Mar 17, 2016

7 Things To Focus On Besides Wedding Planning During Your Engagement


I am going to take a little break today from sharing wedding Q &A and instead make this post a bit more personal. It has been wonderful to share the wisdom and experiences of different married bloggers who have been answering questions from engaged gals here on the blog, but the past few days I have been wanting to share some of my own thoughts on how the engagement season went for my husband and I and some recommendations I wanted to pass along to engaged gals.

Here are  7 things that worked for us  to focus on during our engagement and that I recommend to other engaged couples. I am well aware that these tips may not work for everyone or maybe need to be tweaked, which is totally fine. But I just wanted to offer a bit of encouragement during the exciting-yet-chaotic engagement  season and a reminder that there is much more to the engagement season than just wedding planning. With intention and purpose, brides can make this a season of joy, excitement, and plenty of fun times with loved ones as well as with the mister you'll soon tie the knot with!

1. Get premarital counseling. 
This was such a blessing for Greg and I! We were long distance during dating and engagement  (I in Oregon and he in Texas), but we were able to do our premarital counseling during my visits to Texas while we were engaged. We had two pastors who officiated our wedding and it was the Texas pastor who did our counseling. We discussed a variety of topics during the sessions, including finances and budgeting as newlyweds, having realistic expectations of marriage and each other,  resolving conflict in healthy ways, and during our last meeting, Greg met with Pastor Michael alone and I was with his sweet wife as we discussed sexual intimacy and any questions we had about that. Greg and I both appreciated the wisdom Pastor Michael offered us and that we left with some worksheets and articles that helped remind us about what we discussed.  I especially loved our conversation about conflict resolution and still use a lot of the things we discussed to help me through our harder conversations. I want to share more about this (along with quotes from other married women who recommend premarital counseling too) in a future post, but for now, I want to say that premarital counseling is a great idea for any couple, no matter how long you've been dating or if you feel you know everything about your soon-to-be-spouse. It helps to have someone looking into the relationship and asking hard but healthy questions, offering encouragement and Biblically-sound advice and teaching, and having our pastor cheering us on. We felt supported and respected through the premarital counseling sessions and are so thankful for our premarital counseling experience!
Pastor Michael and his beautiful wife
2. Stay in touch with friends, regardless if they are single, dating, or married. 
It can be easy to get so carried away with wedding planning that its all you talk about and all you spend your time on. But check yourself and make sure you are still investing time in the friendships you had before you became engaged. These are your girls who have been there for you, who know the inside jokes that can make you laugh until you cry (which comes really handy when you feel like crying from stressful wedding planning), and who are excited for this season in your life. Be careful not to dominate the conversations with wedding talk -- they love you, but they don't want to hear every small details (like the napkin colors!). These are the girls that get you and that can keep you grounded. Yes, your friendships may look different now that you are engaged and likely will change even more once you are married, BUT that does not mean these friendships should be any less precious during this season. Reach out to the gals who have stuck by your side, ask them how they're doing, and keep an open heart and mind to learn from them. I was really blessed to have friends who made time in their busy schedules to hang out with me before I got married. I knew I would be moving from Oregon to Texas and wanted to hang out with some of my gals before I moved, so I felt so honored and cherished that I got to see a majority of my PNW friends while I was engaged and spent time reminiscing on fun times together.

Sweet friends from all over the PNW


3. Take selah moments.
Selah is a word used in Psalms that reflects a pause in Hebrew music and poetry for reflection and praising God. Selah was my 'word of 2015' and boy, did I not realize back at the beginning of that year how important this word would be in maintaining my sanity! It helped so much to focus on selah during our engagement season. We had a mile-long list of things to decide, deposits to write checks for, and meetings to plan, just like any engaged couple, except while being 2,000 miles apart from one another. So it was easy to get stressed and consumed with all the details. I tried to be extra intentional about allowing time to selah, to pause and praise. Journaling helped me with this. I started a journal for Greg a month after meeting him and wrote in it during our dating months. Once engaged, I wrote in it more consistently and would light a sweet-smelling candle, put some calming classical music, and allow that time to be a time of rest. I journaled different things I was thankful to God for doing in Greg and my relationship. I journaled prayers to God for Greg and my future wedding and marriage. I journaled ways that I saw God working in us and things I was excited for. I also tried to clear my head during jogs or walks where I was praying or just thinking about anything except wedding planning. And other times, I just would mentally try to stop myself and soak in the moment. "I am really engaged! I am getting married soon!" It may seem silly to say these things to myself, but while running around getting all the wedding stuff done, sometimes I would lose focus on the here and now. Selah helps the joys of the current season soak in. Selah helps me realize what is important and helps keep me grounded. Selah  redirected my gaze from all that I had not done yet (the to-do lists and meetings) and planted the gaze on Jesus and His blessings over my life. Find ways to selah in different seasons, but I would highly recommend it during your engagement season. It may look like getting a  massage once a month and refusing to think about wedding to-do lists, writing poetry or music, journaling, taking a walk or going on a hike, praying through a list of things you are thankful for. The possibilities are endless and you'll feel refreshed after every time you take a pause to praise.

And, since this became a habit during the engagement season, we made selah moments part of our wedding day as well! We found a few moments while being driven to our wedding venue, between the ceremony and reception, and while we were eating our dinner during the reception to pause and say, "we are really married! This is really happening!!". Let the joy of the moment soak it, girls! These little moments of pausing are still such precious memories from our wedding day!


4. Meet with wise older, married women.
I am blessed to have a few older, married women in my life who are wise and care for me. They've seen me single, dating, engaged, and now married. They have invested time in my life my encouraging me, praying for me, offering their advice when I feel stuck, supporting Greg and I. Some days we would talk about anything that came to mind over  coffee or lunch and other times I had specific questions or topics to discuss. They are women who love Jesus and love people so well, and so I always felt comfortable to share my heart with them. Do you have anyone in your life who you can meet with? Sometimes it can be helpful to have a few questions to ask. Whether they're in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond doesn't really matter. What matters is if you see wisdom in their lives and if you feel you can open up and learn from their encouragement, experiences, and godly counsel.
Three women who have blessed my life so much!

5. Read a marriage book together with your fiancé.
Yes, life is super busy, but reading a marriage book can be an excellent way to discuss issues that maybe would not come up otherwise. And you don't have to finish the book by the wedding day. Even if you only get through a few chapters and continue reading once you are married, it can help to focus on building a strong marriage rather than only focusing on planning a beautiful wedding. The life-long marriage deserves more attention than the wedding day, but often times we as brides can forget that and get sucked in the all-consuming vortex of planning a wedding as if our whole life depended on that one day. The day will end sooner than you want and then you'll enter in marriage with your best friend. Make sure to invest time in preparing your heart and mind for marriage, ask each other questions while reading or discussing marriage topics, dream together about what you want your marriage to look like.

A few wedding books we have read from our engagement season until now (5 months into marriage) and wholeheartedly recommend:

6. Have No-Wedding-Talk Dates
Seriously, I know this is a hard one, but so crucial! Designate time to talk about what's going on in your lives other than the laundry list of wedding planning items. Do fun stuff together that you enjoyed while dating, talk about where you'd like to be together as a married couple in 5 years, laugh about goofy things, and enjoy the things that brought you two together in the first place. Wedding planning can be stressful and can leave a strain on even the strongest relationships. You're dealing with people's opinion's, budgeting for your dream wedding, and sometimes incompetent vendors or issues that come up. It is tempting to talk about the wedding during a date as if its a business meeting, but try your hardest to designate time to keep all that wedding stuff out of the date. This was important to us since we were engaged while being long-distance, so we'd have FaceTime chats that we limited super important wedding decisions to 5-10minutes at the start of the date, then eliminated any more wedding talk. We'd laugh, reminisce, and get excited about the days to come when long-distance would be long-gone. 


7. Write to your fiancé.
I mentioned this a bit while talking about taking selah moments, but want to dive in a bit deeper. Greg felt so loved and cherished when I gave him his two journals I had written to him. The first was a journal I started eight years before I even met him. I wrote to my future husband about things I was learning and dealing with, exciting new adventures, prayers for our future marriage and his character and love. I treasured that journal and gave it to him after he proposed. While we were dating, I started a different journal that had his name on every page. Again, I wrote prayers for him but I also made lists of things I loved about him, wrote down date ideas for us, jotted down special songs that reminded me of him, transcribed sweet texts he had sent to me that I wanted to remember. While engaged, I would write about how excited I was to marry him. On our wedding day, I gave him that journal. Both journals were so special to me because so much emotion went into writing each one. Whether writing letters, a fill journal, a poem, a song, or drawing a picture, I think any groom would be beyond excited to get something personal and heartfelt on the wedding day that you've been working on for him. Something that says, "I have been thinking about you throughout this crazy busy season". It'll give your mind some rest and selah but will also bless your guy so much! 

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I hope these recommendations don't feel like extra things to add to your already busy list, but rather, a breath of fresh air and a reminder of ways to make your engagement season focused on more than just wedding planning (which, yes, is important, but is not everything!). 

I would love to hear your thoughts and anything that has helped you gals in your engagement season, both those who are currently engaged and those who are married!


(all photos by Vio Regus Photography)


2 comments:

  1. How beautiful! I'm not married (or even engaged) yet, but I'll be sure to remember these!

    ReplyDelete

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Elle Alice