I once heard someone say that you should spend a year dating, and then a year engaged before getting married. The problem with this is that in our current culture all that is different between engagement and marriage it the amount of stress you’re having planning the wedding.
Well, that and the physical consummation of the wedding night1.
At this point in the modern dating process, you’ve committed yourself to a life with your future spouse, and you’re probably no longer emotionally pure. Her days and nights are filled with thinking of dresses, children and her love for you. His days and nights are filled with plans about where they will live, what physical intimacy will be like, how much it will cost, and what physical intimacy will be like.
You are both linked together, and unlike previous generations with long courtships and a social desire for purity, the culture is pushing you to explore the physical boundaries of your relationship.
The Short Engagement
Make it reasonable—have it for the amount of time that it will take you to reasonably prepare for the wedding, but short enough that the temptation will not get to you. The shorter it is, the less chance that you’ll be spending that much time alone (you’ll have more than enough of that after “I do” and before “I’m pregnant!”). I know, it’s easy to say that as a married guy, but it’s true.
The Absent Engagement
This one’s unique but could work out to a distinct advantage for the couple. If you’re going to have a longer engagement, plan to do extra work so that you’ll get off on a firm foundation after the wedding.
In Biblical times, after the betrothal the man would go to prepare a house or place for his bride—and come get her after it was prepared. And then there was Jacob, who worked 7 years in order to marry the love of his life, only to get his sister. But that’s beside the point.
How would this look in 2008?
Simple. You would pick a longer engagement time, but the guy would get as many different jobs/apprenticeships as he could take on. He would work on saving as much money (or getting out of college debt) as he could so that he and his bride could start off their marriage debt free and with a good savings.
The bride-to-be could spend her time either working (and helping to reduce her debt load) and planning the wedding when the guy was ready.
All you married couples out there—could you imagine what your life starting out would have been like if you had gone into marriage with both of you debt free with a little emergency fund? Most of us probably put our honeymoon on credit cards!
If you’re trying to remain pure until marriage, engagement is a tough period to do it with all the emotions running high and the logic in your mind that “I’m basically married, I’m just waiting for the day.”
You need to have a plan, and to make sure that you’re prepared for the increased pressure, and maybe you could help your future spouse as you both start off life together.
- Assuming you’ve maintained physical purity to this point