“A thousand times, yes.” These four words whispered by my fiancée during a cold and gray day in November set off a whirlwind of activity and emotion that I could never have prepared for in my entire life. The decision to ask Jenn to marry me was not a clear and neat “yellow brick road” that I could easily follow. It was more like a jungle that I had to hack my way through with a machete while being attacked by my faults and haunted by my less-than-clean past. But these difficulties did not prevent me from proposing to Jenn. Instead, Jenn and I face my fears and failures together and decide what to do about them.
The trouble is, we have been engaged for three and a half months now and I have found that it’s easy to trick myself into thinking that I’m out of the woods. You see, when we got engaged, the focus on marriage got lost in all of the wedding planning. There is so much cake-talk, reception-talk, and wedding-talk that there is barely any room left for marriage-talk. And without the more challenging marriage talk, the jungle magically disappears and I find myself on a clear and easy path that leads right to an altar and then to a sunshiney, rainbow-ey sort of paradise for ever and ever. This is what happens with wedding planning.
A wedding and a marriage are two different things. As Jenn told me once, “A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime. We should be striving to not just plan a wedding, but to plan a marriage.” We are trying to be conscious of the marriage-planning piece, but I admit that I love the attention. I love basking in the congratulations, the “when is the big day?” question, the daydreaming about the cake, the reception, the dancing, the friends and family, and all of those other things that are so much fun to think about. Plus, there is the excitement of soon no longer needing to drive a long, long way to see Jenn.
Sure the details of wedding planning are necessary, and it is good for us to take joy in it, but every now and again we have to take a step back and ask ourselves if what we are currently stressed about is worth the trouble. For instance, one night we found ourselves agonizing over whether or not we should have a ring bearer and flower girl in our wedding. It took a while for us to snap out of it and realize that while the idea of a ring bearer and flower girl is cute, the concept is certainly not worth the stress it was giving us!
Getting so wrapped up in these meaningless details reminds me that the jungle is still there. It will be there after the wedding day, after the honeymoon, and for the rest of our lives. That is why we are taking active steps to prepare for marriage, and not just the wedding day.
Some concrete steps we have taken to prepare for marriage are to have the tough conversations earlier, rather than later. We ask one another practical questions such as:
- How you handle money?
- How many children would you like to have?
- What household duties do you like/dislike?
We also delve into more personal questions:
- What was your family life like?
- How does this influence how you will care for and discipline children?
- Are there past mistakes that are relevant to our relationship and may affect us now and in the future?
All of these things help prepare us for life after the wedding.
The warm wishes of friends and family will fade after the wedding day. Their support will remain, but life will move on. Jenn and I will come to understand why some married couples can’t seem to stand each other sometimes, why divorces happen, why arguments occur, and why love seems to wither. But my hope is that by preparing for those inevitable moments of dryness and conflict now, our love will be able to grow and prosper despite difficulty. After all, the wedding is a day. Marriage is for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
Editor’s note: Check out what Philip’s fiancée, Jenn, has to say about preparing for marriage in this post.