Most movies about weddings follow a similar script. Couple gets engaged, couple proceeds to spend the next few days or months exclusively devoted to Planning a Wedding. Budgets are rarely discussed (outside the context of the bride’s poor father, who will obviously be footing the bill for the entire extravagant occasion). Life’s other tasks seemingly fall by the wayside for the duration of the engagement, as the couple and their respective families devote their sole focus to planning the big day (and managing the myriad obstacles that will inevitably arise in any romantic comedy).
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that this does not even remotely resemble the path our own engagement has followed. Nick and I got engaged in mid-2011, and we’ll finally be married a few short weeks from now—nearly three years later. In between… life happened. A lot of life happened, actually. The day we got engaged was incredibly exciting. There was a long walk and a delicious dinner and a good bit of champagne. The week or so that followed was similarly fun, as there were congratulatory phone calls and messages, and flowers from far away family members (and, of course, more champagne). But soon, life went back to normal, and “normal” meant studying for the first of an eventual three bar examinations and kicking off a nearly two-year stint of unemployment or underemployment. In other words: wedding planning was far from the main focus for most of our engagement.
We’re certainly not alone in having a long engagement. But it seemed that most couples engaged for a long period of time quickly selected a far-off date, allowing them more time to plan and save, and an actual wedding to look forward to. We, on the other hand, felt more like we were in wedding limbo: engaged, but not actually making any movement toward a wedding.
At first, I was praying we’d be able to get married sometime in 2012, rather than waiting until 2013 (the horror!). If you had told me back then that we wouldn’t be getting married until 2014, I wonder if I would have said, “Screw it, let’s elope today.” I’m sure the prospect would have been tempting, and if either one of us had gotten a job with insurance benefits, I’m fairly certain that we would have eloped. At that time in our lives, though, a job with benefits was just as far out of reach as a wedding. When you are newly graduated, living on your mom’s couch with your fiancé, frantically job-hunting with the end of your student loan deferment looming, a wedding is not exactly on your list of priorities. Each time we took a step forward, we’d take ten steps back. One of us would land a paid internship, but an emergency root canal would wipe out our savings. We’d pour a week’s pay into car repairs, only to come home days later to find all the windows had been smashed. With Nick bagging groceries and me working as the world’s worst sporting goods store employee, it felt like we weren’t going anywhere—much less down the aisle.
Of course, while a wedding was outside the realm of possibility for the moment, we didn’t have to wait so long to get married. Sometimes it just feels plain silly not to be married yet. People give you funny looks when you say you’ve been engaged for over a year and haven’t set a date. Some people even infer that maybe you won’t be getting married, after all. Those people are jerks. After all, all you really need to get married is $75 or so to hand over to the state, and boom! Married. (Though, to be fair, there were absolutely points during our engagement when $75 was way outside our budget.) If gainful employment and financial stability hadn’t come along, this might have been the route we would have eventually taken.
But deep down, we knew this wasn’t what we really wanted. We knew our ideal wedding would be in Ohio and consist of a Catholic Mass, a casual dinner, and a rowdy dance party with a large number of family and friends. Marriage has always been an inevitability for us, while a wedding—or, more specifically, this wedding—has not. Throw in a sudden move to an island two thousand miles away (for a job! with health insurance!), and suddenly we had the financial resources to start planning, but coordinating the crafty, casual, DIY family affair we had in mind seemed daunting, if not downright impossible.
Bit by bit, we started pulling it together, but it wasn’t until now, two weeks out, that I’ve allowed myself to believe it’s really happening. Each time an obstacle cropped up, from the sticker shock of astronomically high airfare to a major health scare in the family, I’d mentally prepare myself for calling off the party and heading to the courthouse. I crossed my fingers as we sent a deposit to our venue (a cozy spot we had been eyeing long before we were engaged), not quite convinced that we’d actually be getting married there. I felt physically ill when mailing our save the dates at the post office, envisioning calling our family and friends weeks before the wedding and telling them to cancel their flights because we couldn’t pull this shindig together. Even in the past few months, each time a maintenance light would turn on in the car, I’d think, “It’s broken, and now we have to cancel the wedding.”
But we haven’t had to cancel! It appears our wedding is actually going to happen, car maintenance or other financial disasters be damned, and that, in itself, feels sort of magical. I’m proud of the wedding we’ve planned, from the imperfect homemade invitations to the impulsively purchased bridesmaid dresses. I can’t wait for a massive family reunion inside a huge barn decked out in hundreds of Christmas lights. Realistically, the initial excitement of getting engaged is not something that can be sustained for nearly three years. Life keeps chugging along, as it tends to do (and it’s generally frowned upon to wander around tipsy on celebratory champagne for such a long time). Now that the finish line is in sight, though, the excitement is back in full force, and I am so, so grateful that we held out for the wedding we really wanted.
Though of course, a part of me still wishes we could have pulled it off back in 2011.