By the time this column is published, this author will have participated in the sacrament of marriage. While I do not know what the future has in store for me, I do believe that the experiences I had in the past 14 months (our time of engagement) have been God preparing me for the married life. I would like to give some advice for engaged couples based on those experiences.
1.)People who tell you that the time of engagement is a time of unlimited bliss are lying to you. What the engagement period does offer you is a ton of time to grow spiritually individually and as a couple.
2.)At one point, you will be tested by those close to you in regards to the wedding, and you will have to choose between what they want, and what your soon to be spouse wants. For the men, this is a direct test to your future authority. Make sure everyone realizes that you are in charge, and that if you have to disagree with your soon to be spouse, you will do so on your terms, not theirs.
People will not be as prompt and professional as you would like them to be, and you will always feel like others aren’t doing their fair share in helping out. Even if this is true, accept it. Great chance to learn humility, as well as a chance to deal with people in a civil manner in an attempt to find an agreement. This is also a greater way to teach yourself to rely on others in helping to carry the load of planning the wedding.
Men, be willing to take part in planning the ceremony and the reception. You don’t need to plan everything, but you need to be involved, and help your soon to be spouse in making sure things stay sane.
Stay simple in planning, and by simple I mean keep the focus on what is important: man and woman coming together for their own salvation and discovering themselves through their gift of self on the altar. Most ideas offered for the wedding (even and often especially our own!) are wrong and counterproductive to what is good and holy. So when you want to add something to the ceremony/reception, ask how much it furthers that end.
Always remember that people aren’t trying to ruin your wedding when they give you an idea you perceive to be bone-headed. A wedding is rightly viewed as one of the most important events in someone’s life, so everyone wants to give it the special feeling it deserves. Since we are all individuals (and that individuality is a gift from God!), we all have different ideas about what makes something special. Some of those ideas will come across as absurd. In this case it truly is the thought that counts.
During the course of your engagement, you will probably find some of the “hoops” you have to jump through absurd. Why go to natural family planning classes when you already know what it is, plan on having a robust family within your needs, and would never consider contraception? Even under such circumstances you might learn something, so approach this as an opportunity to learn. If for no other reason, the Church has given her ruling on what you must go through, and you should submit and accept it. There will be times in your marriage where you have to submit to your spouse (either out of authority to them or concession to the best use of their authority, and spouses do both!) on something you find absurd. Yet marriage isn’t about you, and the sooner you realize that, the better.
I don’t want readers to have the impression I had a rotten engagement. I really didn’t. In the past 14 months, this engagement has been more or less peaceful. As with all engagements, there are bumps in the road. The thing I am trying to emphasize is that since we know those bumps are coming, it is up to us to react to them properly. Look at them as opportunities for grace and an opportunity to advance in holiness, not as something to stress you out. Above all, wake up everyday asking yourself how you can work together with your spouse to be to make this time easier for them. You will find that in the end, things work themselves out.
*Authors note: This column will be on leave for the next month as I go on the honeymoon and begin my new life as the husband of Amy Tierney. Our series on the sacraments will resume in July with the Sacrament of Confirmation.