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The Reality of Getting Engaged

In November 2016, my boyfriend of exactly 5 years became my fiance, in a blink of an eye. In just a single moment, we upgraded our relationship to a new and exciting level. In September 2017, we were married.

Our engagement was quick and busy. This is saying the least.

During the first half of our engagement, the two of us were about to graduate from our college programs (his master’s, my bachelor’s), trying to find jobs (the grueling process of researching, applying, and interviewing), and not knowing where we would be living in six months. Once we found out our future city, we also had to navigate a particularly tough rental economy.

Fun fact: I found our place quite luckily on a Facebook ad, and had to make two different trips (3 hours away) to secure it and compete with 30 other people that were interested.

The second part of our engagement involved moving to a new city, starting our careers, and making new connections.

And through all of these trials within our personal lives, we were also planning a wedding. In a different town.

Here’s the reality of getting engaged: it can be a little tough.

Check Yo’ Ego

While this might be one gigantic not-so-humble brag on my end, I want to also use my apparent super powers for good. I want to let future brides in on some much-needed Intel: embrace the engagement period, because there’s nothing like it.

Engagements are a beautiful season of life that are unlike any other: you are treated like romantic royalty. When you tell people that you are engaged, they get excited for you. They are kind to you. Their faces light up and they are willing to listen to your sappy proposal story and details of your relationship and the emotions you’re feeling. Hell, they will encourage it.

Even better, you get to experience a special season with your partner. You and your fiance will make large decisions, prepare for life-changes, and (hopefully) connect on new levels that you hadn’t previously. It’s exciting—the subtle change before the big one.


And this magic of engagement is brought down to realistic levels by the hard work of wedding planning. Even if you want to have a simple, low-key wedding, there will be stress. There will be disagreements. And there will probably be times you want to call up your parents and ask why you haven’t inherited millions of dollars, because you could at least use an extra thousand.

It’s Kinda Hard, Okay?

Wedding planning is hard. That’s the reality of getting engaged: it just is, at least to some degree. And that is also part of what makes the ceremony and reception so rewarding—you built it, created something beautiful from nothing, and now get to send you and your partner off into a fulfilling marriage with a memorable day.

It can get tough, and a little messy. Event coordination often gets that way, and the pressure seems to double when you are so personally invested.

Here were the biggest toughies for us:

  1. Being in college
  2. Having a tight budget
  3. Not living in our wedding town, or even close

Let Me Break It Down

Being in college. I would joke that there’s a reason people say not to plan a wedding while in college. Even though I only had one semester left, that part was super hard. Every time I needed to do things for school, I would want to focus on the wedding. There were times that I divided my attention, and my work, on both ends, suffered. I had to make big decisions—on venues, food, payments, my dress—with other things clouding my mind—essays, tests, reading assignments, grades, loans—and it got hairy trying to divide my time.

And Chad was in school too; this made coordination super hard, just based on schedules alone. “Hey, can we talk about our color scheme?” “Shoot, I have to study for this test before I go TA, sorry!” And repeat. Again and again.

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Freshly graduated from college!

Juggling college and wedding planning was possible, but I really wouldn’t recommend it.

Having a tight budget. This one gets me fired up. I always see BS tweets about “when I get married, we’re going to have a low-key celebration and spend all our money on the honeymoon, because spending time together is really the only thing that matters.”

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This is just unrealistic. Even if you have a small and low-key gathering, you still need to rent out a space to put people, and food to feed them. You want music? Not all places allow you to plug in an aux cord, or even have a sound system on-site. Photography? Yes, you have to invest.

Here’s my point: wedding planning with a small budget is really hard. Chad and I, with the help of my parents, planned an incredible wedding for close to $10,000, and that was with plenty of DIY, doing almost everything ourselves, and keeping things pretty small and intimate. But the venue (Colorado, outdoors, in a resort town?!), food, and brilliant photographer brought us to half of our budget. Things like music, our day-of coordinator (a must), booze, and our attire brought us up to the edge. And when you do DIY decorations, the supplies also cost money.

In some places, the deposit alone for a venue was $20,000. Just know that going in. You can do your best and be crafty and amazing, but it will still cost some cash. And that’s alright, as long as it’s what you and your partner want.

Not living in the same town. People plan destination weddings all the time. In our case, it was our hometown, a few hours away.

The hardest parts were big decisions, where we couldn’t meet with people or take site visits. We had to book our caterer first, and have our tasting second. Our venue was booked based off of memory and their website, since we couldn’t drive down and take a tour ourselves. We also couldn’t set up early, and had to cram a lot of prep into the week-of, since a lot of things couldn’t travel easily. (Think decorations, gift bags, edible favors, etc.)

People go through this all the time when they plan destination weddings in other places. It was an interesting feeling since it was in our hometown and not on a beach, but there were the same kinds of trials and headaches.

Worth It? BET

Sure, the reality of getting engaged was that things were not always going to be clear-cut and easy. There were legitimate challenges and road bumps along the way—character building, as my dad likes to say.

For Chad and I, though, the stress of our personal lives and our future nuptials was 100% worth it. Some days and decisions were harder than others, but we were able to have a celebration that was all smiles; our ceremony was beautiful and thoughtful, and our reception was full of delicious food, dancing, and speeches that left their marks. Our friends and family had fun. And most importantly, so did we.

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Photo: Amanda Matilda Photography
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18 thoughts on “The Reality of Getting Engaged

    1. Wow, that’s great feedback! I think that there’s a big myth out there that engagement and sometimes marriage is easy as long as you’re in love, but that’s not really how it works on any level. Things definitely come up, with challenges that you don’t necessarily read about on Pinterest boards. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

    1. Thanks! I think sometimes it’s good to spread a few bits of honesty; that you can be super in love and happy and still face some struggles along the way that feel like uphill battles. And sometimes it’s easy peasy instead. Thank you so much for reading!

    1. I think I’ll have to go through all of my notes and revisit all of the resources I used and compile a new post! Stay tuned, I think there are several tips for keeping on track. Thanks for reading!

  1. I found this post very interesting because you’re sharing the reality and the truth of many behind the scene weddings and engagement periods. I’m not engaged myself but it’s interesting to read about an experience that I can reflect back on if I ever get engaged (lol).

    I am definitely someone that says “I just want a low-key wedding and spend all my money on the honeymoon”, haha.

    1. I think that being engaged is so fun and amazing! But there were definitely things that I didn’t expect; people don’t necessarily talk about all parts of it. Like I also thought the same thing! And our wedding was pretty low key, but we spent way more money than I thought was possible for something so budget-friendly. Thank you for reading!

  2. It is always interesting to see how relationships work with other people. Oooh, there was a lot of planning involved, but it is a teamwork effort. Even though you had some challenges, you both conquered them! I can’t imagine the cost associated with the wedding and living together. I am excited for the bright future ahead of you :).

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

  3. This is so interesting to read. My boyfriend and I have spoken about marriage, but the cost is just outrageous. It’s ridiculous. Even if you try to budget. Thanks for sharing your experience! X

    1. Yes, it really can be a major expense. And my now-husband and I had similar talks; we wanted to get married for a long time before we got engaged. Since we were pretty young, we waited several years before we could even seriously talk about spending money on a wedding. I know a lot of people who just get married at the court house, and then save up so that they can have a big party later. To each their own! Thank you for reading! xx

  4. I have been married for 12 years now and I still remeber our engagement period (short as it was – 4 months) as one filled with joy and fun. I am a project oriented person so I loved the whole planning of the wedding process, but it can get stressful, it’s such an important reminder you give – enjoy this time because it’s really special.

    1. Man, I thought our engagement was short! I’m similarly very task and project-minded, so I know exactly what you mean; there’s no satisfaction quite like crossing something off that to do list! Thank you very much for reading.

  5. Congratulations! I have to say you had a very different experience of engagement from me. I hated the way our relationship seemed arbitrarily upgraded, and I hated the way our relationship suddenly seemed like public property. I struggled a lot to get into the swing of it.

    It seems no wedding planning is free from outside stress either! My husband submitted his PhD thesis in the month before the wedding, and we had to move house two weeks before. And we didn’t live in the same town as we were marrying in either! Although nowhere near as far as you, which is good because I had to drive back and get something the night before haha!

    It looks like you had a beautiful day.

    1. I appreciate that perspective; I think I embraced the extra attention as a type of external validation—something I felt like we had lacked in our relationship previously because we were so young when we got together. Not the best reason to embrace it, but that was likely a factor.

      There were parts of the engagement, though, that I struggled with as a feminist. Lots of comments and questions and calls to tradition that seemed outdated and patriarchal.

      And so true! I’m glad you guys made it through all the stress. I cannot imagine a full move so close to the wedding date, or having such a massive and important deadline! I’m sure the wedding felt like a huge celebration, though.

      Thank you for reading!

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