The engagement period is exciting for a young couple. It should be. After dating and falling in love, the couple is now seriously envisioning a future together and are making concrete plans for it. The engagement period signals to the world that this couple is committed to a lifetime together.
There is an element of ecstacy during the engagement as the man and woman draws even closer together. Intimacy develops naturally and deeply as the couple continues to learn about each other, talk about their love, plan the big day, and dream about their future. The world seems like a wonderful place when you are engaged to the person of your dreams and are about to take that joyful step into committed and intimate connection.
There are a few things couples can keep in mind during the engagement to make this transition period to the wedding be meaningful and bonding. One, be aware that while the engagement period is exciting, it can also be a time of stress, especially for the bride, as she plans the wedding. Guys usually get out easy on this, much of our contribution being, "Yup, oh yeah, that’s nice, sure, whatever you say."
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But as most of us know, men are not as concerned about matching plates and linens, dresses and suits, and the host of other details that are planned for the wedding during the engagement. But, guys should be aware that it is important for the bride, so we shouldn’t discourage her attempts to make the wedding as nice as it can be. This is a time for us to participate in something meaningful with our future bride.
For me, this participation was shopping with Cheryl for the cake knife. I didn’t know people shopped for cake knives! The first store we went to had a nice knife and Cheryl said, "I like this one." I said, "Good, let’s get it." She said, "No, we have to go look at some other stores first." So we did. Several stores. And I don’t remember for sure, but I’m certain that while we were there we also looked at other things as well. Then Cheryl said, "Ok, let’s go back and get the knife"
"Which one?" I asked.
"The knife at the first store."
"Why didn’t we just get it when we were there the first time? We did all this other shopping for nothing," I said.
"No," Cheryl corrected me, "We had to go to all the other stores to make sure the first one is really the one we wanted."
"Well, I was sure."
"Maybe so, but I wasn’t."
Boy, I had a lot to learn. One of the things I had to learn was that marriage is sharing of hearts and activities. It is a participation in the life of the other person, even shopping for knives. The engagement is a good time to learn that.
Planning Your Future
Secondly, the engagement is a time to seriously plan your future together. There are several very important things to discuss. Having kids, for example. You might want to have five but your finance only one, or even none. That is a good thing to find out and discuss now! I wanted four kids and Cheryl wanted two. We discussed that during our engagement and settled on three (and then I wish I had said six). We began having our children at the same time some of our friends did. In one family, the wife wanted two or more kids but the husband only one. She expressed her frustration with us and asked what we were going to do. I said we talked about that before we married and plan on having two more. "You talked about that before you were married?" she asked, incredulously.
Related to having kids is having some serious discussion about raising the kids. What are your styles of discipline? Will you warn a child once if he misbehaves and then administer some form of correction, or will you warn him numerous times? Will one of you stay home to raise the children, or will you seek daycare? These are things to know before the children begin to arrive, and the engagement period is the optimum time.
Other issues to discuss are relationships with in-laws, relationships with friends (be aware that your fiancé may not share your warm feelings toward your life-long best friend) and where/how to spend the holidays. You may not know at this point how you will handle some of the issues or situations, but at least you have eliminated some painful surprises later on.
Thirdly, during the engagement you are committed to getting married, but you still are not married. This has important spiritual and moral implications. Because they are going to get married, it is so easy for engaged couples to begin acting as if they are married. And in some things, that is good and shows wise planning. Making joint purchases of furniture, getting the paper work to change the wife’s last name, making arrangements with banks about joint accounts and other details is good.
In other ways, though, acting as if you are married before you actually are can be a problem. During the dating years showing affection is exhilarating, even when shown with great restraint. It is a taste of what the full measure of romantic involvement will be like the night of the "I do" and of the days to follow. That anticipation can be difficult to contain during the months leading to the wedding. "Since we are going to get married anyway, can’t we go a little farther than we normally do in showing affection?" is a normal question for engaged couples. Emotional, psychological and even spiritual restraints can melt away in the warm embrace of the one you are going to marry in only 37 more days. But those 37 days can seem like 37 years at that moment.
Sadly, I’ve seen a few young couples reason, "We are going to get married soon anyway," and engage in levels of sexual behavior they previously resisted. In some cases, and for a variety of reasons, they didn’t follow through with the wedding plans. Now, here is a young man and young woman who had saved themselves for 22 years wracked with regret because they didn’t wait a little longer.
I encourage engaged couples to continue to exercise the same discipline during the engagement that they did during their dating years. Becoming sexual involved now just complicates the relationship, creates feelings of guilt and regret, and robs the wedding night of much of its allure. Wait.
The engagement period is an exciting time. But, it is also a time for some important relationship and character issues to develop and grow. It is a time for wholesome participation in the other’s life, for planning life issues, and for exercising a rugged discipline of the mind and body to keep the relationship pure. Hebrews 13:4 is as appropriate for the engagement as it was for the time of dating: "Keep the marriage bed pure." To help encourage this purity, I encourage young couples to have a lengthy dating period, but a very short engagement.
My hope for the couples who read this is that your engagement will be fun, joyous, pure, and an exciting taste of what your years together will be like as marriage partners. God bless.
Note: This article appeard in three segements on my other blog, Family Fountain. I am reposting it here in one article for ease of coping or sending. Feel free to share this article with anyone.
Also, a special thanks to Amy Free Photography for permission to use these pictures.