“Will you marry me?”
It’s a question that’s been uttered many, many times before—and yet for me, right then, they seemed the most daring words on earth for me to speak.
The pause permeated the entire park and pounded in my heart. My knees were on the ground, and my heart was in her hand. I held the ring, looked into her eyes and felt the weight of the moment while I waited for her answer.
As soon as she said yes, everything changed. One kind of waiting was over and another kind would begin. The clock started winding down: four months and 19 days is 3,408 hours, and that was all the time we would have to pass until our wedding day.
By definition, engagement is essentially a holding pattern. The beautifully maddening in-between. It’s a season of preparing and waiting. But in a sense, it’s also a season of being stuck behind the starting line. You’re told to “enjoy the moment,” but you also have to “get busy” and race to get everything done before the big day.
The moment you get engaged, everyone wants to give you marriage advice—some you should take and some you can safely leave behind. But rarely do people offer engagement advice, perhaps because they assume you’ll move through it quickly enough.
Yet between the stress of wedding planning and our impatience to enter the next stage of life with our beloved, is there more to engagement than we give it credit for? Is this time a necessary stopover to the next season of life, or is it a season in its own right, filled with unique lessons and experiences?
I would argue for the latter. Here’s a few ways to make the most of your engagement, from one engaged man to anyone else who’s ever wondered.
1. See your wedding for what it is.
Yes, your wedding is “your day”—but it’s also far more than that. It is a day that God created to bring Him glory, just like any other day. He is the only reason you have the ability to enter into this amazing relationship, and the fact that He has brought the two of you together is a great reason to throw a party. So celebrate! And don’t stress over the details.
2. Don’t let the wedding planning replace dating.
Of course, the logistics of hosting 100 people or so for dinner requires some planning. But here’s the bottom line: Don’t stop dating during the planning. Dudes, step up and help her plan the wedding. Ladies, respect the fact that he wants to marry you and not just have a wedding with you. Don’t turn all your conversations into planning the wedding.
3. Start practicing faithfulness now.
Waiting and saving your sexual purity for marriage is hard. But you’re almost there—press on a little while longer. If you need to, pray and confess your mistakes and know that, with Christ’s forgiveness, the past is over and done. Don’t drop out of the marathon now because you know you are going to marry this person. Your word and commitment matters—just as much now as it will after you’re married.
4. Reset your personal goals.
Sometimes it’s best to plan ahead, before you are living in your new reality. And the truth is, marriage changes everything. It will, in some way, change your life goals. Take an evening to refocus on some of your personal goals and what it would look like to write your future spouse into them. How does marriage change where you want to be in the next five, 10, 15 years? Then add their goals to your list. How do they work together? Talk through together what you both aspire to and how you can help each other reach your goals, both individual and shared.
5. Make time for friend time.
After the altar, your first commitment becomes your spouse. This is a beautiful gift of companionship that you can give each other; however, it affects your other relationships. So use the time of your engagement to value time with your friends more than you ever have. Also, try to understand that your friends aren’t as giddy as you are about this special day. Ask them about what’s going on in their lives, which are not consumed with what kind of cake everyone will be eating three months from now.
6. Pray and fast.
When was the last time you did anything as important as pledging yourself to another person for life? And when was the last time you set aside a time of prayer and fasting? Pick a day and mark your calendar to do just this as you approach your wedding. Marriage is likely one of the biggest decision you will ever make. Let yourself feel the weight of it, and respond by crying out to God for His mercy and strength as you start your lives together.
7. Reframe your expectations.
“Expectations” is a word thrown around a lot when it comes to preparing for marriage. And perhaps the biggest expectation we all need to adjust is this: Marriage is not the answer to all of your problems. It will not be enough to fill you up forever. He’s a great guy, and she’s an amazing girl, but neither will be enough. God must reign over you both. So start practicing this truth by giving each other a break and giving Jesus the reigning role in your life of making you whole.
It’s easy to float through this stage of the marital rite without acknowledging the value of the specific lessons that could be learned during this time. But your engagement can be so much more. Use this time to practice the truth that marriage is not about a 50/50 split but about going all in. Use this time to learn to love each other well and to love Jesus more—because this will never be time poorly spent.
Zac Harrison is getting married in November, and marriage is what he is most excited about right now. He plans on saying the same thing in 50 years. www.freefugitive.blogspot.com