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Ask Team Practical: APW and the Pre-Engaged


Ask Team Practical: APW and the Pre Engaged | A Practical Wedding

I really enjoy APW, (I really do!), but I am scared that reading all these things about engagement and weddings and marriage means that when I actually get engaged, I won’t feel any different. I am not expecting some magical change to happen, but am I robbing myself of some period of discovery and joy by thinking about our wedding and our marriage now? I guess I feel like I am cheating, like this website is for some club that I am not a part of. Am I being ridiculous? Should I stop reading APW? Save it for after the proposal?

~Liz

Let me first differentiate between thinking about your wedding/marriage and actually planning for your wedding/marriage.  It’s a fine line but it’s there.  It’s the difference between thinking that you’d like a bouquet of peonies for your wedding before you’re engaged, and researching prices and adding inspiration photos to your Pinterest.  Those who are at the point of “pretty much engaged,” may want to start planning before they consider themselves “officially engaged,” but if they do so without the input of their partner all their work may go down the drain when their ideas clash.  Sometimes even fully planned weddings don’t happen, and those involved can tell you how badly losing that future can hurt.  So my advice to the pre-engaged is read and absorb, sure.  Plan and make decisions?  No.  Give yourself some time.

Now let’s talk about thinking about your wedding/marriage and reading APW.  APW isn’t just about weddings, and that’s what keeps everyone coming back.  It’s an examination of, and conversation about, what it means to be a woman within the context of women who are getting married.  It’s about being in a relationship and navigating the bumps and bruises that come with loving someone.  It’s talking about the things that life likes to throw at you. It’s about enjoying the joy in other women’s lives and sharing in their happiness.  It’s smart, sharp, funny discussions and, occasionally, pretty pretty pictures.  You already are a part of this lovely group of APWers; the membership requirements are pretty much: being able to read, having an internet connection and not being a jerk.

How you take what you read and process it is up to you.  According to our most recent reader survey, 16% of APW readers self-identify as pre-engaged.  Our pre-engaged ladies read for a myriad of reasons.  Some take the stance that forewarned is forearmed, so they may read APW to warn off any future mishaps or emotional dilemmas.  Others may just like the idea of weddings in general, so reading about people getting married gives them warm and fuzzies.  Some skip over the wedding grads and other assorted wedding content and go straight to the hard talks and deeper discussions.  And there are those who just love the sense of community, a safer spot where trolls are soundly booted to the curb and comment guidelines are enforced.  Only they can tell you why they read.  (And I sincerely hope they will in the comments. I’m outing you, pre-engaged ladies, so step up and be heard!)

Will APW ruin your engagement?  I highly doubt it.  The discovery and joy comes not from thinking about your wedding/marriage, but living it.  All the thoughts and imaginings in the world will not prepare you for the actual reality, for better or for worse.  Sure, you might be a little wiser going into it, but you still have to live it, and living it is a different beast.

If you didn’t read APW, would you still think about your wedding and your marriage?  Let me answer that for you: Yes, yes you would.  It’s inevitable.  If you’re in love and know that marriage is a cultural tradition that you want to choose, you’re going to think about it.  And you should think about it. We think about what we want out of a career when we’re still in college.  We think about how we want to parent before we’re ready to get pregnant.  We think about how we’d redecorate our fantasy kitchen before we have a down payment to buy a house.  So cut yourself some slack.

You didn’t say it, but I’m wondering if maybe some of this concern is coming from the thought that you’re not supposed to think about your wedding or being married until it is a definite event. You think you might jinx it, or that thoughts about what your wedding dress might look like will turn you into the type of bride they make reality shows about.  And to that I say this: Horsesh*t.  You are a smart capable woman, and even though I cautioned you against planning before you consider yourself engaged, you are grown and you know what you can handle and cannot.  Read what you want to; think what you want to; form your opinions as you see fit and voice them when you deem appropriate.  And know that you can change your mind.

That’s what being part of Team Practical means.  Welcome to the club.

******

Alright, Team Practical.  Those of you engaged and married were in Liz’s place at one time.  How’d you handle it?  Pre-engaged’s, we know you’re out there, this is your time to speak up!  How much time do you spend on APW or thinking about your wedding?  Have you done any kind of planning yet?

Photo by Emily Takes Photos from the APW Flickr stream

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  We’re not kidding.  It brings us joy.  What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!?

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  • Lor

    I started reading this website when I was pre engaged. I loved it all. This was right before Meg got married and I just continued reading because, well, she continued writing. A lot of other wedding blogs just stopped after they got married (which is okay too!). Now I’m no longer pre engaged, because I’m no longer in a relationship. But I still read the blog because I love it. There are so many wise ladies on here who are a life inspiration, not just a wedding inspiration, and that is why I continue reading the blog. I don’t think you have to be married, pre engaged, engaged to read the blog.

    • Amy

      Exactly! I started reading when I was pre-engaged, and then I wasn’t pre-engaged anymore, and now I’m close to being pre-engaged again! I’ve read this blog while moving in and out of three relationships because the smart, funny wisdom of the ladies here is always spot on. Thank you!

  • Manya

    Ha! I have a guest post on the Pre-engaged state that I am thisclose to submitting to y’all.

    Honey… keep reading APW, keep dreaming about your engagement and wedding. It’s going to be awesome and special and weird and hard and fabulous in all your own ways. It’s kind of like child birth–everybody tries to prepare you for the experience THEY had, but in the end you will have your own experience, and it’s impossible to be truly prepared for that which we have never been through. And no matter how good the writing is, and how beautiful the pictures are, deep emotions, like these, are very hard to beam into another person’s soul. There will be deliciousness in the discovery, no matter how much you’ve read… I PROMISE.

    The only thing to be careful of is that you’re not dying to get engaged and married so that you can have an Engagement and a Wedding, but rather that you are dying to have an engagement and a wedding so that you can be married. Ya know?

    That said: If it’s a fab party you are jonesing for, then throw one! I do an annual schmancy Christmas Cocktail to satisfy my insatiable desire to curate events, design and make stuff and wear false eyelashes.

    But seriously, READ ON GIRL. Weddings are really just a springboard for discussion on meaningful relationships. And phography. And design. And clothes. And food.

    • MPC

      Totally agree with the advice about throwing a party if that’s what you can’t stop thinking about! My gentleman and I have been pre-engaged for quite a while, and at one point I was going overboard– literally planning out catering, invitations, etc. I decided to divert all that energy toward planning my parents’ 25th anniversary party. It was a great way to honor my parents, and everyone had fun! I got to exercise my weirdo planning muscles, and reflecting on their marriage got me thinking in a much more serious direction about my man’s and my relationship, what it really means to be married, etc. So I’d call it a win-win-win.

      • Manya

        No kidding. I feel like if I’d just thrown a damn party, I might have saved myself some long years of heartache thousands of dollars in divorce and therapy expenses–in any case, far more than I would have spent on a party!

    • Em

      seriously, I’m going to plan and decorate the s*** out of our next birthday party (our birthdays are a week apart and we have a joint party on the weekend between almost every year). I ain’t really going to miss wedding planning but we mustn’t forget there are plenty of other occasions to celebrate and make a fuss of!

  • Amanda

    I’ve been reading APW for over a year, and engaged for exactly one month today! I had very similar feelings to what you describe. My fiance and I had been discussing our wedding a lot and yes even doing a little planning (though minus the dollar and cents and discussion with parents and family). About two months ago, I told my fiance (who had insisted on a suprise proposal) that I was afraid I might not be excited when he proposed. I told him I thought I might just feel relieved that we could finally “come out” to our friends and family that yes we are planning a wedding. I had a lot of anxiety the last few months before he proposed. I dont think APW contributed to that anxiety. Instead it was a place with people who validated the way I felt, told me it was going to be ok, and could understand just exactly what it meant to be pre-engaged.

    When my fiance did propose, I was totally wrong. I was so excited I couldn’t eat the wonderful dinner he made for me. So Liz know that we do understand, its going to be ok, and we are all glad that you are here!

    • Not Sarah

      Congrats Amanda! A friend of mine named Amanda had similar anxiety about the timing of her surprise proposal, but it all worked out in the end :) I’m glad to hear that you were still super excited when he did propose!!

    • Katie in DC

      Thank you for this comment! It is summing up everything that I’m currently feeling. We’ve looked and ordered a ring. We’ve discussed wedding venues, guest lists and dates. But we’re still not officially engaged. I was so worrying that I would just feel relief when it happened, I’m so glad to hear that you still got the excited fluttery feelings!

      Also: a hearty congratulations to him and a I wish you great happiness to you!

      • marbella

        Ha. We too had ordered a ring, talked about venues and met our priest for our first session before the surprise proposal. It was still very exciting and special and great to finally be able to share it with everyone!

    • http://likeabrokenumbrella.wordpress.com Shelly

      Oh thank God! I’m another pre-engaged (with wedding rings sitting around our house). I am so paranoid it won’t feel different when we are engaged, and am in some weird limbo about planning. . . even though he bought the wedding rings, he insists that he wants the proposal to be a surprise???

      The weird thing is that I read APW on a daily basis. . . not because I’m planning a wedding, but because I want to be reminded that having a wedding can be done simply and beautifully, and on a budget. I WANT a wedding in his Aunt Avis’s back yard, and a reception in her living room. I WANT to sew my own dress, and am not so secretly working on a double wedding ring quilt (in miniature) to use as a tablecloth on the cake table. APW reminds me that this small, intimate wedding that reflects us (which I should mention is what we both want) is possible. And that’s why I’m here, lurking in the background. . . never commenting, but always reading.

      • Beb

        I started reading this blog as a pre-engaged person, about a year ago, and now I am engaged (since April). Reading it before I got engaged, I found the website comforting, esp. the posts that were geared toward *relationships* rather than just marriage relationships, and esp. esp. esp. the posts by other pre-engaged folks. Now that I am engaged, I read it for the wisdom/perspective on relationships and I read the stuff about marriage with my ears especially pricked. I also use some ideas more concretely now that I’m planning a wedding (which I never did before I was engaged). To respond to the fear that getting engaged won’t feel different – I can only speak for myself, but it DOES feel different. I was with my fiance for 3.5 years before we got engaged and we had talked about all the important stuff and were committed, etc. But being engaged feels very different (in a good way). I imagine that getting married will be even more transformative.

  • Cass

    I didn’t find this site until after I was engaged. But for all the pre-engaged, THIS:
    “If you’re in love and know that marriage is a cultural tradition that you want to choose, you’re going to think about it. And you should think about it.”
    Exactly.
    I wish my family, with 3 girls to be wed, had been more frank and open about this.
    What ended up happening was that the oldest delegated it all to her now husband, the middle freaked out and micromanaged everything (and everyone), and I feel like there was poor financial planning all around which made things even more difficult to accomplish.
    In the end we were all married, but I certainly wish some pre-planning had actually taken place.

  • http://toe-socks.tumblr.com Chiara

    I’m a pre-engaged woman. For some reason I feel guilty when I read other wedding blogs, but when I read APW I can justify the fact that I’m pre-engaged and reading a wedding blog because it’s all so practical. And there IS a lot of content about navigating relationships that is relevant whether or not you’re married. It’s important to place as much if not more emphasis on having a good relationship before you’re married (while you’re still testing things out) so that it becomes a habit if you decide to take the leap.

    As a young person in a long-term committed relationship, I’ve known for a long time that I’d like to marry my boyfriend, but always thought I was too young and needed to wait. APW has helped me to realize that it’s not about how young or old you are, it’s about how ready you are to make a commitment to each other. It’s really helped reframe how I feel about us getting married.

    Oh, also, the pretty pictures. And the warm-fuzzies. I like those.

    • SBS

      When I was pre-engaged, this was exactly how I felt! And now that I’m actually engaged, sharing APW with my fiance (foisting links on him) has been wonderful, and I know this is the only “wedding blog” of those I read that will stay with me once I’m married.

    • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

      “APW has helped me to realize that it’s not about how young or old you are, it’s about how ready you are to make a commitment to each other.”

      This. I just got engaged a little over a month ago, but I’ve been reading APW for probably about a year or so on-and-off and definitely about 6 months on a daily basis. I LOVE weddings and all the pretty pictures and inspiration sites out there, but APW is the only site that really made me think about what the wedding is all about: marriage. It’s helped me think about my relationship and the future of it. It’s forced me to ask myself the tough questions, like “If I had to just go down to city hall without the dress and the flowers and the pretty pictures, would I still want to marry him?” These are important discussions to have with yourself (and possibly your partner) before becoming engaged.

      So, yes, keep reading. And, no, it won’t ruin things once you get engaged because once you get engaged, it’s not just YOUR wedding anymore; it’s your and your fiance(e)’s wedding and everyone has an opinion. I still love the pretty inspiration sites, but APW is my one true wedding blog love. <3

    • Ros

      …there IS a lot of content about navigating relationships that is relevant whether or not you’re married. It’s important to place as much if not more emphasis on having a good relationship before you’re married (while you’re still testing things out) so that it becomes a habit if you decide to take the leap.

      This.

      I started reading this blog due to a link from… god, I think it may have been a food blog somewhere? At that point, I was in a committed relationship with an old friend, we’d been together for over 2 years at that point, and I had Huge Issues(tm) at the idea of weddings in general (and the notion of the “typical traditions” at the weddings I attended made me want to run and hide under the table…)

      The relationship-and-life posts on APW were really, really helpful, though – and discussing things, and talking them out with my boyfriend, and generally treating our relationship as the priority overall while not aiming specifically at marriage, means that when we had a conversation about getting married, I wasn’t actually freaked out about it.

      Which is to say that we’re getting married next summer, and it’ll be simple and nice and a good party and the notion isn’t freaking me out. And a large part of that is due to the relationship work that came out of pre-reading AWP. So, thanks! :)

      • http://www.lilpets.wordpress.com Sandy

        I cannot exactly this enough times. When I left my first marriage, I was sure I would never want to get married again. Even after Mike and I started dating, I set out ground rules that included the fact that marriage might not ever be a possibility. That was the state I was in when I started reading APW, like 10 months ago. I don’t remember how I found the link but I read a few of the posts and really began to delve into how I truly felt about marriage and love.

        After a few weeks of reading, I came across the post on how to propose to your boyfriend and it was a real breakthrough for me. I realized that our marriage (and wedding) would be mine and Mike’s, not mine and my ex-husband’s, and that it could be whatever we wanted it to be. There are no rules and no limits. APW taught me that and that is what made me realize that marriage was not the bad guy in my first marriage; no one was.

        If I hadn’t found APW, I might never have realized this. This prompted me to have a heart to heart with Mike. Which then lifted some weight off his shoulders, since he had wanted to propose but was afraid I would say no due to me feelings about marriage. This lead me to here: engaged for 7 months and getting married in one more. I’m so excited and I owe that epiphany to reading APW before I was engaged.
        Thanks, ladies!

  • Meagan

    I’m pre-engaged as well, and I’ve been reading APW since 2009. Yikes! That is a looooooong time of reading about weddings when you’re not engaged. I read it because discussions about relationships and negotiating your own identity in the context of a relationship are important to me. Whether that relationship is with a parent, friends, boyfriend, fiancee, etc seems a bit irrelevant at times; they are all just other humans that I’m trying to get along with. I also love photography as an art form and there is some beautiful artwork being created by APW photographers. I need my daily fix.

    And, now that it seems like many, many friends are getting married, this is a wonderful refuge from panicked bridal phone calls about mini heart shaped cheese graters as favors and why it is Very Important that people like them. (No offense if you gave these away at your wedding. I love cheese and mini things so I might have enjoyed this wedding favor, even if I never used it to grate cheese.)

  • Bella

    I’m pre-engaged. I found APW through a link from a link from a link somewhere else, and it immediately resonated with my approach to life, as well as my approach to love and relationships and future marriage. Now I’ve been reading for a few months.

    I skim over a lot of the vendor posts, just look at the pictures and that’s it. Partly because I’m in Australia, so the vendors will never be options for me in real life, and partly because we’re still very far away from seriously considering any specifics yet.

    I like to read because it gives me ideas, things to think about, makes me really consider our future and our wedding and our relationship, what I would want, what my partner might want, how we might make it work. APW has already given me some great options for dealing with potentially thorny issues, e.g. his religious upbringing vs. my agnostic one, and his large, well connected extended family with strong expectations to attend all family events vs. my small extended family that barely talk to each other.

    I have a few specific ideas about things that I would like for our wedding, and sometimes I share those with my partner to see what he thinks – everything is up for discussion. I know our engagement and wedding are a long way off for financial reasons too, so all our thoughts and ideas are held pretty lightly at this stage.

    For me, APW is partly dreaming, wondering, gathering ideas and inspiration. The other part is serious consideration of relationships, gaining deeper understanding of myself and my partner and where our life is heading.

  • Rose

    I started reading APW when I wasn’t even dating someone. That was over two years ago, and I am now engaged to an old friend. I read APW as escape from those pesky bridesmaid duties – “AHA, I thought, not all weddings are about matching the invitation ink to the bridesmaid dresses!”

    And when I started dating someone? It helped shape discussions. What about finances? Holidays? Finances again? Families – our current ones and our future one? APW helped (and still helps!) me with a frame of reference for honest, practical discussions in my relationship. The fact that I just happen to be engaged now – well, it would have been a bumpier road without having all those discussions first.

    So, thanks APW, and Liz – keep reading!!!

  • Caroline

    I WISH I read APW when I was pre-engaged. It would have helped so much.

    And besides – I was thinking about it already anyways. All of it, the big and little, but it was only ever socially acceptable to talk about the pretty, rather than the big, because how PRESUMPTUOUS of you to assume that making a major JOINT life decision should be something you discuss together rather than just saying yes when something shiny is presented to you, and of course you will JINX yourself. Bollocks.

    Feeling different wasn’t an immediate thing for me, but it did happen, and can imagine it would have still happened even if I was a mildly obsessed APW reader, like I am now.

  • Stacy

    I read APW, and I keep a wedding/marriage idea file (secretly), because it prevents me from going insane waiting for a proposal. For some reason, doing those things gets the wedding out of my system so when I’m with my boyfriend, I’m calm and patient and not nagging him for the proposal that I know is coming.

    • Christine

      I am SO glad to hear I’m not the only one!

  • Lizzie

    Liz, regarding your worries about whether or not you’ll feel any different once your engaged, I would think about this in somewhat the same terms as our discussion a few weeks back about what the actual wedding ceremony feels like. Answer: different for everybody, and there’s no right or wrong way for it to feel.

    I had done very little thinking about my wedding before getting engaged, and the immediate feeling of being engaged didn’t feel different at all, it felt sensible, and actually a little bit pro-forma (we’d lived together a year, we talked about wanting kids, we’d been through rough times already and were confident we knew how to stick that stuff out and make it work long term, and we were starting to get meaningful looks from family members). Now granted, we also got engaged in the most casual of ways and without an official proposal, and without a proposal story, we had a bit of trouble making people understand that when we said we were getting married, we meant we were like, planning a wedding, not just talking about it in the abstract. But somewhere in the past year as we’ve been doing that planning, I did start feeling different. Maybe it was sharing a wedding bank account that we both made regular contributions to (practice for what I consider one of the scarier aspects of marriage), or hearing back from people about how excited they were after we sent out invitations, or finally letting my friends throw a bachelorette party (awesomest thing ever, by the way, if you are like me and think you don’t need one, you are are wrong – you do; mine was coed and involved a 6′ diameter pilates ball and my brother made a video of it that I will treasure forever), or when I started reading APW. Whatever it was, at some point, I started feeling like a sparkly happy bride full of anticipation.

    So I’d say go with it – I don’t think that you’re nibbling away at your engagement magic early, I think that magic and discovery happen on their own schedule anyway and you can enjoy it the most when you are open to whatever form your experience takes without worrying that you are doing it wrong!

  • KW

    I’m pre-engaged (SO was 1700 miles away… now we’re down to 500!). I found the site during a Google session for small weddings, because Alyssa is right when she says that thinking about your wedding is unavoidable. What had me add it to my Reader though was the content on relationships and the marriage after the wedding. My SO’s parents are still married, although they really shouldn’t be. I don’t think he’s ever heard them say “I love you” or seen them kiss each other, so his views on marriage are very different from mine. I know our relationship is always going to take a lot of honesty and communication because of these differences, and I feel APW helps me focus on those issues.

  • Lisa B.

    I started reading APW before Meg got married as well, when I was, what? Pre-pre-engaged? I’ve definitely used the blog as a way to start those tricky conversations and get a handle on what it is that I might want, even though it might not be what other people think I should have. I’m now engaged, as of 8-24, and there hasn’t been any big change for me. I now wear a ring, and can email caterers if I want to, but I kinda thought there would be something more definitive, like, everything would be bathed in a rosy glow, or I’d somehow have better hair or something. But I think that doesn’t have anything to do with reading APW or planning before you’re engaged. I think it has more to do with building something up in your head and having the reality be different from what you thought it would be.

    (Sorry if this posted like, a million times.)

    • Kathleen

      “or I’d somehow have better hair or something”
      That gave me a good laugh. If only, right?

    • http://theparanoidlibra.wordpress.com Paranoid Libra

      that’s what I thought, but it fully hit a few months after the fact. Maybe you might be on the delayed plan too, or it might not hit you until you are married. Just glad to not be alone on the initial reaction.

      • Hoppy Bunny

        As someone who’s been with my fiance since 2000 (but wasn’t engaged until 2010) I can relate to the ‘delayed plan.’ I really didn’t think that after all this time it would feel any different to be engaged, and at first it didn’t. But as the wedding gets closer it feels more real, and we both find ourselves grinning at each other more and cheer-leading for each other more deliberately as we become more and more aware that yes, we’ve decided to spend our lives together forever. It’s really nice, but it definitely did not set in until planning got a bit more serious.

        • http://extragrunty.wordpress.com Extragrunty

          Another delayed plan here (with Mr. EG since 2003, engaged July 2010, no date set as of yet). Also been reading since Meg was engaged. During my loooong pre-engaged state I underwent many cycles of emotions. Anger and frustration, contentment, feelings of insecurity about the relationship, happiness, really a big mix. It was at times very draining.

          While the feelings of insecurity have gone away since the engagement became official, some of the emotions have stuck around. (Can’t say why I felt insecure. I mean, I was with the guy for years and we were committed to each other.) Now I’m mostly content with only frustrations about the high cost of living/sucky economy/not being able to save money for a wedding.

          APW makes me think. And because of the book clubs, has allowed me the opportunity to discuss challenging items/concepts/life difficulties with smart funny women I may never have met on my own (Hi Baltimore ladies!). My type of people reside here. It’s more than just a wedding website to me… it’s a community of friends.

          Basically, if you like it, keep on reading. Whatever your reasons are.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    I started reading APW between relationships, and kept going because it helped me form my thoughts about what I liked/was looking for/wanted to avoid. There’s a ton of pre-engageds, there are a ton of people here who used to be pre-engaged, and it’s for you too because it’s not just about weddings.

  • Dani

    I just found this website a few days ago while I was trying to find some examples of Vows. I am normally not a “forums” person or anything like that. Heck, I barely keep up with my facebook! But when I just happened upon this website, I was entranced.

    Part of me wishes I had found this site when I was pre-engaged. I find it absolutely inspirational and wonderful. And it touches on a lot of things I went through when I was dealing with relationship messes, my own healing, and learning what it means to be a woman, and be in a relationship. Of course sometimes learning things the hard way makes us who we are.

    Reading this sort of thing when you are pre-engaged, I think, would be completely healthy. Because like Meg said, it isn’t just about weddings. It’s about Marriage, relationships, love, and being a woman.

    I think that’s why I fell in love with this site.

  • Juana

    I’m also in the pre-engaged crowd and, like a lot of the commenters, have known for a long time that I want to marry my boyfriend.

    What reading APW has done for me is helped me see marriage as something I can do too. My boyfriend and I both come from homes with fairly disastrous examples of marriage, and so many of our conversations have involved how we don’t want our lives to turn out that way. Seeing all of these brave, confident couples taking marriage and discovering what it means for them and doing it their way has been a huge breath of fresh air.

    It also gives me hope that, when the time comes, I’ll be a little more prepared and ready to tackle one of the most exciting days of my life, armed with a lot of inspiration and, as Chiara put it — warm fuzzies!

    Good luck on the road ahead (:

  • http://athoughtfulmarriage.wordpress.com/ Rachel

    Oh don’t worry Liz, you’re not alone!

    I started reading APW about a year ago, and I got engaged about 2 months ago, so I guess I had about 10 months of ‘pre-engaged’ reading.

    I can assure you that at least in my experience, starting early didn’t cheapen the experience of being engaged or take any of the excitement away. If anything, it has so far allowed me to enjoy my engagement more, because going into it prepared has prevented me from feeling overwhelmed.

    I guess the moral of the story is, you’re definitely part of the club, and definitely equally as valid as a member of the APW community as everyone else, regardless of your ‘official’ relationship status :)

  • Robyn

    If I hadn’t started reading APW when I was pre-engaged I might still be frustratedly waiting for my fiance to propose, hoping he would buy me a super expensive ring (because that’s the norm I guess??). Instead, I realized that it was okay for me to start having engagement discussions with him and I couldn’t be happier about how our engagement worked out – definitely no big surprise proposal out of nowhere but because we pride ourselves on being such good communicators about everything else in our relationship, it made so much more sense that we got engaged “together” instead of just him making the decision. And that’s just one of dozens of examples of how the wisdom we both gained from reading APW has helped shape our engagement and wedding planning so far into experiences that are truly “us” rather than what is dictated by the WIC.

    I’m an engineer and before you start any design project, you have to do a “literature review” – basically, read everything you can on the subject you’re going to work on to find out what’s been done before, what new ideas are surrounding the subject, etc., THEN start your design. Why would you blindly start something so important without putting some careful thought and research into it first? It makes sense to look at major life decisions like getting engaged, getting married, etc. the same way, does it not?

    • Heather

      Oh my goodness. That’s exactly it.

      This: “I’m an engineer and before you start any design project, you have to do a “literature review” – basically, read everything you can on the subject you’re going to work on to find out what’s been done before, what new ideas are surrounding the subject, etc., THEN start your design. Why would you blindly start something so important without putting some careful thought and research into it first? It makes sense to look at major life decisions like getting engaged, getting married, etc. the same way, does it not?”

      I’m a pre-engaged graduate student and had never thought of it like that before. Whenever there’s something you don’t understand, you have to go searching for answers. And that usually means some sort of google or pubmed search. You read a bunch of data that’s relevant, irrelevant, and somehow you get the inklings of an answer by thinking and reading about it. APW is the relevant content that keeps me reading and thinking about my relationship, what I want it to be, and how to get there.

      Similarly, I’m a planner by nature and like knowing a general direction of where my life is heading in the next 5 years. I would go absolutely bananas having no idea of what marriage is like from the inside – and all of you other readers tell me what I have to look forward to. It’s not as much of a mystery now, and I’m less afraid of what would happen if I were to get married!

      • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

        APW grad students ftw :-) I too devour material and try to learn as much as possible before jumping in. I’ve always been this way — I need to mull things over in my head before going for it. So I love APW.

        Also, APW gave me the balls to propose to my guy (essentially a joint decision, but I started the process in a special place for us). I didn’t think it was weird, but I now live in the midwest where no lady proposes. f that noise.

      • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

        “I would go absolutely bananas having no idea of what marriage is like from the inside – and all of you other readers tell me what I have to look forward to. It’s not as much of a mystery now, and I’m less afraid of what would happen if I were to get married!”

        This is why I have gotten so much out of APW from day one of reading it. I have like NO good marriage models, so the process of being engaged and getting married was mega scary. So, having a place where people were hashing out the real aspects of it all (not just centerpieces, but how dealing with centerpieces was an important part of learning to communicate and compromise and know what matters to you as a couple) was immensely reassuring. Hearing about other people’s experiences of it all cushioned the fear I had of doing it wrong, and helped me know what was right for me. And this place continues to be relevant almost two years in, which is also so awesome!!!

        (I didn’t actually read this pre-engaged, because Meg and I were on similar timeframes, but I also hear the pre-engaged: sometimes you gotta get your wedding dreaming on before it’s really on the table. And why not?)

      • Clare

        I love this take on it- Science grad so I’ve done my share of lit reviews! Exactly x10^infinity

        I’m also a think-5-years-ahead type person and APW is like a window of possibilities, esp if what you’ve seen in real life isn’t what you want

    • Not Sarah

      Oh my goodness, I can totally relate to this too. I’ve dated guys who don’t seem to think about the future at all and that just made go so totally INSANE.

      My now-boyfriend is also a goals-oriented planner, though he’s far more free spirited and spontaneous than I am. There are some potentially hot topics with us – one of us was raised with some degree of one religion and one of us was raised with a smaller degree of a different religion and we’re citizens of different countries. We talked generally about finances before we became a couple. At this point, I’m reasonably confident that we can talk anything through and come to a solid conclusion and that really seems to be the most important part. With how our communication is going, I can definitely see us talking about marriage before actually getting engaged.

      APW is my research for weddings and marriage. I didn’t want to get married, period, (mostly because I didn’t understand it) but APW is helping with that, hugely.

  • Kathleen

    I started reading when I was pre-engaged, and there were a lot of really great, discussion-starting relationship and future planning posts. But I also read the wedding grads, and Meg’s writing, and everything else (I liked looking at everyone’s wedding dresses, too; this is what drew me to wedding blogs in the first place!).

    The only sort-of negative that came out of reading APW before I was engaged was that I started to believe that everyone thought about weddings the way the APW community does (practical, creative, thrifty…)! I thought my family wasn’t the type to buy into the WIC. But you don’t really know until you’re engaged how people will act. My family is perfectly sane, but not always practical or thrifty. But you know what? Even then APW helped with thinking about when to let go and when to take a stand on something. APWers made it obvious, before I could get caught up in bride-dom and start to think otherwise, that weddings aren’t just about what I want, but about family and community.

    I’m getting married in a month, and it’s going to be awesome. Mostly because I’m marrying my guy, but also because I thought about what I wanted in a wedding before I got all caught up in it.

  • nicole

    I WISH I had found APW when I was pre-engaged!

    I would have been a better bridesmaid for my best friend during her engagement because I would have seen past the $300 dress and gift registry to the LOVE.

    It could have prepared me for being engaged – I was ready for marriage to be a big transition – but wildly unprepared to face the pressures of engagement. (The ring was a surprise and I have had it for 48 hours – so no, we have not set a date.)

    It might have prepared me for helping my parents to manage their feelings – the wisest thing I have seen so far on any blog was something like “your mother has been thinking about this since before you were born” (THAT’S why the most laid back woman in the world is suddenly crying)

    • Em

      congratulations ;) and welcome to the circus…!

  • Miriam

    I started reading when I was pre-engaged too, and can say “EXACTLY” to pretty much everything Alyssa and the commenters have said so far, with one addition:

    I like planning. Planning for anything – a vacation, job interview, someone’s birthday – makes me happy. The process of thinking about stuff and deciding on stuff is a big part of how I enjoy the actual stuff. Also, the planning lessens my natural tendency to agonize over every possibility – what the wedding would look like, who would be there, what I and my man would wear. It’s a control freak thing – I was reluctant to sign up for a wedding without knowing exactly what I was getting myself into (and yeah, I know I can’t plan for every eventuality, but I’m a big fan of having back-up plan after back-up plan, so sue me). So, if you’re like me, I say go with the pictures and inspiration boards and research caterers and whatever you think your wedding might entail.

    • JEM

      *waves* hey twin. Exactly to everything you said.

    • Roadrunner

      Hey, me too! I’ll just never understand why other people don’t see the need for a Plan J–I mean, what happens if your first nine contingencies fall through?!

      (Yes, I’ve been lots of fun to plan a wedding with, why do you ask?)

    • MPC

      Okay, if my boyfriend reads this, he will think I wrote this comment. Even down to your name. Creepy.

      (Which is to say, Exactly!)

  • carrie

    I wish I had found APW in my pre-engaged state. Instead, I found some flashy sites with a ginormous number of pretty pictures and I read the cookie cutter wedding advice. That didn’t really prepare me for what I actually wanted in my wedding. APW looks at EVERYTHING for all kinds of people and it keeps it sane. You’re doing yourself a major kindness by preparing yourself! Alyssa’s advice is amazingly spot on, as always. Manya’s comment was also perfect, so I won’t try (too much) to say more!

    PS – Even though I was on the wedding sites before David and I got engaged (I had even asked two friends to be bridesmaids – I facepalm myself thinking of it now), I felt different when he proposed and we were engaged. It still felt special. Like we had been looking at this path but hadn’t stepped on it yet. When we were engaged, we held hands and started walking on it, together. It felt different and wonderful. Yeah, you’ll get lost in the Forest of Crazy sometimes, but just hold on to each other. And keep reading APW. ;-)

  • LifeSheWrote

    I’m definitely in the “pre-engaged” club. I discovered APW a couple years ago while helping a dear sweet friend plan for her wedding and just never stopped reading it. I’ve been with my wonderful beau for almost 4 years, we live together, we are very committed to each other – but we don’t bring up the whole “marriage” thing much. Too busy getting careers off the ground and supporting our friends who ARE tying the knot (millions, it seems. Wait, not that we have a million friends, just that the fabulous ones we do have seem to all be getting hitched).

    Anyway, I fall into several of Alyssa’s categories: seeing people in love and happy gives me the warm fuzzies and APW offers a community of strong women talking about their lives and how they build, work on and navigate their relationships – romantic and otherwise. I love it here and even though I’ve too had those thoughts (“Am I jumping the gun? Am I cheating myself out of some discoveries?”) the truth is I’m interested by the conversations and the people and the pictures. If I cut myself off at APW, I’d still be thinking about relationships and marriage and my future – just not have this supportive and wise community to help spark and add to those thoughts.

  • melissa h

    I too wish I had discovered APW in my pre-engaged state. When my fiance and I first got engaged and started talking about our wedding, I wanted a small, intimate wedding (max 30 ppl) but he wanted a larger, invite-everyone-you-have-ever-known party with multiple events b/c these ppl were all coming from out of town (99% of our family/friends live elsewhere) and in his culture you treat them to every meal (I just saw $$$ flashing before my eyes as he said this). In the end we compromised: our medium sized and average budget wedding is in 3 weeks! And I am VERY excited about it! And it will be awesome! And we won’t regret it! But does some part of me still wish we had thought smaller? YES

    I think if I had been better able to articulate the wonderful, practical advice found on APW and from other birdes (and grooms!) that we may have decided upon a smaller wedding. But APW has also helped me to embrace my wedding as-is and know that I am not a bad person for including those parts of the WIC that mean something to us or that we really, really want. And it’s helped me feel confident that our non-traditional choices are right for our wedding.

    APW should be the first thing a newly engaged gal (and guy) reads and if you are reading it in the pre-engaged state then you just have a jump on crafting your wedding day and marriage and baby family. Good on ya.

  • Ash

    I’ve never heard the term pre-engaged until today!

    I’ve been reading the blog for a week or so now after I was looking for meaningful wedding readings. I do not have an engagement ring but we have put a deposit down on a venue and a DJ and are in the midst of caterer tastings. And I was sized for said engagement ring yesterday. I can’t say that I agree with the term pre-engaged because I don’t think it applies to me, but I know I’m not the only person in my situation.

    I never grew up dreaming about an engagement ring or a wedding. I was a product of a divorced family and desperately trying to make it on little money and figure out a career where I wouldn’t have to be financially dependent. Once I was well on my way, and I had met the one person who understands me, is silly with me, is serious with me, and is always on my side (and we moved in together and it got even better!), I started thinking about how I had no idea about weddings. I had absolutely no vision. Sure, I’d been in a few. But then my wonderful grandmother sent me an article about the wedding not being the marriage, and how the marriage was the important thing. And I realized I wanted to formally commit in a way that was authentic to us and didn’t overshadow the marriage. So I started secretly buying wedding magazines and stashing them in the bottom of my nightstand like they were porn. And slowly but surely my future hubs and I started talking about what a wedding and a marriage would look like. And then, little by little, we started taking steps. What I love about this is that I don’t feel overwhelmed. Sure, sometimes I’d like to scream at the world how happy I am that we are working towards this. But I will in due time. And right now, it is just between us, which in some way makes it even sweeter.

    I will keep reading this blog because of the post the other day about joy in the midst of loss. Because I think most of life is that way. And finding the strength and the love to move on is the best that you can hope for.

  • Abby C.

    Coming across APW was a godsend when I was pre-engaged. I ate up Reclaiming Wife like candy, and it helped me sort through some of the internal dialogue I was having in my head at the time. It helped me solidify that, Yes, this was What I Wanted with this man (now my fiance) and also that my trepidation over being on the edge of a huge life transition was normal.

  • Bubbles

    I was aready pre-engaged when I started reading over two years ago, and I’m still pre-engaged now. (There’s been lots of life-stuff preventing us from becoming officially engaged, but hopefully we’ll be able to soon!)

    I fall into the “forewarned is forearmed” camp. I like to know what I’m getting into well before I get into it.

    Also, there’ve been plenty of times when I’ve forwarded links to posts to the boyfriend, with a note saying, “THIS is what I was trying to explain to you the other day, but this post says it so much better!”

    • Franny

      I’m in the same place, and I think that I love APW for handling LIFE, with a dose of wedding goodies to go with it instead of the constant gush of “its not a wedding without X” and its reminders that weddings are just a day, but marriage is what is there when all the shiny leaves.

      And I imagine that I’ll continue reading APW because really, who doesn’t need a reminder that LIFE Is what is important?

  • mimi

    I too am in the pre-engaged camp. I found APW earlier this year when Meg guest-posted on TheKitchn and have read APW every day since. I read APW because it’s about life and not just about weddings. Where else could I find wise words about how to be pre-engaged? Where else could I find all kinds of stories that I needed to read, even if I didn’t know it? APW helps me keep an open mind about all kinds of people and relationships. It also helps me, like many above, stay sane in the pre-engaged state and have realistic expectations about my future engagement, wedding, and marriage.

    And of course – pretty pictures and warm fuzzies :)

    So Liz, keep reading!!! This site isn’t just about weddings – if it was, the married ladies wouldn’t be here either.

    • FawMo

      I found APW the same way!

      Yay for TheKitchn.

  • http://theparanoidlibra.wordpress.com Paranoid Libra

    I was a pre-engaged reader at first too. It did help my guy and I to talk about some things. If I would have found this site a few months sooner though it would have honestly helped me to not have lost a friend over wedding stuff. APW helped to ground me that I didn’t need to be wearing a ring right at that exact moment. It also helped me to get the ring I really wanted as my guy fully believed it should cost umpteen too much money. I just ‘happened’ to leave a post open about engagement rings on the laptop and he wound up reading(if only everything else would work that easily especially world domination, sigh) and came to terms that i didn’t need to wear a multi thousand dollar ring if i didn’t want one. Ironically we got into that debate when we first started dating 5 years ago…glad I won that one so i don’t have to fear losing something worth that much money.

    I also didn’t have any changes during the true proposal, but only a few weeks ago it all finally fully hit me in the face and it was a beautiful thought. So engaged on Easter didn’t fully hit until summer was almost over.

  • http://secondcityslickers.blogspot.com Sarah

    Ahem. I started reading this blog when we were just dating. I thought alot about weddings & rings & pretty stuff but didn’t really consider us “pre engaged” ’cause it just didn’t feel like us. Reading APW made me a better communicator and gave me some firm ground to stand on when people starting asking a million shallow wedding questions. I was able to say stuff like “we want to enjoy this” without feeling like I owed someone an explanation of our finances (why it would be small) or religious choices (why it would be outside).

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to bring the most authentic, articulate, happy you to your wedding. And finally, we have a place that allows to hear THAT message. Don’t stop reading.

  • Erica

    Another formerly pre-engaged, now newly-engaged here. And I was definitely covertly reading APW for months before we finally took the plunge. I was totally in the “but I want to be surprised!” camp, and was kind of irritated when my FH told me he had a ring six full months before he actually proposed. But knowing it was coming allowed us to have a lot of really good, really important conversations about what getting married means for us, and how we envision our future together. It was frustrating to not be able to tell anyone what was going on in a pretty major part of my life (although….I did tell a few of my girlfriends because I was going batshit) and APW provided a community where I felt like I could connect with other women in similar situations. I’m also the first of my friends to get married so there who had really been through the limbo phase before me. Although now that I’m through it, it wasn’t really limbo at all!

    • Dani

      I wish wish wish that I could have found this when I was pre-engaged. I can totally relate to knowing about the engaement before the engaement actually happened. My fiance and I have been together almost three years, had been talking about marraige for quite a while. I knew last Christmas EXACTLY when he would propose because my future MIL accidentally let it slip. (“Oh yeah! Your birthday IS on Valentine’s Day! I know that because I know secrets!”) I tried to ignore it as much as I could, but it is rather difficult. I couldn’t even talk to HIM about it because I was afraid he would get upset at his mother. Eventually he told me himself, and then we both went together to buy the ring at an antique mall. It was still nerve wracking though!

  • Rebecca

    Now I know that everyone has already said this… but I want to give my piece as well. Read on! I started reading this when I was talking about get married with my former boyfriend. When that didn’t work out, I kept reading because APW is amazing! Like everyone says, it’s about more than just the wedding – it’s about marriage, dreams, plans. I am now in a new relationship and told my boyfriend that I read APW. I felt a bit strange, but he was on board. It’s an excellent, excellent website.

  • http://thecelebrationgirl.com Marcela

    I got married in January 2006, and started reading APW last year, following a link from Lisa from Privilege (to Lauren’s post on the road not taken, which still blows my mind in so many ways and which I keep reading again and again). And when I got married, we didn’t have a wedding! So it’s not the wedding planning that got me here, or what makes me stay.
    This is one of the deepest, thought-provoking blogs I have ever read, and one that definitely makes one deal with matters that are important regardless of one’s marital status.

  • Not Sarah

    I’ve been reading APW for about a year now. I actually found it through Meg’s post on Get Rich Slowly. (I guess that’s partially the point of guest posting!)

    At the time when I started reading, I was single and nowhere near a relationship. I read APW for Meg’s sass, but also because I have very few female friends (I work in software…) and so the topics that APW discusses are simply not topics I discuss in great detail with friends. I’m mostly here for the community of smart women.

    I’m not a huge wedding person and I haven’t considered myself much of a marriage person either, mostly because I don’t get along well with the word “wife”. All of the examples of “wife” that I have are people who stayed at home after getting married and raised the children. So as a pre-pre-engaged, I read the Reclaiming Wife stories so that I can be comfortable with the idea of being a “wife”. In some ways, I feel like when you’re not serious with someone, that’s when it’s important to think about the issues of name changes and children and household/outside work splitting

    I am now in a relationship which feels like it could be serious, but we’ve only been a couple for a few amazing months now and we’re still in our early to mid 20s. We were really close friends for almost a year before we started our relationship and he met my mom after we’d been together for just over a month, so I feel like things are more serious than “3 months”, but both of us have big plans for our lives before we eventually get married to whoever we might marry.

    • Heather

      “I’m mostly here for the community of smart women.”

      This. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 5 years- this holiday season will be our SIXTH and the very first to be spent together, so I’m sure I’ll soon be searching for old posts on how to handle that. We are at a pre-engaged state, I suppose, since we are absolutely committed to each other, living together and have talked quite a bit about marriage, and basically I’m waiting for his finances to allow him to feel like he can propose. I told him I don’t need a diamond (or a ring at all) but he is set in what he wants to give me, so all I can do is wait.

      I’ve gone through a whole run of conflicting emotions about not being engaged yet, and having to deal with the super *awesome* questions (“SO, when are you getting engaged already?” Um, HELLO! If I KNEW, you’d know!) and APW has been a lifeline for me- an escape from the everyday world of coworkers and acquaintances to a community of intelligent women who remind me that our RELATIONSHIP is what matters. And truly, it is.

      A few months ago, I told my boyfriend that I discovered and was regularly reading this blog (found through an engaged friend’s blog), and he sort of shrugged and said “okay”… until I told him that I wanted us to go to Yay New York!… then he started asking questions. Since then, we’ve had great conversations about life, marriage, weddings, all kinds of things that APW has prompted. He asked me to articulate exactly why I wanted to go to Yay New York!, and it was not only because it would be a great party or because it was a great cause- but because I wanted to be surrounded by an intelligent community of women. I wanted to meet the people I’d been reading about, and remind myself that it’s okay to be me and dream (and yes, even plan a bit) even if I’m not officially engaged.

      You’re not alone, Liz. I’ve thought all the same things you said. I can find no reason for me not to read APW every single day. If it makes you as happy (and sane) as it makes me, then I say go for it!!!

  • Stacey

    Like Liz, I’m pre-engaged, and for a long time I struggled with whether or not it was ‘weird’ for me to be reading a wedding blog when I’m not even engaged. But then I realized that as Alyssa said, I was going to be thinking about my wedding whether I wanted to or not, whether it was ‘weird’ or not, so I started reading APW in a not covert and actually weird sort of way. I do it for all the reasons Alyssa mentioned–at first it was for the pretty pictures, but pretty soon it was because of the community of REAL people, and the invaluable life advice that these people give.
    When I was able to claim that, I was also able to talk to my partner, and it’s wonderful, and boy oh boy, do we ever talk about weddings. And it’s fun, and not weird at all. Plus, now he too reads APW! I think the conversations that we were able to start having as a result of me not hiding the fact that I read APW have been so important, and wouldn’t have happened otherwise, so thanks, APW for existing!

  • SpaceElephant

    For a counterpoint: I didn’t really look at wedding blogs before I got engaged, partly because it was a surprise and partly because it just didn’t occur to me. In hindsight, I am kind of glad that was the case, though. I have done a lot of sound design for theatre (non-professional), and the only part of my future, theoretical wedding I ever really thought about was the music. In fact, I had a mental list of processional songs, recessional songs, etc. The minute we got engaged all those ideas went out the window, because then there was this whole other person to plan a wedding with, and the ideas that we formed together about the kind of wedding WE wanted informed and changed any previous inklings I had of what the wedding would be like. If that makes sense?

  • http://girlliveslife.blogspot.com/ Anna Hope

    I couldn’t agree more with the statement that reading about it, thinking about it and planning about it are one thing but living it is a whole different thing. I was pre-engaged for a while. I knew I was going to marry this guy and we had talked about it openly several times. It was “understood”. I still had to wait for him to ask though….that’s a whole different story. I had watched many of my girlfriends walk through the valley of engagement and weddings before I got there so I had lots of ideas of what I would and wouldn’t want specifically within the context of who I was and who the boy I loved was.

    When he asked it was like I lost my mind for a little bit. I didn’t take the time to just bask in being engaged. I was staring down a year of really intense school and we didn’t want to wait 2 years for the next free summer to come around so I went into hyper drive trying to get the “big stuff” nailed down before the school year began. I tapped back into all of my thoughts and all of the reading (APW) I had done while walking the path of support staff for my girlfriends. I thought it would be a snap. Planning was whatever….making appointments and sending out deposits. Being engaged and starting to actively craft our marriage not just our dating relationship was different. We struggled with a lot due to school and work and family durring our year of engagement. But none of it could have been foreseen really. I found that re-reading a lot of the stuff I thought “just wasn’t me” in my pre-engaged state was now resonating. You just can’t know until you get there what sort of blessings or challenges await you. The same goes for after the wedding….and goes double for if you ever get pregnant. You can imagine all you want and read and daydream plan but being an open minded lady, as it sounds like you are, be ready to re-read some of this stuff with totally new perspective because becoming engaged may feel like nothing at all or it may add a whole new color to your palate and change the way you see some things. Read all you want, join the discussions and then just remain in the state of open anticipation, ready to bend with the winds as they blow.

  • Irene

    I am not-even-close-to-engaged, though in a long-term, loving relationship. I recently confessed similar concerns to my boyfriend about my being hooked on APW and its potential for damaging my psyche and it possibly stressing me out about plans and problems that we don’t even have yet (I am a worrier. I can’t help it.). My incomparable boyfriend himself had exactly the right advice for me: that it is perfectly healthy and acceptable for me to fantasize about whatever I choose, including weddings, and that me bringing my real-life concerns to the table while drooling and crying over wedding graduate posts and beautiful wedding photos was really defeating the whole point of fantasizing. So, he said, I should really try to cut that out and just enjoy myself, and any actual concerns I may have about our future should be addressed to him, instead of during my recreational APW-surfing. That really hit home for me, and so now I read on without guilt, knowing that having fantasies about weddings-to-possibly-come does not in any way diminish the open and honest talks that my boyfriend and I have about our real-life relationship.

    And of course, aforementioned cathartic drooling and crying is not the only reason I like to read APW. In fact, I now forward along to the boyfriend some of the “hard stuff” posts that seem on point to our relationship, or that bring up particularly interesting topics. He really likes those, and sharing our thoughts on those posts has served as a jumping-off point for some of our best talks.

    • Heather

      He sounds like a keeper :) That is awesome.

  • Meredith

    I’m a not engaged lurker myself. Lately I’ve been wondering – am I team practical? Or team outsider? I think this post solidified I’m Team Practical. Oo it feels so good.

    When I found APW (through random searching practical and wedding in google) I loved how APW showed me people who made choices with their wedding and marriages that reflected their beliefs and not what was “expected.”

    What has really kept me visiting is the discussion about marriage and commitment. There are big things we need to think about before making a lifelong promise. The website has spurred conversations about family, commitment, and fear between my significant other and I. Conversations about marriage and life that should be happening now before “the show must go on” mentality of wedding planning can suck us in.

  • AnotherCourtney

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, Liz! I wondered all these same things before I got engaged, and APW was one of the only place that made me feel like it was ok. If I mentioned wedding stuff to anyone other than a few close friends, I got told I was being pushy and impatient. I secretly read wedding blogs and thought about what I wanted my wedding to look like, and I secretly hoped that I wasn’t ruining the magic of the process, too. Just like you.

    Now, I’m two weeks away from my wedding, and I promise you I couldn’t be more excited. And I’m definitely more excited about the MARRIAGE part of what’s coming than the wedding itself (I credit APW for a lot of that – and if I’d only been reading during my engagement, I probably would have focused on more of the wedding stuff). It’s probably best to not expect some kind of magical change when you get engaged (I sure didn’t), but it does happen. It didn’t matter that I had spent almost five years waiting to marry this guy, that I had bought my dress months before assuming I’d be able to use it before it went too out of style, or that I was wearing a sweatshirt with dirt under my fingernails from working in the garden that morning…when someone you love gets down on one knee and asks you to marry him with nervous, shaking hands, it IS magical. For us anyway, it was definitely a change in our relationship for the better.

    The bonus is that society recognizes it, too. All the naysayers who patted my hand and told me not to pressure him too much if I talked about weddings, or the people who would ask me if I was ok when a friend got engaged (definite pet peeve), were suddenly thrilled for us. Like now they could believe what I had known all along. That part might not be magical, but it still feels good.

  • http://www.otheramusements.com Someone

    I know its not for everyone but more ‘pre-engaged’ ladies should consider proposing themselves. It’s hard, but really really worth it.

    http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/04/women-proposing-tomen/

  • http://weehermione.blogspot.com Hayley

    When I was pre-engaged, I looked at wedding blogs all day. And I looked at wedding dresses that were fairly conventional and expensive and I looked at tons of wedding photos from obviously-expensive weddings and I just looked at picture after picture, and slowly, a few days at a time, I came down off the high of “omg we’re going to get engaged soon!” to “I don’t think these sites or dresses or blogs are at all what I want out of our wedding…or the marriage we want to build.” It took a few weeks of immersion in online wedding culture to tune into the fact that a lot of that culture wasn’t who I was, and that I needed to re-evaluate myself as to why I looked at them in the first place. (I found OBB and APW later.)

    Anyway, point being, I’m sort of glad I had that private little few weeks of secretly looking at those things, because when the engagement did officially happen, I knew already all the things I didn’t want to do or be or participate in, etc etc etc. It was sort of like taking a dip in a pond and deciding I liked a different river better, so the next time I really wanted to go swimming with more than just one person (me) I could confidently say “Nope, not that pond, thanks.”

    You’re planning and thinking about a wedding, and in a larger context, that means thinking about a future, and a marriage, and I think going into things knowing you’ve thought through them — no matter what those decisions are that you make — is important.

  • http://www.4realequalityweddings.com emily

    i felt this way too before i got engaged! i wouldn’t let myself read ANY wedding blogs or buy any wedding magazines. i felt as though i needed to wait until i was absolutely positively engaged before i let myself go there. as though i would jinx it or something… and as soon as we got engaged (and got back into civilization – we were in the middle of nowhere at a hot springs spa then), i bought my first wedding magazine. i felt so excited to finally be a part of “that group” of women. and now that we are planning to add to our family with a baby, i’m starting to feel the same way again – should i purchase that pregnancy magazine? how about that “what to expect…” book? isn’t there a chapter in there on “trying to conceive” that applies to me and validates my desire to go out and buy that book? well, poo on all of that! i’m not waiting! i’m so excited about this possible future baby and even if it takes us years, i’m going to read everything! so let yourself be excited, whether that engagement is around the corner or in the next ten years. wedding blogs are full of great inspiration, great writing, and great people. and not to mention, tons of fun. and i promise, it WON’T spoil your engagement. because that will be yours and yours alone. and will mean more to you than you ever think you could have been prepared for :)

  • KK

    I am the perpetual bridesmaid. I found APW while looking around for ideas to help one of the brides. I found the whole concept refreshing. After being in and attending a whole bunch of weddings in the last few years I’ve really started to get a handle on how expensive and ridiculous things can get. The fact that this is a “wedding fork” somehow makes is cost 5x as much as any other fork in existence…the DRAMA of being in a wedding party and mushing together friends that have never met who have varying schedules, tastes, etc…dealing with love ones lost near to the date…seeing the pressure on the couple from each other, friends, and family. It’s nice to see a place that discusses it. I was first drawn in by the simple fact that I didn’t want to spend more on 1 day than I did on my car.

    I get my daily dose of APW in my google reader and I have to admit, I don’t tell my boy. He and I have talked about marriage and that’s where we are headed but neither of us is any particular hurry. I feel even more guilty about my secret wedding bookmarks folder. As I see things that I like (dresses, decor, diy) or ideas that really strike me (questions to ask before/after you wed) I’ve been adding tags and bookmarking them so when I finally get there I’ll have a place to start. Although, that place to start is getting rather large too.

    Reading in the pre-engaged state does make me feel a little guilty. I’m not obsessed about weddings but I do like looking at pretty things, awesome ideas, and women having real conversations about life. So really, I shouldn’t feel guilty but I also don’t want my boy to feel pressured or think I am obsessed with the idea of marriage, so lets keep this between APW and me.

    • KK

      Well, apparently someone told the boy (not really) but after after I posted this last week something I wasn’t expecting happened. My boy took me to the jewelry store this weekend. It was just for information at this point but I was still hugely excited. Overall, it really doesn’t change anything. I’m still in school and we have a number of things to work out before we actually get married but I have to say, a lot of that guilt got lifted. I’m still not sure why I felt guilty in the first place…

      • Denzi

        Congrats, KK! :D

  • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

    oh yes, I wish I had been reading before we got engaged. it’s So Good for showing you the myriad ways you can go about engagements and weddings and marriage; you don’t have to worry if you’re not following the “right path.” I really like what others have said, about doing your research before any big decision. makes sense!

    just don’t get stuck in your APW bubble and assume everyone around you is so enlightened on these things. share posts with your partner, with your parents, with your siblings and wedding party. when you’re pre-engaged, maybe just share with your partner if you’re not telling anyone else you’re thinking about marriage. and have patience with people who just don’t get it.

  • charmcityvixen

    I am in the same camp as a lot of other women here — I started reading APW around 9 months ago, and I got engaged about 3 months ago. APW has been so helpful in having me manage expectations that go along with a wedding — my expectations and everyone elses. APW has also helped me understand that weddings can look like a lot of different things, and still be beautiful and magical and full of love.

    I will say that since getting engaged, my feelings have been all over the place. I don’t look at wedding magazines or blogs as much as I did within my first month of being engaged, and I’m not currently planning a wedding. VERY different than how I imagined it when I was pre-engaged and reading APW and sending my now-fiance links to things!!!

    What APW has taught me is that marriages are a process, and it was through APW that I realized that I really am not ready to plan a wedding yet, because I’m not ready to be MARRIED yet — we have some things to discuss, and that’s okay too! Some people are engaged for a lot longer than the 1 year time frame I had originally envisioned!

    APW has given me the courage to face marriage/weddings with grace and with no pressure. I am so glad I stumbled upon APW, and since reading it as a pre-engaged lady, I’ve given this website to a bunch of people, including my best friend who is super excited to have his boyfriend of several years propose to him! I am happy that I can be a sane voice in the craziness of the wedding industry.

    Thanks APW!

  • Katie

    I am no longer pre-engaged (married! yay!), but the reason I turned to this site and this space when I was pre-engaged was because it helped remind me that any feelings I was feeling were normal. I was quite sad at the time about not being engaged. I kept seeing happy, perfect weddings (both online and in my life) and getting depressed about the fact that my man and I were having some disagreements about when and if to get engaged. By seeing how diverse, amazing, and complex REAL weddings could be, this site helped normalize what I was going through even if it wasn’t explicitly discussed in a post. Just by embracing all types of marriages, weddings and women, APW helped put me at ease and helped me stop beating myself up about my pre-engaged state.

  • http://apileofgoodthings.blogspot.com Erin

    Liz, let me tell you: I was right there with you. I started reading APW, remembering a recommendation about this place from months before, when I had the tiniest inkling that my dude and I were going to be getting engaged. And I felt completely ridiculous, thinking that I was going to jinx it somehow, or that it wouldn’t be as special when it happened. And I was hesitant to let other people know I was reading APW because no one else, I thought, knew how serious we were.

    But guess what? Even though we agonized together about a ring and picked it out together, even though we talked a little bit about planning a wedding together before he’d even popped the question, even though I had a lot of (what I thought at the time were) solid ideas about our future wedding–it was still an emotional, wonderful, nervousness-filled experience when he proposed. And there’s something about it becoming official–calling your parents and friends, announcing it on facebook or whatever, that changes things. It’s a fine line, like Alyssa said. But let me tell you, I am one of the most worried and anxious people ever, and I agonized over whether or not I was somehow “ruining” my own engagement, and that was absolutely not the case.

    And, you know, there’s been drama. So much drama that thinking about the actual wedding kind of hurts a bit. That I admit that I skim over the wedding grad posts, for now, because it feels like my family is never going to be like the families of those grad posts. But APW is still here for me, because it’s not just about weddings and engagements and happy fluffy sparkly things. It’s also about the hard parts, and it’s about being a woman and a person in what can be a completely crazy world of weddings, and that’s what speaks to me right now.

    So. Stop worrying, I say, and enjoy the community here. Your engagement will still be wonderful. ^_^

  • http://kellilu.wordpress.com kellilu

    I think I found APW just before engagement, and I read it through engagement and for (almost) two years after the wedding. I’m definitely in the forewarned-is-forearmed camp, and so reading the down-to-earth real-life advice of wedding graduates was awesome. I heart preparation.

    BUT, for me, reading this and other wedding blogs before engagement came down to a matter of contentment. If reading a wedding blog made me discontent with my pre-engaged state to an unhealthy extent (that is, unable to appreciate where I was because I was so darned anxious to get to the next thing), then I knew it was time to lay off. (This still applies, actually, just with new stages. Now the temptation is to get so eager to have kids that i forego the enjoyment of married life pre-kids, so I try to make a point to soak in the moment and what is unique about it).

    Bottom line: each season has its own sweetness and savour; if what I read distracts me from enjoying and learning from my present season because I become preoccupied with the “what’s-next,” then it’s time to limit the reading. I know this will not apply to a lot of readers out there, but as someone who can become obsessed with planning for the future, for me, such checks are necessary and helpful.

  • Ms Fran

    I wish I could remembered the point I started reading APW. It was a couple of years ago I guess. I can’t even remember how I found it!! I wasn’t engaged, or getting engaged or really thinking about it and I went back and read every single post Meg ever wrote and thought about what it would be like to be such an amazing grown-up person!

    I’ve been actually engaged for 8 months and I’m getting married next month. I never felt that the fact I’d read APW and other “wedding” blogs before getting engaged did me any harm at all, and quite the opposite – as Alyssa says having thought these things through first and started to form ideas and opinions was great.

    Getting engaged was so massively overwhelming for me and not coming at it from a place of complete ignorance and lack if ideas really helped. The only thing I did wish was that my fiance had read it too! He’s really not a blog person – despite my continued attempts to encourage him to be.

    His complete understanding of the world of weddings came from his mum and dad, who are very traditional so it was hard to get him to think about and accept different ways of doing things to create a good compromise for our wedding.

    I found my photographer through APW (Lauren McGlynn), and she’s been a star even before the big day and I never would have come across her without the site.

  • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com/ Morgan

    Oh, man, I’m feeling old. I started reading APW in 2008, not long after Meg started it, when I was engaged to my ex. I stopped reading for a while after I called off the wedding, because that was a bit more than I could handle, but started reading again while pre-engaged to David. I found it helpful. I’ve never been that interested in pretty details, but a place to have substantial discussions about things that matter? Yes please!

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    First of all, I think APW is an awesome site no matter what your relationship status. And honestly, weddings are (ideally) full of love and fun and cool/pretty things, so why not look at all the info associated with them?

    Second, this might be a completely stupid question, but: what’s the difference between being pre-engaged and seriously dating? I never thought of myself as “pre-engaged” even though my now-fiance dated seriously for seven years and had talked about when we wanted to get married. It seems like the same thing to me. Is there a major aspect I’m missing? Or was I pre-engaged without knowing it?

    • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

      Perhaps “pre-engaged” is when you’ve talked about getting married but have not actually bought the ring(s) and/or proposed? In my opinion, if you WANTED to call yourself “pre-engaged” before you actually got engaged to your now-fiance, you totally could have.

      • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

        Nice summary! Thanks.

    • Liz

      i think helen is right on. i dated my husband for 3 years, and then we hit a point of “okay, we know we’re GOING to get married, it’s just a matter of when and how.” that’s the time i considered myself “pre-engaged.” we talked about marriage off an on throughout our dating life- but we also talked about babies and moving to spain. i didn’t consider myself “pre-pregnant.” i think when the plans are in the definite but undetermined future, that’s where you are.

      also, sidenote, i think the term has rubbed a few people the wrong way in previous posts- not EVERYONE is pre-engaged. you can be un-engaged-and-never-getting-engaged. those folks are welcome here, too. ;)

      • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

        I think I’m going to start referring to myself as “pre-Spain.” ;)

        Thanks for the response, especially the point that everyone–pre-engaged/un-engaged/straight up-engaged/etc.–is cool at APW.

      • Clare

        Hah, pre-pregnant!

  • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

    Mostly, I just think EVERYONE should read APW, whether they are engaged, married, pre-engaged, single, or whatever. I love it that much.

  • http://www.thatbridesgotmoxie.wordpress.com Renee

    I am one of the 16% of pre-engaged ladies! I can’t even remember how I found APW, but it’s been about a year.
    I love this site because it gives me piece of mind. My parents divorced when I was 4 – my mother has stayed single, and I imagine, celibate. My father is on this fourth marriage. To say I have no family role models in the world of marriage is a gross understatement. I find that reading this site an education. Before APW, I thought I was alone in being nervous, or afraid of losing my identity. Or wanting a simple wedding. Or a modest engagement ring. All of my married friends had these huge WIC weddings. That’s just not me.
    My boyfriend and I have been talking about getting married for a while now. And while he hasn’t proposed yet (he’s been very clear about wanting to keep it – and my ring – a huge surprise), and we haven’t officially started planning, I feel good that I have done some research. I feel more prepared to be engaged because of APW.
    I don’t know if I’ll feel any different when we are engaged. I thought it would feel different when we moved in together, and it did, but in a small way. I imagine it will be the same with the engagement.
    At least, I hope so. I want our wedding to feel like “us”, but I’d also like our engagement to feel like “us”.

  • http://contradictorylife.wordpress.com Barbra

    I started reading APW in 2009, when my boyfriend and I were pre-engaged. Now we’re, well, in a should-we-break-up-or-stay-together place. And I read APW differently now. I have to admit, it makes me kind of sad to read the wedding grads, since I feel so far away from that ever happening, but I do still read all of the Reclaiming Wife or relationship type posts. They have given me food for thought–my relationship is pretty long term, even though we are not married. I figure that once I do get engaged, I’ll be able to go back and read all the stuff I’m skipping now.

    • Liz

      this hurts my heart a little but also makes me happy that you’re here to share what you figure out as you go.

  • http://breannajai.tumblr.com breannajai

    I started reading APW when I was pre-engaged. Now that I am actually planning a wedding, I think it has made more prepared for the difficult things that I never expected, like people’s reaction to my lack of religion or my fiance’s desire for everything to be clean and modern, whereas I want quirky.

    The pre-engagement wedding dreaming is way more fun than the actually engaged wedding planning.

  • RubberDuckie

    Been there, have the t-shirt.

    I have been engaged for exactly 19 DAYS, but who’s counting? ;)

    I went through ALL of the same feelings: Am I going to jinx it, I’m not really engaged so I don’t deserve to think about the wedding, and my all-time favorite “I’m going to pressure him”.

    Reading APW helped me process my feelings post engagement, and I can pinpoint the exact moment. The morning after he proposed, I broke down in tears in the shower. I sobbed, and then I questioned myself because hey, I’m supposed to be thrilled, right? But it was more like a catharsis, a dam breaking of releif (I’m embarrassed to admit how crazy the pre-engagedness got to me) and such raw emotion that all my poor brain could handle was to just drop my basket in the shower and have a good cry.

    And then I remembered what Meg said: This is NORMAL. (I think she was the one who said that). So I let myself cry it out, and I was SO thankful that I had read all of the pre-engaged stuff (Engagements and Proposals tag under dilemmas was a lifesaver).

    So now that I’m getting all of the standards “OH! You know what you should DO??! [insert swans and pedestals and ribbon wand suggestions]“, I already now how to handle them because I read up on APW beforehand.

    Someone said it before: This is your future too, and I really took that to heart. This site is a WONDERFUL resource for ANYONE in any stage of pre/post engagement and marriage.

    Your engagement will be wonderful and beautiful and you WILL feel different no matter what you’ve read/seen/planned. I promise. I’m still high on that cloud.

  • NEWTIE

    I’m totally in the wrong time zone for getting comments up in a timely fashion, but I wanted to add that getting engaged and being all-but-engaged does indeed feel different — and I don’t think you can “anticipate” the fun/joy/other emotions out of it. My finace and I talked A LOT about getting engaged before we made it official. We had pretty much already decided on everything big – where we wanted to get married, when, etc – and I even knew the weekend he was going to formally propose. There was no ring involved so there was basically nothing to be “surprised” about. And I was STILL overwhelmed with emotion when we actually got engaged, and consequently surprised at how wonderful and connected to him I felt — I couldn’t really do anything for a few days except sit around and glow. There is something different between “yeah, I know we’re going to do this” and “WE’RE DOING IT!!!” I’m not sure it was something that could have been more talked about and planned for than it was for me, and it really didn’t spoil anything.

  • Noemi

    I remember when I was “pre-engaged,” when I knew that Kevin and I would be getting married someday, I began to fill a notebook with little ideas about my possible future wedding. For some reason, I decided it would be completely coordinated around the idea of citrus fruit and the color purple. I looked up purple flowers online, and sketched out a wedding cake design, an invitation design, and even make a mock-list of who by bridesmaids would be! Somehow, I mentioned it to my aunt or she snuck a peek at it, but her advice? “Never let him see this.” Because thinking about my future wedding with Kevin would make him not want to marry me? It turns out, that I did show these ideas to Kevin a while after the proposal, and he was just surprised. “Why does it have to be purple? You don’t even like purple that much!” The man had a point. I had built up a fairy castle wedding– for someone else. We ended up going with a much less cohesive idea– we liked green, so most of the details incorporated green. No color-coordinated invitation suite, no purple bridesmaid dresses, but it was still as beautiful and fun as I imagined it. So it’s exactly true that your plans may completely clash with what you future-husband has in mind, and it’s definitely ok for your style/taste to evolve.

    As for reading before being officially engaged, it doesn’t hurt to read the posts and see what everyone else’s experiences were. I didn’t start reading this blog until about a year into our engagement, and it was so helpful then as I am sure it would have been even before I was engaged.

  • Cristina

    I think I was actually far more interested in wedding stuff before I got engaged. Afterwards I was too stressed out about logistics and getting married to focus so much on the wedding planning and fun stuff (food! flowers! dresses!). So start reading and gathering ideas when you’re in the mood for it, because you never know how you’ll feel later.

  • Amy

    I found this site because I never wanted to get married or have a wedding.

    …Until, of course, I met my boyfriend and as the saying goes, “when you know, YOU KNOW.”
    I was actually searching for information or discussions related to how I could reconcile my old single-independent-no-desire-for-committment self with my new excited-to-think-about-spending-my-life-with-this-man self. I found it here!

    The idea of planning a wedding still terrifies the heck out of me, but discovering APW has allowed me to realize that I can throw the whole Standard Wedding Template out the window and start from scratch. I don’t need a bouquet or a veil or a white dress or even an aisle to walk down in order to get married. I appreciate the advice, opinions, and experiences APW women in all the marital status categories have shared with the community.

    Even though the boyfriend and are not ready to say those vows quite yet, I feel more prepared to say them after reading this blog daily for the last 10 months! Thanks y’all!

  • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

    I’m not yet engaged (I’m one of those APW readers who cringe away from the term “pre-engaged”) but we probably will be soon, as he’s been actively researching ring settings and the price of gold. I found this site months ago after my best friend made me her maid of honor and I dove head-first into Wanting To Be Helpful.

    I too have been worried that almost obsessively reading APW has somehow ruined me for my eventual engagement, planning, and wedding. I’m finding it hard to figure out the words to express my sudden anxiety about this, but it’s as if I suddenly resent knowing I have options. I worry that when my guy proposes with a very traditional solitaire style ring (his preference) in what will probably be a very traditional and awkward way I will have a little voice in the back of my mind going “but is this as meaningful as the proposals other women have gotten?” I worry that when we sit down to plan our ceremony and reception I will be overwhelmed with possibilities, now knowing that the church-hotel ballroom-sit down dinner-open bar formula (and then whittling down from there) isn’t the only way to do things. I worry that I’ve now seen so many beautiful, unique, perfect wedding dresses that traditional ones won’t feel special enough and special ones won’t feel traditional enough for the Catholic wedding I will have. This is, perhaps, APW fatigue and I probably need to step away for a bit, haha.

    APW has however done me worlds of good. Rachel’s post about deciding to get married, and how it is absolutely okay to not feel ready was like drinking from a cleansing stream that washed away all my anxieties that grew from my best friend’s engagement and comparing myself to her. Hearing about how having hard conversations can be so terrifying yet so freeing has given me the courage to begin asking my guy questions that I would have kept bottled up before. Reading the Reclaiming Wife series has inspired me into never getting complacent with married life and to always strive for and encourage personal growth and development for the both of us.

    To sum it up: I am so simultaneously grateful and disturbed by APW that I can’t help but to keep reading.

  • Cara

    I am pre-engaged, but I can’t stop reading about weddings! Something about the romance, and the planning, and the crafting, and just the general sense of LOVE keeps me coming back for more. I’m also really glad I am looking into weddings, and reading APW has helped me realize that while the pretty weddings are nice, there must be some substance behind the wedding, something beyond the surface prettiness, to make it actually meaningful.

    It’s also helped me open up more with my boyfriend. He knows I’m a little wedding-crazy, and that I want to marry him, but he just isn’t ready yet, which is totally fine as long as we can talk about it once in awhile. I don’t want to be the nagging girlfriend, whining for a ring so I can have my dream princess wedding, but I do want to talk about our relationship and what we both expect out of it, and I think reading and thinking about weddings and marriage, especially from the APW point of view, has helped me form some thoughts and expectations that might have taken awhile to surface otherwise.

    I am, however, very excited to move from pre-engaged to engaged to marriage someday!!! I like that I might even be able to put off planning for a week or two after the engagement because I have a few ideas aready bouncing around in my head, so instead we can just enjoy that new phase of life for a bit!

  • Erin K.

    I’m just going to add to the chorus here but so goes it… YES! Read, read, read! I am happily single at the moment but still love reading APW. I am one of those that gets the warm and fuzzies reading about weddings and marriages but that’s not what keeps me coming back.

    What keeps me coming back is the fact that so much of what is written and discussed here is so extremely smart, sassy and fun. It so reminds me of sitting down with my group of girl friends and throwing around ideas and problems and talking them out. And we certainly don’t care about our relationship status in those conversations!

  • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

    I’ve been reading APW since it was on blogspot, and I’m still not engaged (although I’ve been in the same serious relationship the whole time). I go pretty back-and-forth about it. For a while, I dedicatedly read every. single. post. Which was really helpful in terms of thinking about what I might want at such times as we do get married, how to work out potential issues, as well as how to tackle the harder stuff like finances and independence and sacrifice.

    But. I can’t blame APW for my own personality, and I started getting a bit ahead of myself. Seeing all these loving couples tying the knot made for some difficult months in our relationship, because I really wanted to get married NOWNOWNOW and my partner wasn’t (isn’t) ready for that step. Even the fact that we’re several years below the average age of wedding graduates is significant; I sometimes start wanting all these things that these women who are 5-10 years older than me have, when I should be, as Meg says, living the f*ck out of my 20s.

    So, I’ve made myself step back from APW and wedding blogs in general (APW is the only one I still read, in fact). I find the reclaiming wife posts super-useful because you don’t have to be married (or even in a relationship) to take things away from them, and I often skim the other posts for nuggets of wisdom. But our relationship is stronger now that I’ve stopped putting all this pressure on both of us to rush through all the steps.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    I started reading before we got engaged because I found myself interested in Jewish wedding traditions and a friend pointed out this site as a good place to read about them. And then I stuck around because it was the type of wedding planning I could feel good about.

    I really like this sentence in the post – “The discovery and joy comes not from thinking about your wedding/marriage, but living it.”

    It really is the living it that makes it wonderful. I planned and thought about what I would say the first time he told me he loved me. I was going to be sentimental and eloquent. But when it came down to living that moment, he told me he loved me and I came back with a real romantic, “Really?” Which makes for a much better story and I’m so glad the living it was different than the thinking it.

  • Rebecca

    Hello APW! I’ve been reading for about a year now, and have gone to a book club meet-up with the lovely ladies of San Francisco and the Peninsula, but this is my first post. I am pre-engaged, going on five years with my boyfriend, cohabitating, saving for a ring/wedding and share conversations about “when” we are married and have kids, not “if”. I continue reading APW for the sage words of wisdom that the wedding graduates offer-what they say they wish they had know before their engagement and wedding. The past two years have offered up a few bumps in the road- moving, career changes, parents divorcing- and every time I read the latest post it seems to answer whatever little bug is nagging at my brain, causing me stress about the future. I look at this site as the tree house with no negativity allowed and the best kept secrets and insecurities divulged in the name of sisterhood. THANK YOU FOR INCLUDING THE PRE-ENGANGED.

  • Roadrunner

    You know what really makes being engaged different than pre-engagement? Telling other people you’re engaged. My fiance and I had very specific, detailed discussions (including where we wanted to have our ceremony and reception, and even figuring out a likely caterer) before we were officially engaged.* So getting engaged wasn’t a surprise to me, but that phone call to my mom made it really real for the first time. And emailing friends, and getting their congratulations…anyway, if you’re worried that nothing will feel different once things become official, trust me: actually announcing to people outside your relationship that you’re getting married could never be diminished by reading some blogs ahead of time. You’ll feel it. Promise.

    *I know that APW orthodoxy says that you’re engaged if you’re planning a wedding, but we waited to be *publicly* engaged because I didn’t want an engagement of longer than 9 months–I figured that was my maximum possible tolerance for answering questions from random acquaintances like “What are your colors? Do you have a theme?? What about favors???? And you’re doing a garter toss, right???????”

    And now that we’re six weeks out, I was right: 9 months is definitely my absolute outside limit. I highly recommend this approach for anyone worried about being assaulted by the WIC and its acolytes: limit the time they have to attack, and you’ll reduce your exposure!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      If I had read this before I posted below, I wouldn’t have had to post.

  • Marissa

    I am of the pre-engaged set. I started reading APW over a year ago when I followed a link that had been posted on a soon-to-be-married friend’s blog. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a smart wedding blog. Seeing people discuss relationship issues at the same time as pretty jewelry was something I could totally get into (“Yay feminism! Ooo, sparkly rings!”).

    I believe that reading APW has made me a better partner. It has helped me begin discussions with my boyfriend, who I live with, that may have been difficult to approach. It has opened my eyes to options I did not know were available, both in regards to wedding planning (you don’t *need* a bridal party) and in the ways I behave toward my boyfriend (which unfortunately I can’t point to directly because as soon as I adopt a behavior I believe it was my idea to do it the whole time). As the daughter of an engineer with an engineer boyfriend, I like to plan ahead. Reading about wedding planning and being married and breaking off engagements gives me a sense of being prepared for whatever might happen, and makes me believe that I will be strong enough to handle any devastation that Life finds funny enough to drop on me.

  • AA

    Pre-engaged…I found APW by googling “practical wedding.” My boyfriend and I are headed in the marriage direction, but we have some things to work out first.
    Our main point of contention as far as an actual wedding is concerned is alcohol (one family shuns it for religious reasons, the other expects it for cultural reasons). And guess which blog addresses the issue of alcohol at a wedding in a sensible, thought-provoking, and stay-true-to-yourself manner? Yes, APW. So it is the only ‘wedding’ blog I read, because all the posts are sensible, thought-provoking, and true-to-self about not just weddings but marriage and relationships and life.

  • Granola

    Who knows if you’ll get down this far in the comments, but I just want to say, like many others, “Welcome to the club.” The great thing about this club is that you were a member before you knew it existed and before you had the courage to accept that you needed. For me, being pre-engaged has brought a lot of guilt. I used to think that by doing this research and needing this connection to other people, that I was somehow jumping the gun in my relationship. But quite the contrary, that’s what a relationship is – that connection and comfort with things. My boyfriend and I saw the purpose of an engagement really differently (and kind of still do.) He didn’t want to “be engaged” until we’d worked through a lot of big life issues. For me, engagement was the space to work through those issues and I didn’t feel like I could bring them up because we we’re yet engaged. It was a frustrating catch-22 that caused a lot of hurt and misconception. But finally, borrowing some of Meg’s words, I made him see that we were in this together. And I’ve been able, little by little, to let go of that guilt, and I know that when it comes time to actually plan the wedding, I’ll be able to stick up for me and for us that much more.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    [Haven't read all previous comments. Skimmed some really good ones.]

    I’m now engaged. I started reading wedding websites seriously after my last romantic break-up before my now-fiance. I was trying to figure things out about why my romances blew up so dramatically. I wanted lots of perspectives, so I read stuff I knew was awful and stuff I thought was good. The wedding websites had a tiny bit of awful relationship advice amidst thousands of pretty pictures.

    I don’t think I found APW until I was serious with my future husband, though. We did lots of wedding dreaming and talking before making things official because we wanted a plan to present to the four sets of parents involved as soon as things were official.

    Now that things are official, the wedding-planning stuff is more serious. There’s a timeline, so there are deadlines. We can’t just say, “Let’s talk about other stuff for the next few weeks” (though we still say “Let’s talk about other stuff for the next few hours”).

    The biggest relationship difference, though, is the reason we wanted a long engagement: We wanted the advice of the older, wiser people in our lives. These people kept mum while we were “just dating,” but now they want to see us and talk to us. Weekends are no longer adventures just for us; we have to work in meetings with those four sets of parents. My relationship with my future husband is no longer just with him. It’s now part of my relationships with everyone I know (except I’ve mostly kept it outside of the office).

  • Jennie

    Pre-engaged and have it all planned out. We are coming up on our ten-year anniversary and in that time I have planned probably ten or fifteen weddings for us. I also planned weddings in high school and college for THOSE boys, so I am just that way. I read APW every day (along with several other wedding blogs) because it makes me so friggin’ happy. Both from the standpoint of reading awesome things about awesome women and from the standpoint of planning a future event. Plus, where else can you find out about not giving your guests the gift of swamp-ass????

  • SaraB

    I’m just gonna “Exactly” everything here. Been reading for over a year prior to getting engaged in June and glad I had APW to help jump start our pre-engagement conversations about the important stuff. Love this site lots!

  • Ris

    So I have no time to read through all the comments above, and I’m sure my experience is shared by many others, but I thought I might as well comment. I started reading APW about a year ago and just got engaged last month. Aaaaand… let me just say I’m so glad I did. I learned that it’s okay to question why everyone does and expects certain things when they’re planning a wedding, and I have been a very, very, very chill wedding planner so far. I’m sure I would be much less so if I had not soaked in the chillness and wisdom of the women here.

    And honestly? Planning a wedding is fun, but there’s the added stress of others’ expectation and working with actual, finite dollar figures. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, it’s challenging… but pre-engaged wedding dreaming was pretty much only fun (in my experience). My advice would be to enjoy wherever you are – every stage of life can be great, but they’re all different kinds of great. You’ll definitely enjoy your engagement, but in different ways than you currently enjoy your pre-engagement.

  • Sarahkay

    I’m pre-engaged and I read APW. My partner and I have committed to a future together, we share our home and our lives. We (together) have made the major decisions regarding our wedding, because we believe in preparedness. Especially, since we are both adults and will be paying for our wedding. We have not chosen a date, although it will be within the next year. We are not ‘engaged’ because my partner holds dear to the idea of proposing with a traditional ring and ‘official’ proposal. And I respect that.

    I don’t feel that APW or any other wedding site is part of ‘a secret club I don’t belong in.’ I was married before, after a live-in relationship of many years. I’ve been there. I planned and executed a beautiful wedding on a small budget and navigated the struggles of the first few years of marriage-having no money, moving across the country twice, the death of our only child. I have a lot of wisdom from the other side to share. I rejoice in hearing about the triumphs and happiness of others. I love that within the context of wedding planning we can talk frankly and honestly with each other about the realities of marriage. And this is something that’s different about APW and other ‘wedding’ places- those people end the discussion at the honeymoon.

  • http://rizado.blogspot.com Tatiana

    I started reading wedding blogs because a) I was in one as a bridesmaid but was missing some key pre-wedding events, so I wanted to contribute something, like ideas on what to do for favors and b) I like looking at pretty stuff. In fact, the wedding blogs I followed used to be lumped in with the design blogs in my feed reader.

    But then I found myself freaking out about weddings a bit and how any wedding I may one day have would stack up to the amazing events I couldn’t help by check out and every day and I had to purge all wedding related reading from my life.

    Except APW. My favorites are the wedding grad posts and not just because I once spotted an old college friend in one. I like that APW is a wedding blog that’s more about weddings – it is about the before and the after. And since I’m in the before right now, it suits me just fine.

    Though as someone who routinely talks to her boyfriend about eloping, I do sometimes skip the pretty ceremony posts here, too. It feels strange to think too much about what I want in a wedding when I’m not even engaged, but a large part of me wants to elope… but a similarly large part wants the wedding with family and friends. And not just the party bit. The actual ceremony where we say that we are in this to win in and that we are combining are friends and families into one large Irish-Colombian (with a dash of Dutch pirate) mess.

    I guess that’s why I read – to try to figure out what I want one day by learning from the smart ladies who have gone before me.

  • Amy March

    I’m single, and read every day. Which, umm, maybe isn’t all that healthy? But another blog I frequent (hi fellow Corporetters!) kept recommending this as a great community of smart women, and it really is. I know I want a wedding someday, and heck I have 6 to attend in the next year, so I figure I can read along without guilt.

  • http://www.landlockedbride.com Brit @ Landlocked Bride

    I think what is so great about APW, especially for the “pre-engaged” is that it brings light to meaning behind the wedding…aka, the marriage. I think, if anything, it sets anyone up setting realistic expectations, and remembering to stay grounded. Sure, reading all of the other blogs and magazines is great for inspiration (mine included), but using the experiences and stories APW shares is great for all of the points you bring up.

  • http://www.suncentered.com Jenny @sunCentered

    I don’t think I could survive being pre-engaged without APW! Reading all the pre-engaged posts has helped keep me sane – knowing there are other women who have gone through or are going through the same struggles I am.

    APW has also helped reassure me that it IS possible to have a sane and affordable wedding. I passed a few posts on to the BF and they were extremely helpful to him, as well! He realized that his main issue with marriage was actually the WIC, not marriage itself; but now he sees it doesn’t have to be that way. That was a VERY positive step in the engagement direction for us!

  • CheapBubbly

    I’m pre-engaged now and APW:
    1. Helps me with real life stuff ( Read: Remember the Lesbians)
    2. Helps me be a good “rock” for my bride friends
    3. Helps me feel more prepared for the offbeat announcements I’ll make ( seriously people ask when the wedding is and who your bridesmaids are as soon as you announce the engagement)
    4. Helps me find inspiration and maybe a few photos of stuff I like.
    Life Note: When Partner asked why I ogle other people’s weddings when I only get one. I pointed out how much time he spends ogling other peoples bikes, reading mechanical tips, when he only has one.
    5. Has me prepared and mentally through a lot of the big shockers that suck wedding planning fun. Like name changing, hall rentals, dress shopping, vows, etc… I feel a lot of brides, in the heat of planning, are presented with Option A or B, so they pick one not realizing C is completely up to them but they didn’t have time to explore or research to build a sound argument against A or B. Leaving them feeling like a magazine bride.

  • secret reader

    Pre-engaged. I went on a wedding blog reading binge right after I moved to a new city for my SO’s job and was unemployed, then working a job I hated, then unemployed again because I quit. I’m now, finally, happily employed, and APW is the only wedding blog I still read regularly. Sometimes I’ll look at others when I want pretty pictures.

    I view reading APW as WIC deprogramming. As a woman who grew up in America, I’ve been exposed to *so much* WIC material that I’m now trying to balance it out. Knowing about sane practical weddings in the abstract will only help me keep everything in perspective in the hopeful future scenario where the sig-oh becomes the fiance.

    If I dove into engagement without having read APW for however long, I’d still have ideas planted about what a wedding should look like. I’m just trying my best to keep it fair and balanced, if you will.

  • http://singingpilgrimdancing.blogspot.com Pamela

    I’m pre-engaged and this is why and what I read:
    a) I love all things wedding. I am just that kind of girl. But I hate the fake have to spend huge fortunes for simple things attitude that many wedding websites promote.
    b) I love the intelligent and respectful discussions. Really (a) was what made me visit, but (b) roped me in.
    c) I am fascinated by the differences people have in what they want and expect. What is normal in some geographical regions is foreign in others. What is important to one bride is unimportant to another. This is true everywhere, but APW is one of the only wedding websites where that is embraced and kept civil, so we can learn and marvel, instead of ridicule. I’m the kind of person who loves people, so I like that a lot.
    d) It exposes me to new ideas that I may or may not use someday for my own wedding.
    e) I love the stories of people. And the contests. I don’t enter them yet, but I hold out hope that maybe when my day comes (which will be very soon. My guy has actually asked for my ring size) they’ll be a travelling dress just my size, or free photography in my region. That’d be so cool.

    I don’t read everything. And I don’t read everyday. Some doesn’t interest me (like vendor profiles on the other side of the country for example) and also, because the discussions can rope you in, if I’m just coming online for a minute, I don’t even try to visit APW!

    Actually, I follow lots of blogs… but I don’t follow APW. It’s not because I don’t like it. I’ve been reading for probably a year and a half. It’s because I’m not engaged yet, and this is a very prolific blog, and I think I won’t add it to my blog list until I am engaged.

    Like I said, it’ll be soon.

  • http://singingpilgrimdancing.blogspot.com Pamela

    Oh! And I also read because I love that this blog focuses on marriage, not just weddings. That’s very important to me. :)

  • Clare

    Liz, I ask myself that question all the time!
    I’ve been reading APW for a year now, and I guess you could call me pre-engaged- I’ve been with my since-high-school bf for 4.5 years. But I’m only 21 and no way am I or we close to getting hitched.

    I use APW for advice, like a whole bunch of wise second mums, aunts, cousins and female colleagues I can go to when I’m not sure about something. I’ve used practical stuff to plan my 21st party-and some smart alec-y responses for when the photography started hinted about my bf and I getting engaged! And I use the Reclaiming Wife posts to think about my relationship and what I want it to look like, and to deal with my parents separation, which was a lot about my Mum making a decision for her own happiness.

    Not everything is relevant to me yet, but its nice to feel part of a group of women who talk about things I can’t find someone in person to ask. I’m definitely staying, and anyone who thinks its weird or too soon just doesn’t know how awesome APW is!

    • Clare

      Just wanted to add, that sometimes I read simply because APW because ducks are wiley! They take time to line up, so why not enjoy the journey (and pretty pictures)

  • http://realizingself.wordpress.com Krista

    Late to the posting party! I started reading APW last year I believe, when I was pre-engaged. For me, APW is food for thought. So many of the posts prompted me to THINK. About what was important to me in a marriage, about communication in relationships, about expectations, about what it means to marry, etc. Most of this thought prompting was just from reading the experiences of other women. It is so powerful to know you aren’t alone when you think this, or do that, and it’s reassuring to hear how other’s navigated particular situations, so at least you know it’s possible. APW is one of the very few blogs that I read on a regular basis.

    I am recently engaged (for almost a month!), and I continue to read for all the same reasons. But now I’m more interested in the vendor posts. ;)

  • Sarah

    I’m answering Alyssa’s calling out the pre-engaged without reading everyone else’s comments.

    Forget pre-engaged, I’m pre-relationship. Happily single. Not even dreaming of my wedding as I read. (Though I did just have a conversation with a guy friend about wedding invitations and joked that we’re not getting married because he’d insist on paper invites and I don’t see the use of them.) Reading APW is my Sunday afternoon treat all the same. And I recommend the blog to friends at least once a week. (Once a day for the past four days at least, so that should up my average for next month.)

    Because APW is about weddings, obviously, but somehow it doesn’t focus on weddings. It’s about relationships. And life. And finding balance. Between your desires and your partner’s desires and your parents’ and your family and your friends’ and…. Even if I don’t have a partner, that sort of advice is still important to remember. Perhaps all the more important to seek out because without a partner it can easily become the Sarah show. It’s about defining who you are, especially in a liminal stage. It’s about claiming what you value and respecting other people’s values even when they’re 180º from your own.

    I read APW for the same reason I read other favorite blogs–like, Pioneer Woman and Vanilla Garlic and Head Nurse–storytelling is a beautiful art. Sometimes I will laugh out loud. Sometimes I will have a cathartic cry. Sometimes I will oooh and ahh at the pretty pictures. Sometimes I will say I want to do that and find a way to adapt the story to my reality.

    Finally, I fully believe APW is about community in all the best ways. It’s the sharing and supporting and celebrating and questioning and answering. I haven’t fully embraced the APW community, 10% because, like Liz I feel like I’m missing the not-so-secret-passcode, but 90% because I haven’t found the time to do things like read the comments above mine. Maybe this comment will start getting me there.

    • http://www.twitter.com/cupcake_orgasm Red

      OMG Sarah! We follow the same blogs! I know we’re not the only ones, but I wasn’t expecting to see Vanilla Garlic and the Pioneer Woman mentioned on here and if I wasn’t at work right now I would have yelled “yay!” and clapped my hands excitedly.

      If you haven’t made Ree’s Pumpkin Cream Pie… DO IT! It’s pumpkin season again and the pie is amazing (and easy to make too!).

      • Sarah

        Oooooh. Pumpkin season is here. That makes me happy.

        Also, you should totally read Head Nurse. I’ve never liked medicine and I love Jo.

  • http://www.twitter.com/cupcake_orgasm Red

    I’m in the same boat as you Liz. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over two years now, and marriage has been on the table from the very start. We met at his sister’s wedding, and his brother got married last year so by going through that wedding, we’ve talked about our future wedding down to much more minute details.

    To the point that we know what time of year we want to get married and we know the venue (we haven’t looked in to the cost of anything).

    I’ve been reading APW for most of 2011 and while part of me does think I’m silly to be in a pre-engaged mindset, thinking/planning/talking about “my” wedding when in reality, no question has been asked. I don’t see it as an overall BAD thing. APW is full of very, very smart women who talk about so much more than just getting engaged and getting married that in a relationship or not, this is a community that I believe any woman could benefit from.

    And I totally was never the girl who dreamed of her own wedding growing up, I honestly thought I’d never want to get married until I met my boyfriend.

  • Kate

    “You didn’t say it, but I’m wondering if maybe some of this concern is coming from the thought that you’re not supposed to think about your wedding or being married until it is a definite event. You think you might jinx it, or that thoughts about what your wedding dress might look like will turn you into the type of bride they make reality shows about. And to that I say this: Horsesh*t.”

    i’m clearly a latecomer on this, but i needed to hear this so badly. i’m on the brink of engagement (i accidentally found out around christmas that he already has the ring) and i’ve lately been obsessed with offbeat bride. it’s so encouraging to see the incredible variety of ways people choose to celebrate getting married and it’s really opened up so many possibilities to me, i can’t stop popping in to see what other new and clever suggestions they have. but now i’m even happier to find apw, because this is the only place i’ve seen the pre-engagement stuff discussed. thank you thank you thank you for reminding me that there is nothing crazy about thinking about how i want to get married and what options are out there just because i don’t yet wear a ring. my partner and i have talked about weddings and marriage and all kinds of future plans, and i’m totally the kind of person who researches details on vacations i think i might want to take–why wouldn’t i research this too? i think if i can just shake my fear of the “bridezilla” stigma, i’ll actually be really excited when the time comes and i can say to my darling, “awesome! let me show you some of these cool ideas i have and see what you think!”

  • KRISTEN

    As a newcomer to APW, I feel this is as good a place as any to out myself as a pre-engaged lurker.

    I am that little girl who’s been fantasizing about her wedding since she was five. Wedding planning has been a not-so-secret past-time of mine for many years (yes, I might have bought a wedding magazine when I was 16).
    Therefore, I will readily admit that I got a little crazy and this all came to a head roughly a month ago. I have an exceptionally boring job which, lately, has resulted in my obsessive reading of wedding blogs and wedding planning sites (even the panic-attack inducing TheKn*t)
    Truth be told, I lost sight of the big picture. APW has helped me gain some perspective, has kept me sane. Reading it has made me excited for my proposal, instead of just impatiently wishing for it to just BE HERE ALREADY.
    And when it happens, I now feel more confident about my ability to handle it all, and get what I want, without succumbing to outside (or inside!) pressures brought on by the wedding industry, family and “tradition.”

    There are so many posts that I can’t wait to share with my “intended,” but I guess APW is still a little bit of a guilty pleasure secret until I am for real engaged.