Save the date ...our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 5, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!
Let's get right down to it: this month we're talking about long engagements. Whether you've had a six-month engagement or two-year engagement I think we can all agree on one thing: the timing of your wedding is extremely personal. And wedding planning can be more complicated than you thought it would be when you first slipped that pretty ring on your fourth finger. It is such a blessed time of continued courtship, planning and excitement. However, engagement is much like a baptism by fire. As a couple, you are melding two families' expectations, traditions and cultures, along with yours and your fiancé's. The emotional and logistical process of two becoming one starts now, long before you both say "I do".
Hunter and I did not plan on having a long engagement. We were 22 when we got engaged and we'll be 26 when we marry. We'll have been together for seven years! This has been a blessing and a struggle. Sometimes it feels as if we already know everything there is to know about the other or we struggle to keep our gaze on our vocation. But I have to say, in these times of confusion, stress or dryness, the Holy Spirit always provides his grace and peace. We have learned how to stay close to the heart of Jesus and allow him to be the source of our relationship.
Below are my top three tips for thriving, not just surviving during engagement. These practices have been a blessing to us over the course of our engagement. Please take them to heart, share your own tips in the comments below, and continue to pray for couples throughout the world.
1. Seek out a Mentor Couple. Because Hunter and I finished the marriage preparation required by our Diocese fairly early on in our engagement, we decided to continue marriage preparation outside of the normal requirements. This spring we asked a beautiful couple, friends of friends, to mentor us throughout our engagement and into the early part of our marriage. This doesn't have to be anything formal or intimidating! Hunter and I have both been intentional about surrounding ourselves with strong, Catholic married couples as models of what we hope for in our own marriage. We meet with our mentor couple every other month. Sometimes they invite us over for dinner, sometimes we go on double dates, and sometimes we just chat over Skype. This past summer we have been reading Amoris Laetitia. During our meetings we'll talk about any points that stood out to us.
Even if you don't feel called to seek out a mentor couple at this time, still make sure to intentionally surround yourself with support during your engagement, especially if it is a longer period. I'll never forget the Mass I attended at in St. Peter's in Rome, wherein a nun and I struck up a conversation before the liturgy began. She told me a vocation is never only for the individual; it truly is for the human family. Your marriage is a gift to your families and to your community, near and far. Continue to build that community during your engagement and be intentional about spending time with the holy couples and friends around you.
2. Continue to Nurture Your Relationship. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that once you're engaged, your discernment journey is over. In my experience, this is far from the truth! As you plan your wedding, continue to foster your relationship. Don't take your future spouse for granted. This might seem like simple advice, but amidst a busy daily life, with wedding planning on top of it, it's easy to forget about date night or prayer time together. Hunter and I actually started an engagement journal a year ago. Using a large Moleskin journal, we trade off each having the book for a certain amount of time. While each of us has the book, we write about what is on our heart, our hopes and dreams for our marriage. This is a way for you to connect on a deeper level and still learn about your fiancé. I love reading Hunter's notes once it's my turn to have the journal!
Prayer is an obvious way to nurture your relationship, but you may experience that praying together while engaged is different from praying together when you were dating. Maybe one of you tends more towards charismatic prayer (myself!) or one of you more towards a monastic style (Hunter!). Be patient with one another and work to incorporate both styles of prayer into your routine. Just as you surround yourself with community, surround your engagement in prayer! The enemy does not wish for your marriage to happen. Period. Your marriage will bring too much life and goodness into the world! Be aware of any spiritual attack. Make sure to pray with and over your beloved as often as possible.
3. Be Patient, Prudent and at Peace. It's a marathon, not a sprint here! When it came down to it, Hunter and I decided to have a longer engagement. After much deliberation, many tears and discussions with our parents, we decided it wasn't prudent to get married before the date that we've set. Now, many might disagree with that decision, and that's okay. I've learned to be patient with others and with ourselves as Hunter and I have prepared for marriage. The Church recommends a six month to a year long engagement, but it is a recommendation. There is no right or wrong answer here. As long as your fiancé and you are intentionally discerning a marriage date and are actively seeking out options, be at peace and know that the Lord is with you.
Throughout our engagement, Hunter has often told me the story of his great-grandparents. His great-grandfather, Umberto Aberelli, was an engineer from Rome and his great-grandmother Angelina was a woman from Napoli. They were a fun-loving couple who were deeply devoted to their Catholic faith. A month after proposing to Angelina, Umberto left for America. For five years he diligently worked to make a life for himself, his wife and their future family. Eventually, Umberto returned to Rome, the couple was married, and they moved to America to begin their lives together. Umberto and Angelina's love and devotion to one another during their time of separation and engagement has given me hope during my own long engagement.
The lesson of the story here is that every engagement looks different. Be prudent when deciding upon engagement and on your wedding date. Marriage is both a spiritual and material vocation. The blending of your lives together takes time, planning and patience. Give each other space to voice your opinions about how to want to plan your lives together, what you would like your married life to logistically look like, and how you can make that happen. You will change and grow during your engagement, and that's okay. Support one another with love and patience while you both experience those changes.
Bonus Tip: Have a friend who just got engaged? My biggest recommendation is to simply offer empathy and a listening ear. Don't add your own expectations or wishes upon the bride's already loaded plate. Offer her your advice when asked, and unreservedly offer your prayers during this time of formation. Whether she has a long or short engagement, support her and her fiancé's decision once they set a date or if they have not been able to set a date, help her to prayerfully discern a decision.
I hope these tips have resonated with you or a loved one. Please feel free to share your own questions or tips in the comments!
Photography by Alicia of Love Knot Photo