Wedding World 001: Engaged... Now What?
I cannot wait to share this phase of my life with you. There's something magical about mid-adulthood that lends itself to so many transitions and exciting life stages. So far, one of my favorites has been becoming a fiancée.
We got engaged on June 4, 2017 and since then have gone through the many stages of calling family and friends excitedly, correcting each other when we said "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", staring dotingly at my ring finger after taking several ring-selfies (maybe this one doesn't pertain to him), returning from the first ring cleaning, and overall being excited about the potential for a wonderful future together. It's an invigorating feeling to have all of our hopes and dreams right at our fingertips and begin planning a life we want to live together. I'm thoroughly enjoying the "engaged" phase.
But with that, comes a wedding planning phase.
To be honest, this was not something I was looking forward to. While I've sleepily pinned wedding images on Pinterest as I lay on the couch watching HGTV for years, it was never because I was actually planning a wedding for myself. I usually just liked the pretty dresses and beautiful hairstyles.
The reality and weight of this came crushing down pretty hard a few hours after we were engaged. Boy did I have excited family and friends; I am so blessed to have such a big support system. But as any engaged couple knows, with the "congratulations!" and squeals of excitement from doting friends and family comes the almost immediate "so... when's the wedding?!"
My internal thoughts began racing: Couldn't we just enjoy being engaged? It's literally been an hour... Why rush to the next part so soon? Is it because people (sometimes incorrectly) assume that most brides want to immediately start planning for, what society tells us, is the biggest day of our whole lives? Cue 2001's The Wedding Planner; I'm side-eyeing you Jennifer Lopez.
Don't get me wrong, it's not that I wasn't looking forward to the wedding part.
But it was like I had this sense of stubborn rebellion in response to the excitement and anticipation of wedding planning, which occurred so soon after one of our best and newly-made memories. I couldn't put my finger on why I was feeling so defiant. Maybe it's because I've begun to embrace more presence and mindfulness in my life. Or maybe it's because I subconsciously want to challenge all assumptions placed on me and jump into "defense" mode, especially when it comes to gender expcetations. "Quick-to-anger" is not something I proudly put on my resume. I'm still sorting this out.
Needless to say, it took us (me) six months before we were ready to start planning and talking logistics.
ENGAGED... NOW WHAT?
Oh my gosh, if there is one thing that can put any slightly anxious yet well-organized person into a nail-biting standstill it's figuring out what to do immediately after you get engaged. Like seriously... What do you do?
Flashback to freshly-engaged-Ericka and I was a hot mess. When we got back to the car after I had dropped all of my belongings on the cement, sworn a few times (not proud of that part, whoops!) asked "are you serious" and began crying before saying yes, I couldn't figure out what to do. Do I call my parents, siblings, family and close friends? Who should we call first? My family, or his? What if they don't pick up? Should we take pictures? Well crap my mascara is a mess, I'm a mess. But I want a picture. Holy cow this is all so exciting and overwhelming, ahhh!
Since then we've started to settle into engaged life. Friends and family are slowly taking hints about when the wedding will be because I've been pretty open about not-knowing and being okay with that. At times when TJ and I start to have conversations about the "where do we start" overwhelm, I make a choice.
Am I ready to dive into this? Yes, or no?
If the answer is no, then I move on to something else. If the answer is yes, then I take a step to mentally prepare myself to reach out to others who've gone through this process before. Or I might check a wedding blog to see how other brides navigated this inbetween-ness. Or I might ask TJ what his thoughts are or what he wants out of this day celebrating our love and commitment. Or I might turn on TLC's Say Yes to the Dress. Or I might pull up my phone to google vendors and then exit out of the app in a panic once the list of all the phone numbers pops up.
In reality, whether we're (I'm) ready or not, we're still just enjoying this phase.
OTHERS' ANTICIPATION DOESN'T HAVE TO BE YOURS, AND THAT'S OKAY!
Back when everyone was gushing over the ring and hurriedly asking about the wedding date, I almost felt guilty for not having an answer. And then I would get confused about not having an answer, and then frustrated about feeling confused. And then I would get ashamed that I was frustrated about people being excited for us. What person feels brash and cheeky when people congratulate them for a major life milestone? A person who's negative self-talk dangel (devil-angel combo) was getting a little too confident in voicing its opinion, that's who. In that moment of feeling ashamed, I kicked that little dangel to the curb and sat with my emotions. And then it hit me.
Just because others were excited, didn't mean I had to be excited too.
Sit with that for a moment. Just because people are expressing a positive emotion, or expecting a certain reaction from you, does not mean you owe them a similar reaction back. You don't owe anyone a reaction.
How powerful is that? Seriously.
I'm not sure about you, but growing up it was expected that when family gave goodbye-hugs I would give them back. If people were over visiting and wanted to say hello, I had to say goodbye back. And with a smile, mind you.
How often are we conditioned to mirror the emotions presented to us and expected to take them on? Now I don't mean that we should totally disregard manners and niceties. Those are important too. But realizing for ourselves that we don't owe people a desired reaction is pretty powerful.
So I don't know about you, but in this in-between-phase, I have found a sense of confidence and empowerment knowing that I have a right to feel what I feel. And I've learned that feeling what I feel is okay. I challenge you to embrace your emotions, especially when they are emotions others might not expect from you, and I dare you to sit with them.
And when you do, wait for what happens next. Because I bet something amazing will happen.