- 4 years ago
This is my first post, but I’ve been reading this site for a long time and finally have something that I would like to share with you all.
I have been dating my boyfriend for seven wonderful years, and we’ve been living together for three. We have a healthy, happy, honest relationship filled with laughter, affection and love. We are a family, and operate as such in all areas of our lives: career planning, finance rangling and major life decisions.
What we are not… is engaged.
Like so many of your, my partner and I are financially independent young adults, paying down education loans and trying to build a life for ourselves. Much as our parents did not help us pay for college, nor are they able or willing to help pay for a wedding. Symbolic jewelry and reception costs must, by necessity, fall below debt repayment and relocation expenses on the list of things for which we must pay. It’s not a romantic way to think about things, but it is the reality we live in. Most importantly, if you share my situation, I want to encourage you not to be ashamed of it. There is no right or wrong way to do this. There is only your way.
That said, as may of us in the pre-engaged stage are all too aware, entering into marriage has the potential to be both excessively complicated and expensive. At the outset, you are met with literally thousands of dollars worth of ritualistic expectations. And even if you don’t desire a party that averages $30,000 (or if you convince yourself you can live without it) and choose to have a low-key affair, you are poised to dissapoint the expectations of others. (What do you mean you’re only invitng 25 people? What about X relative or Y church friend?)
To make things worse, it can feel like wedding planning on a tight budget is a cruel exercise in crossing off pieces of your wedding vision, one at a time, until you reach a handful of details you can actually afford.
But want to offer some support and encouragement to all the Bees out there like me, who exist in that nebulous pre-engagement limbo, waiting for the pieces to fall into place. Here is what I say to myself when I find myself green with envy when friends (often after much shorter relationships, and always more well-off then myself, with parents that pay for things) get engaged months, maybe years, before we can even expect to approach wedding expenses:
If life were a race (which it, most decidedly, is not – though I know too well how little that rationalization erases feelings of being left behind in this relationship context), the engagement and wedding are the starting line of a long and happy life together. There is no need to race to the starting line. Some of us left at 5AM for the starting line, skipped all the traffic, and arrived hours before the race is set to begin. Others only found their running shoes at the last second, or got detoured, or in some other way managed to pull up to the starting line a little later on. But in the end, we’ll all reach the finish line (hopefully) after a long marathon of happy companionship with our chosen other half.
I like to imagine what it will be like when all my now-engaged and married friends and I are in our seventies. We have all been happily married to our SOs for a long time, and it doesn’t matter one iota how quickly we got to the starting line. We’re all equal in that moment, and the trivial concerns that are making me dely months and years are just grains of sand in the bottom of the hour glass, signifying nothing.
The truth is that we are all in this life together, walking our own seperate paths, and there isn’t a darn thing that can be done about that. You can’t jump off your path onto another path, as much as you might like to do so. There are things we can control, and things we can’t. I know that I can’t be re-born to richer parents. I know that I can’t undo (nor would I ever want to) having to pay for my own education. What I do know is that I love my friends, and it’s not a contest. Being Pre-Engaged is wonderful and being married will be wonderful.
Trust me. I know these “waiting” emotions aren’t easy. There is jealosy, sadness, anger and doubt. But don’t give in. Know who you are and for what you stand. The race is long, and in the end, it is only against yourself.
So to the newlyweds and the engaged, Mazel Tov! And to the pre-engaged, Mazel Tov! There is much good in this life to celebrate. Let’s try and do it together.