The engagement season can oftentimes feel absolutely overwhelming. It can feel like there is a never ending to-do list and deadlines to meet leading up to the big day. But amidst wedding planning, I had my relationship with my future spouse to care for as the days come closer to marriage. How do I wedding plan, future plan, and grow in my relationship all at the same time? It is my hope that this post will help you learn from what I learned during engagement.
This past spring, I married my best friend. The wedding day was the best day of my life–filled with friends and family, laughter, and dancing. But since then, each day married has been better than the day before. I attribute this to two things – Jesus being the first love in our hearts, and the amount of work and preparation we put into our relationship before marriage. Recently, we were asked by our church to interview for an upcoming dating seminar, and as we read over the questions to prepare for the interview, we found five key ways that helped us date well through our engagement season and set us up for newlywed success.
- We continued to date each other up until the wedding day
Our relationship did not become the wedding and the wedding was not all we talked about. We put boundaries up around wedding planning by having scheduled time to plan it and talk about it. We made a checklist and whenever a thought about the wedding popped into one of our heads, we wrote it down and would talk about it during our planning time. As soon as we booked our venue and vendors, we took two weeks off of planning. Most importantly, we continued to work on our friendship. We continued to go on dates, read the Word and pray together, and hangout with friends.
Find a rhythm that works with your fiance and you to keep your relationship growing throughout the engagement season and find mind-healthy ways to plan and talk about the wedding.
- We committed to being on the same team
Though we had not made our covenant and vows of marriage yet, we chose to start talking in terms of teamwork and being on the same team. That visual was huge in starting to merge our lives together. There are a lot of big decisions to make throughout engagement like the wedding itself, where to live, who is going to plan what, the guest list, and finances. By choosing to look at your relationship as a team rather than “my life” and “your life” and “my way” and “your way,” to “our life,” you are starting to cultivate the marriage mindset of “one flesh”—that is, one life, fully shared. Using “we” language and looking at situations that occur and thinking, “OK, how do we find a solution that keeps our team together?” is so important when making big decisions.
You are going to have differences in preferences throughout the planning process. Do your best to see those differences as an opportunity to grow in learning more about the other person and even praying about laying down your preferences for the other. In marriage, we get to have someone who will always have our backs and that we can count on like a teammate. Engagement can build a foundation of trust and communication to set you up well after you say “I do.”
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Philippians 2:1-4
- We prioritized premarital counseling
Our church set us up for premarital counseling where we met with two married couples in our church and discussed numerous topics related to marriage. Finances, conflict resolution, intimacy, and expectations were just a few of the topics we covered. Premarital counseling allowed us to sit down and take the time to discuss these topics as well as bring forth conversations that we had not thought about. It helped us work through topics before they took place, rather than figuring out how to deal with them as they came about, such as how we were going to merge finances and handle spending. Not only did we discuss our relationship, we were able to see into our mentor’s marriages and gain wisdom as well as insight into the realities of marriage before ours started.
In addition, we were encouraged to read “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim and Kathy Keller. We had already read it in the past so we read “What Did You Expect?” by Paul David Tripp. I recommend both books to any person in all stages of life.
- We extended each other grace
As much as we tried to keep the stressors of planning a wedding at bay, there were times when the to-do list would get to one of us.
At one point early on in the wedding planning and to-do list process, I let the pressure get to me and took them out on my then fiance. I said hurtful things that I immediately regretted but when I repented, I was met with an overflow of compassion and love from him, no retaliation or defense. I was so taken aback by his response to my actions that I cried unexpected and grateful tears. He met me with a softness that immediately changed the course of how that conversation could have gone. That moment of extending grace from him brought forth more love for him from me that I knew was possible and his extension of grace towards me led me towards extending deeper grace in the future.
“Grace, like water, always flows to the lowest part.”Phillip Yancey
The most beautiful thing we can offer our significant other is grace. Grace is forgiving someone or taking on the burden of what they are experiencing when they do not deserve it. Grace builds a safe place within the relationship, setting it apart from any other. It builds thought patterns of “You are safe” “I am not going to leave you” “I will love you no matter what” “I choose you” and sows a depth to the relationship that continues extending grace in the future.
Talk about how you can extend grace to each other, especially during stressful times.
- Jesus comes first in both of our lives
Wedding planning can very easily take up all of your time and thoughts. Before wedding planning, I was not a big Pinterest or Facebook user but as soon as we were engaged, I began looking for ideas on Pinterest, buying used decor on Facebook Marketplace, and reading up tips and tricks from wedding Facebook groups. The to-do list and social media pressure to have my wedding look or be a certain way began to occupy my mind. I realized this unspoken pressure and time waster was taking my thoughts and my time away from Jesus. That is when we began putting scheduled time aside to wedding plan, rather than leaving it open to all the time, which opened up more time with Jesus. I began to focus on asking for more of the fruits of the Spirit which are blessings Jesus gives us through the Holy Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
Jesus is the only solid rock you can stand on throughout life. He needs to be first in your life so you can withstand whatever is thrown at you. He also puts this life into perspective and for me it was that the wedding is one day and the marriage is a lifetime. I was able to let go of all the details that were causing me anxiety and choose the goal of having fun and celebrating the vows of marriage on my wedding day. I truly believe that He gave me the peace I sought.
With Jesus in our hearts and choosing Him as our first love, my fiance and I were able to extend each other grace without any strings attached, put each other before wedding planning, support each other through prayer, and actually enjoy wedding planning and the time leading up to the wedding, the wedding day and now, our marriage.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.Colossians 3:12-15
We ask that you would rule in our hearts and guide us in love for each other. In whatever stage of life we are in, help us to keep You as our first love, to walk in wisdom with the decisions we make, to find peace in the midst of busy times, and to extend grace to others for Your glory and for the deepening and softening of our relationships.