Should We Be Waiting to Get Married?

Ask APW: Should we get married right NOW, right now?

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Q: Is our engagement legitimate if we postpone wedding planning? After more than a year of discussion, my partner and I are nearly ready, and very excited, to commit to marriage. We’d like to mark this step by getting engaged and announcing it. However, currently we cannot afford any wedding-related expenses. This year we’ll both finish graduate school and begin full-time jobs (fingers crossed). Only then can we set a realistic wedding budget and save.

We’re serious about marrying within the next few years. But we need to wait about a year, until our finances are more stable, to begin planning and paying for a wedding. Will our friends and family think our engagement is a sham because we aren’t actively planning? Do we need to postpone our engagement until we can afford the wedding? I hope not!

Ready and Waiting

A: Dear RAW,

Your friends probably won’t think it’s a sham. But even if they do, who cares? The two of you get to determine how long or short your engagement is, when you get married and when you don’t.

An engagement isn’t the marker of the beginning of wedding planning. It marks a new phase of commitment. It’s like a commitment to eventually committing to commitment. Or something. Less, “We’re starting to pick out napkins now!” and more, “We’ve agreed to get married sometime!” Which is a pretty exciting thing, no matter when “sometime” turns out to be. It only makes sense that you’d want to announce that to the world and have your friends share in the excitement with you. Brace yourself that they’ll ask for a date and colors (yeah, people are still asking for “wedding colors”), but those questions are easy enough to shrug off without dampening the thrill.

My solitary word of caution is to be prepared with a plan B just in case that awesome plan for finances doesn’t pan out as expected. “When we have money,” is one of those moving targets. You might wait years and years for “when we have money,” and never quite get those wily ducks in a row. Think worst-case scenario now. What if you haven’t secured fabulous jobs in one year? Three years? Six? And what happens if you do nail down awesome jobs, but other things pop up and gobble those funds that would normally be earmarked for wedding planning?

It’s completely fine to wait for a wedding for logistical reasons. That doesn’t negate the excitement of an engagement at all! But make sure those same logistics simply pave the way, rather than block it.

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Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for three years now and we recently purchased a home. Marriage has been on my mind for the past year or so, and I have talked it over with my boyfriend many times. He always gives conflicting answers. He tells me he will marry me, but he doesn’t want a wedding; he wants to go the courthouse and “sign papers.” He doesn’t see the point, and I explain to him that I want to be married before we have children, but he says there is not point to marriage.

We have already accomplished so much, and we are practically married because we live together. I tried to say, well if we aren’t engaged by the end of this year, I not sure what I will do. Then he got offended and said, “I thought our relationship meant more to you then that.” I told him I could say the same thing. I am willing to have a small BBQ wedding with family and friends, but it has to be his way. He felt it was okay to give me the ultimatum that he doesn’t want to have kids past thirty-five. He is thirty-two and I am twenty-eight, and I feel this pressure because I am afraid that if we don’t get married soon, we won’t have children. So there are many things at play.

Every time I talk about getting married, he says it’s a waste of money, but at the same time, I know he bought an engagement ring almost nine months ago. We talked about it before we bought the home, and he said, “Well send me some rings.” I sent a very modest ring, from Etsy and it was purchased. I know he bought it because I am terrible and checked his Esty account. I just had to keep myself from driving myself crazy wondering if he ever will marry me. Now I also torture myself thinking, “Is he joking? Is this a lie? Is he planning to propose?” So now every event in my life, I keep thinking, is this it?

Please help, I just need advice so I don’t feel crazy anymore. Do I say, fine let’s go to courthouse?

Do I Settle?

A: Dear DIS,

You do not say, “Fine let’s go to a courthouse.” You instead say, “Hi, these things (a wedding with my family present, getting married before we have children, having children) are important to me and I need you to understand and respect their importance to me.”

You say, “You’re giving me contradictory answers regarding marriage, and I don’t know if we’re getting married, let alone when, which is unfair, as that is a pretty big detail in this little old life of mine.”

You say, “We need to have a conversation, please.”

It’s fine to wait to get married. It’s completely fine, and even normal, to be on different pages regarding how to get married and when. But it’s a totally different story when you don’t exactly know what page he’s on. There’s a serious lapse in communication here, and it’s the sort of lapse that would make anyone feel a little crazy. Right now your only pieces of information are conflicting reports (from “Marriage has no point!” to “Let’s go to a courthouse!”) and secretive snooping on his private Etsy purchases. This does not bode well.

Often in these situations, there’s this self-imposed pressure to avoid “ruining” the surprise engagement. But you know what I’m going to say, right? The engagement doesn’t have to be a surprise. And the details regarding the next phase of your life should not be a surprise. You may or may not “spoil” a surprise engagement, but you’re for sure ruining a lot of other important things (your nerves, sanity) by waiting around to see if it ever happens.

There’s a chance that you’ll ask to discuss this with him, and he’ll continue to hold fast to his ideas. Second to communication, you know what else is important in a marriage? Compromise. Not just the forced “let’s meet halfway” niceties, but choosing to value the other person’s perspective, and value it enough to try to appease it.

Whether the result of a courthouse wedding or a backyard barbecue, a marriage needs communication and compromise at its core. And you, dear DIS, need a little bit of information and respect. If you’re not getting those things, then you are truly “settling.”

If you would like to ask APW a question, please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! 

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