Thoughts from a Newly Engaged 30-something

If you asked me 5 years ago if I saw myself getting married, I would have probably glared at you and thought, defensively “How should I know?” I never prioritized finding someone to marry; I focused, instead, on education and figuring out my career path. My big dreams were never about having a white wedding and giant family but about publishing a novel. I’ve always also hoped to make a positive difference in the lives of young people; I think I do, at least a little, as a youth services librarian.

imagesLike most people though, I dated and thought it would be nice to meet someone who would last more than a few dinners. I wasn’t, though, ever expecting that I would find someone who I not only wanted to bring around my friends but who I was excited to introduce to my mother and who I could see myself with for as long as life allows us. Then, when I was 34 I met this guy through a mutual friend who would change my mind completely. The realization that this person is someone who I actually want to live with and share my life with, who I hope to still be able to have a family with together, was, and is, one of the most unexpected and simply wonderful moments of my life. After almost four years of dating, he popped the question last week, to which I replied “Really?” “What??” “Of course!” “Really?” with a giant smile plastered on my face. There I was, pushing 40, squealing like a teen! My excitement didn’t last long though because as soon as we posted our engagement on Facebook the bridal related ads began to fill up my feed. And my blissful moment quickly shattered into the reality of wedding planning, pressure, and budgets.

It’s not like I was oblivious to the way media and advertising bombard us with almost unrealistic expectations of what a wedding day should be. If you are going to get married “the right way,” you had better have a ridiculously large bank account or have family who are willing to cash in their retirement savings plan. If it’s not enough pressure in our society to find someone to share our lives with, the expectations for the actual wedding are enough to make most people at least think about eloping. TV shows like TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress and WE tv’s Bridezillas suggest to brides and grooms-to-be that a time which should be full of happiness and excitement will instead be filled with never ceasing reminders that they will:

  1. Never have enough money
  2. There will be a lot of tears, stress, and arguments
  3. They may lose a friend or insult a soon to be in-law
  4. They might want to think about eloping again

If that’s not enough, pictures from Hollywood weddings plastered in magazines and entertainment shows not only exploit what should be a moment between two people into a media circus for us all to envy, but add to our own thoughts of what our weddings day must also be.

Media and advertising make us think that our weddings have to be storybook perfect or they will not be successful – that there will be something we regret. All of the peripheral aspects to wedding days can make the betrothed and their guests forget that the actual reason for the day has nothing to do with how the wedding is presented but about what is being said and celebrated. However, our wedding days are only influenced by what we see on TV shows or bridal magazines to the extent that we let them; the day is still ours to design in the ways we desire. At least this is what I, as a newly engaged woman, hope.

I’ve been engaged for a week and already I’m wondering if having the wedding my fiancé and I want, in the 7 month time frame we’ve aimed for, is even possible. I know I am cutting it extremely close in terms of getting a dress and finding a venue. From the huge decisions of finding a venue and a wedding dress, to deciding on catering, flowers, invitations, DJs, hairdressers, the list goes on and on, weddings can make dollar bills disappear from pockets like popcorn being eaten while watching the most engaging movie. Weddings are, after all, a huge money making industry and so many want a piece of that delicious wedding cake.

I don’t want to worry about all that now though. I want to enjoy being newly engaged. I know though, that I will soon start browsing bridal magazines, looking at the Knot, and maybe even watching bridal TV shows for hopeful inspiration and advice. I suppose this means for all my talk, I too am playing into the wedding-money-making machines, but like most, I want our wedding day to be something magical, even, of dreams. Our wedding day will celebrate the start of our new lives together with our family and friends – and that is definitely something we are excited, even if a little overwhelmed, to plan for together!