At the time of writing this, my fiancée and I have been engaged for seven months, and it is a week away from our wedding day. By many standards, our engagement is very short. According to a survey on The Knot in 2015, the average reported engagement length is 14.5 months.
It is safe to say the window we had to plan our wedding was significantly less than it is for many other couples. In proper Millennial form, we turned to Google for wedding planning tips and checklists. Unfortunately, in scouring the Internet, I quickly found there are not many articles for grooms.
What’s a groom to do while preparing for marriage in this overwhelming era of Pinterest and Etsy? Here are my seven takeaways from the past seven months.
1. Remember you are a team.
In many ways, the wedding day is about your beautiful bride, but it is also about the beginning of your lives together as husband and wife.
Tradition might seem to suggest it is the bride’s role to plan the big day, while it is your job to plan the honeymoon. My fiancée has certainly taken the lead on many elements of the reception and ceremony, but it is important to play an active role in the process and to share your opinions, too.
One aspect of the day that is important to me is the transportation between the Mass and the reception. Though it may be a superfluous expense, I took the lead on securing a limo bus to transport us from the church to our photo location to the reception venue. In my experience as a groomsman, that brief celebration with only the bridal party and bride and groom produce some of the most unforgettable memories of the weekend, and I wanted to ensure we will have time to enjoy the beginning of our marriage with some of our closest family and friends before arriving at the reception.
Marriage is about teamwork and being there for one another through life's trials and triumphs. In the years ahead, we are sure to encounter a lot more significant ups and downs than we have during wedding planning, so it is important to work together from day one.
2. Do not let the industry overwhelm you.
When I got down on one knee, I am not sure I truly imagined just how many decisions my fiancée and I would soon be making. As in many cases, the Internet can be a lifesaver or one of your worst enemies.
To put it bluntly, the wedding industry makes planning much more complicated than it needs to be. In the midst of the online scavenger hunt for the ultimate wedding planning guide, it can be easy to get caught up in the minutiae of each decision.
On some checklists, for example, the process of selecting a wedding cake is broken into four or five steps. I suggest you just ask yourself, "Does this taste delicious?" If the answer is yes, I think you have found yourself a cake! Perhaps, it is not that simple, but things can be much easier than some online lists would lead to believe.
3. Do not lose sight of preparing for the marriage while planning for the party.
When selecting bar packages and deciding on a dinner menu, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that the wedding day is not about the big party, but about the love you share and the lifelong commitment to one another.
Early in our relationship, my fiancée and I attended a diocesan young adult retreat. Ever the night owl, she signed us up for the 3 a.m. adoration slot. I will always remember that time together in peaceful, quiet prayer.
A few months ago, a friend reminded me that marriage is the only sacrament that is not administered by a priest, but rather by the couple themselves. Make it a point to thoughtfully select your readings and choose your wedding hymns together. Keep your faith at the center of your relationship, and all will be well.
4. Have a weekly date night.
Save for these past few weeks in the homestretch of wedding planning, we have tried to make Thursday a date night as much as possible.
Whether it is going out, cooking dinner together, or just watching a movie, it is important to not let the wedding become your whole life. Perhaps this goes without saying, but be sure to take some time to do other activities, make memories, and have conversations that will help you continue to grow in your relationship together outside of wedding planning.
More consistently than our Thursday evenings, we have met for a mini 30-minute coffee date nearly every Monday morning before work. It is a great way to start the week and a more manageable time commitment if a whole evening is too difficult during the busyness of planning.
5. Keep it in perspective.
Think back to the weddings you have attended as a guest. There is a good chance the centerpieces, wedding favors, and even the food all blend together.
At the end of the day, most of us remember if we were surrounded by good people, witnessed the beginning of a wonderful marriage, and had an enjoyable evening.
Whether it be the playlist, the dessert table, or the Mass readings, focus on the two or three things that are most meaningful to you and your fiancée. And we put our full trust in Google Sheets to help us stay on top of the moving pieces of planning a wedding.
6. Make it fun.
One of my favorite parts of our planning process was the seating chart. We put on some music, chose an empty wall in my fiancée’s apartment, and with the guest list, a pen, some sticky notes, and paper plates, we went to work.
She wrote each guest’s name on a sticky note, and we placed them on the wall. Then, we grabbed a paper plate and began plotting out each table, pretending the living room floor was the reception hall.
In some instances, the math was easy — four couples makes a table of eight. Perfect. For others, it felt like we were trying to solve a tricky algebra problem in order to make the numbers work. In those cases, it was especially exciting to imagine some of my friends and some of my fiancée’s friends from different times in our lives getting to know one another.
7. Make it you.
When it comes to the reception, the world is your oyster. If you want to have a giant donut wall, have a giant donut wall. If you want to serve tacos and margaritas, just make sure you remember the guacamole. The possibilities are endless.
One of our favorite activities to do together is go to concerts, so naturally, we spent a lot of time (probably too much time) selecting the music we would like our DJ to play at our reception. Our venue has a huge dance floor, and we are eager to see our friends and family singing, dancing, and celebrating together.
My fiancée is from a big, Irish family that is musical. Her brother will perform a couple of songs on his guitar, and she and her sisters may even break out a traditional Irish dance during the reception.
You cannot prepare yourself for everything, and undoubtedly there will be a surprise or two on the big day. These past seven months have flown by, and it is hard to believe the first day of our lives together as husband and wife is almost here.
Whether you are revisiting your budget or meticulously looking over your to-do list, the stress is sure to come at some point. No matter how well you prepare or how much you try to simplify the process, the last couple weeks are sure to feel like a sprint to the finish line. From everything I have been told, the wedding day will be over in the blink of an eye.
There are lots of decisions to make and many expenses to incur, but preparing for one of the most meaningful days of your life should also be one of the most memorable and fun times of your life. Following these tips have helped me make the most of our engagement — without getting overwhelmed by planning and details.
You’ll only be engaged once. Take a deep breath, and savor these moments.