The state that we (with tongue in cheek) call “pre-engaged” on APW is a weird one. It’s strange, hovering in the space where you have a pretty good idea that you’re going to marry the person you’re with, but you’re not ready to be engaged yet. There is no cultural validation for this. There is a whole lot of sexist bullshit about this. It’s lonely. It can make you feel crazy. Sarah Erdlen’s post is ostensibly about buying a dress before getting engaged. But in reality, it’s about finding a way to sensibly navigate the pre-engaged waters.
I just bought a wedding dress without being engaged or in the midst of wedding planning, and I am not crazy.
To be fair, my definition of “wedding dress” is simply “a dress I’d like to wear when I get married,” rather than “white gown designed specifically for brides.” What allowed this purchase, however, has little to do with the merits of the dress itself (though there are many), and more to do with how my partner and I have communicated about our eventual wedding. I’ve been addicted to APW for almost a year, admiring the sassy writers and intelligent, diverse points-of-view. So it’s no wonder, living with my committed partner, that weddings have been on my mind for a while. However, I never felt like they should be. I don’t hide my APW addiction or my Pinterest wedding board from my partner. We’ve been together for more than three years, have stated out loud to each other that we’re in it til the end. The first time I ever stayed the night at his place, he asked me what I was thinking, and I honestly replied that I was trying to decide where on earth to hang his tapestry in our future home. But I resigned myself to the hip, indie messaging that I shouldn’t be pining after a wedding when I had the important stuff right in front of me. While there’s lots of value in enjoying where we are in our relationship, I am an impatient person. I want the next thing. Now.
My impatience won out. As did the realization that marching along same as ever will end with us being…the same as ever. If we wanted to get married, it would take some concerted effort to get there. As a decisive, opinionated person who constantly reads smart things about weddings and marriages, I already had an arsenal of thoughts and feelings on the subject. Knowing my partner is a careful, quiet consideration kind of guy, I emailed him a list of things I wanted to discuss re: when are we getting married and how are we going to pay for it. (I was so proud of myself for that.) Our discussion was a good one. Is eloping an option? What do we expect of the event? How are we going to save for it?
The best decision of the evening was that we would start a joint savings account where we can both set aside a specific amount per month, and see how quickly that grows. It’s amazing the freedom I feel from this decision, even with no action taken yet. Even though we aren’t planning a wedding (yet) and don’t have any money saved (yet) and aren’t officially engaged (but don’t plan to be), I feel like the time I put into reading about weddings is more legitimate now. I can get a better idea of how much money we need to save in the first place, which gives us an idea for a savings timeline. I never thought I needed permission to feel things, but it turns out, I needed some kind of permission to truly feel comfortable talking about an eventual wedding that is not even close to being planned yet.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I’m casually browsing ModCloth. I come across a kick-ass party dress that fits my wedding dress criteria for only $63 and I am all over it. (I mean, after sending a picture to two friends for validation. Duh.) It felt a little strange, in an abstract way, to be making a significant purchase for a significant event without any significant feelings about said purchase, but that in itself is freeing. I didn’t feel like I was being crazy for making the purchase, and I didn’t feel like it had to be some big event. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the shopping experience. But you know what? Buying a wedding dress is not the only time I’ll ever get a chance to have a fun, bonding shopping trip with my mom. We have those kinds of trips on the regular.
I hate having expectations set for me, so it was really nice to shrug off any expectations surrounding making-a-freaking-purchase-for-heaven’s-sake. So I bought a dress. I plan to wear it when I get married. And I don’t have to feel anything at all about it, especially not crazy.
Photo by APW Sponsor Gabriel Harber