caterer of new final guest count after fourteen people call to cancel.
Arrange new seating plan—for the seventh time.
Have final dress fitting. Realize you forgot your shoes and run back home.
Assemble and pack items to be taken to the ceremony and reception (wedding programs, favors, decorations, toasting glasses, serving pieces . . . ).
Confirm all appointments and arrangements with venues and vendors, including travel reservations.
Notify wedding party of rehearsal time.
Break in wedding shoes at home.
Put together wedding day emergency kit (painkillers, snack bars, breath mints, bottled water, extra hosiery, needle and thread, safety pins, makeup, stain remover).
Deal with family member who threatens not to attend wedding.
Set aside time to have nervous breakdown.
Realize you don’t have time or money in budget for a nervous breakdown, so snap out of it.
Realize you are incapable of making even one more decision.
Ask mother if anyone has ever died from planning a wedding.
Pick up dress or have it delivered.
Pack for honeymoon.
Confirm travel arrangements.
Confirm details with caterer, florist, musicians, officiant, fiancé.
Remind fiancé of time and place of wedding.
Remind best man, BoBo, of time and place of wedding.
Host bridesmaid luncheon.
Have facial or other beauty treatment.
Find your first gray hair (or if you’ve already been blessed with gray hair, find that your hair is coming out in clumps).
Go to tanning bed.
Figure out which makeup to use to cover your sunburned nose from tanning bed.
One Day before the Wedding
Finalize seating chart—for the eleventh time. Have manicure and pedicure.
Remind groom to have hair cut and to shave.
Notice you have a permanent deer-caught-in-the-headlights look.
Break down into a fit of hysterical sobs.
Fix your makeup and head for the rehearsal.
Lecture ushers and groomsmen that they are not to touch your fiancé’s shoes or car or do anything that would otherwise embarrass you on your wedding day, or you will personally break their kneecaps.
Quickly wrap bridal party gifts on way to rehearsal dinner.
Hold rehearsal dinner.
Get eight hours of sleep.
Your Wedding Day
Get up early—even if you haven’t slept.
Discover huge pimple or cold sore on face.
Have massage or take hot bubble bath.
Eat hearty breakfast.
Pray and meditate.
Spend a few moments with those special to you.
Have hair and makeup done.
Get to the church on time!
The officiant informs you your groom has arrived—dressed accordingly.
Get married—and have a wonderful day! At least you think you did—you don’t remember anything.
Your Wedding Night
Collapse from exhaustion.
No wonder this period in life is considered one of the most stressful times (especially since most brides squeeze many of the above details into the last two weeks). Just reading this list is enough to make you hyperventilate at the sheer enormous-ness of the wedding planning task.
If that’s the place you find yourself, it’s time to bring in the big guns. Find someone who will help you focus and organize. This person won’t make the decisions for you—or at least, shouldn’t!—but will help you know which task to wrestle with when. Amanda, the gal who insisted she didn’t experience stress, hired a wedding coordinator and found her to be a tremendous asset. You may want to ask a close friend whom you trust (someone who isn’t in your bridal party) to be your coordinator. Or if you and your mother get along, you might consider asking her. If that sends your blood pressure skyrocketing, however, hire the coordinator. If you can’t think of anyone, ask a former bride to help or to offer recommendations. After all, she’s been there, done that.
And I have some freeing news for you—a secret: Only two items on that list have to be done: finding an officiant and getting a marriage license. Everything else is a nonessential.
Excerpted from Dazzled to Frazzled and Back Again: The Bride's Survival Guide, Baker Book House, copyright © 2004 by Ginger Kolbaba. Used with permission.
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