Engagement has been the happiest time of my life thus far. Well, I wish I could tell you this statement was 100% true. But in reality, its not. Turns out, engagement is hard. Happy, but hard.
I somehow got myself into thinking discernment was something that was primarily done before engagement. While objectively I knew this wasn't true, I must have let my mind wander into this trap over the past year. I thought once my fiance and I were engaged, the biggest decision would have been made, and all other decisions afterward would seem rather small and straightforward. I kept myself focused on the path that led to us discovering God's call and eventually deciding to get married, but didn't see too far past that in terms of the decision-making that would occur between saying "Yes" and saying "I Do".
My Pinterest account might make you think otherwise, though. According to my boards, my reception decorations, Scripture readings, floral arrangements, and just about everything else have already been decided upon. You'd think wedding planning would be a breeze to me; that I'd be able to easily work my way through my to-do list without much stress or weighing of options.
Well, let me tell you: the years I spent pinning wedding ideas did not help prepare me for the real-life decisions I'm having to make now. In fact, most of what I've pinned over the years isn't what my fiance and I have actually been choosing for our wedding. So the countless hours I spent looking at wedding goodies was not only a waste of my time, but was also quite unhealthy for my heart.
I discovered pretty early on in our dating relationship that spending so much time on Pinterest was making it hard for me to be present in and attentive to our relationship in the here and now. I was always five steps ahead, dreaming of a wedding and marriage that was more of a reality in my heart than it could be in my life at the time. But now I'm realizing that it also tricked me into thinking that decisions made during my engagement would somehow be as easy as choosing between a peony and a garden rose. The years I spent on Pinterest led me to believe that the biggest choices I'd be making revolved only around decor and food options.
I've learned, during the three months I have now been engaged, that the decisions my fiance and I face now require almost as much discernment as our initial choice to pursue marriage did:
I don't think either one of us really anticipated how difficult setting a date would be.
Turns out it's not as easy as picking a Saturday during our favorite month, or the Saturday that our dating anniversary just happens to fall on this year (embarrassing side note: I registered for the Knot's wedding website 4 years ago, set our wedding date as October 30, 2016, and I then had to make a new account for the Knot now that I'm actually getting married because I forgot the original password). As we've tried to figure out a date, we've had to think hard about where both of us will be career-wise a year from now, where we will be living during this upcoming year, how far apart from one another we'll be, when marriage preparation courses are being offered, and how fruitful we want our engagement period to be, among other things.
We've also had to strongly discern where the best place is to get married.
We both live and work in Washington, D.C., and in the years leading up to this day I always thought we'd either get married in D.C. or back in our home state. Simple, right? In fact, that decision involves much more than choosing our favorite scenery. It actually involves, again, what is best for our living arrangements and careers a year from now; it involves comparing prices between locations and figuring out what we have a budget for.
And it involves the family and friends whom we want there on our wedding day.
Another reason why it's unhealthy to start wedding planning so early in a relationship: you don't actually have a guest list. The guest list we drafted a few days ago is not at all like the one I would have imagined three years ago. And I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. We have so many amazing family and friends whom we want surrounding us on our wedding day, and that has become a big factor in our location choice.
We are not the sole decision makers here.
I think I was previously deceived into thinking we would sit down with a question (What flowers do we want? Which venue should we choose?), we'd talk through it, and come out with an answer. In reality, it's not that easy, because guess what? There are so many other people involved. Just last week we discussed flowers and decided on some, and then I went to a florist. They told me that our choices won't be in peak season when we're aiming to get married, and they don't carry them anyway. Well then. We are learning, slowly and frustratingly, that the decisions we are currently faced with to eventually make it to the wedding day involve more people than just the two of us. Moreover, we're learning that planning a wedding takes a lot of Christian charity, both for our sake and for the sake of those we're working with.
Engagement has tested us in ways I didn't expect, yet it has also presented us with opportunities for growth that I could have never imagined. It has revealed to us that discernment is not a decision-making tool that we have somehow grown out of now that we know our vocation. Rather, discernment is something we must practice every single day, both as we prepare for marriage and every day after that.
We must constantly listen to God's call in our lives, take our decisions to prayer, and try to work towards the common good. I didn't expect to be praying about floral arrangements, and yet, here I am, praying about whether or not spending so much money on my dream bouquet is the right thing to do. Here I am praying for vendors to email me back. Here I am praying for low prices on catering. Marriage preparation and wedding planning cannot be done without prayer. Realizing the necessity of this made my heart feel like it hit a brick wall, but hey, I'm glad it happened so early on. Because now I have so much more time and more decisions that lie ahead of me, and way more room for God's grace to flow into them.
About the Author: Brooke Paris is marrying her high school sweetheart on June 30, 2017. They both credit Mama Mary and Saint Pope John Paul II for leading them to their vocation. Brooke is currently a graduate student and working graduate fellow at The Catholic University of America. She loves Theology of the Body, Southern cities and food, and wineries and rooftop bars.