Hitched 2.0: The Pros & Cons Of A Long Engagement

Hitched, our weekly column about getting married, is back! This time around, we’ll be walking down the aisle (well, in spirit) with writer Emma Sarran, who will be sharing her thoughts on long engagements, the institution of matrimony and that godforsaken wedding industrial complex every Thursday.

I remember my engagement as if it was yesterday. But in reality, it was one year and one month ago. And we’re still not married. And we won’t be for another eight months. We didn’t go into wedding planning wanting a long engagement; it’s just how it happened. We got engaged in late October and started checking out venues in Chicago pretty soon after. By the time we started inquiring, most places were already booked up until November-ish of the following year and, since I hate the cold and have no interest in braving it in a wedding dress, we skipped ahead to July, figuring that would safely be in bearable-temperature-territory. (As I sit here, in November, with fingers almost too frozen to type, I feel confident in that decision.) Now that we’re “only” eight months out from our wedding day, I reflect on some of the pros and cons of a long engagement.

Pro: You get your pick of venues—and photographers, videographers, musicians…

Once we set our wedding date—nearly two years in advance—we had a pretty open list of options. Because we were far enough out, pretty much every place we looked at, from restaurants to hotels and event spaces, still had availability during that coveted summer time frame. Same went for photographers: Photos are super important to us, so we wanted to find someone we loved early on, and were lucky enough that pretty much everyone we contacted was free on our wedding date, and we “landed” our favorite. Score.

Con: You have an overwhelming selection of venues—and photographers, videographers, musicians…

I’m terrible at decision-making. Seriously, I’m that annoying person at the restaurant who acts like choosing between chicken and pasta for dinner is a life-or-death decision. So, while it was nice to have lots of options when picking our venue and what-not, it also made it incredibly overwhelming. Which of these 15 places will be the ideal setting for our nuptials? Which of these 7 photographers with very similar styles will capture our day perfectly with photos we’ll cherish forever and ever? Initiate head spinning. Truthfully, sometimes it’s nice to just have choices eliminated for you.

Pro: You can take your time with your to-do list.

Like most people, my fiancé and I both work for a living and, unfortunately, don’t have endless hours to devote to wedding planning. So to have the opportunity to space out the tasks, from designing save the dates to going dress shopping, and not need to cram it all into a short period of time, is a major bonus.

Con: You have more time to procrastinate.

If you, like me, are a master of procrastination, all that extra time probably won’t mean shit. Because we had so much time stretched out ahead of us once we set our wedding date, it just seemed totally unnecessary to even think about planning anything. Every wedding-related task dropped to the bottom of my daily to-do list, only to get pushed back to the next day and the next. Just as I’m more likely to go to the gym if I have only one time of day when I can do it (aka it’s then or never), I’ve discovered I’m more likely to wedding-plan if the calendar is pressuring me to do so. The result? Nearly an entire year of devoid of pre-wedding productivity. Woops.

Pro: You can enjoy your engagement before you delve into planning.

Aside from selecting our venue and photographer early, we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves to start wedding planning too early (see above). We were able to just enjoy being engaged for quite some time. Sure, it’s not much different than dating, especially if you already live together like we did, but it’s nice to simply relish and celebrate this exciting life step.

Con: For a long time, it feels like you’re probably just never going to get married.

I have to admit that after setting a date, I sometimes got impatient. I remember my sister bought us an “Engaged” ornament around the holidays last year, and I got bummed out thinking about how, the following holiday season, we’d still be engaged—no “Married” ornament for us. I’d have to go through two entire Chicago winters, and then some, before our wedding. In the grand scheme of things, the extra year won’t make a difference, but at the time, I was excited to marry my best friend, and I wasn’t feeling the whole “delayed gratification” thing.

Pro: You can plan to get married in whatever time of year you want.

Like I said, a big reason for our long engagement was weather. We want it to be beautiful during our wedding weekend—not just for us, but also for the many out-of-town guests who will be visiting Chicago. By not rushing our engagement, we were able to choose the exact month we wanted for our wedding, and not have that decision be dictated by any sort of time limit.

Con: No matter how hard you try to plan it, weather is completely unpredictable.

While deciding between two dates, I drove myself crazy checking historical temperatures, averages and, of course, the Farmer’s Almanac. Which day is more likely to get rain? Which day is more likely to be unbearably hot? But, ultimately, there’s no predicting the weather—sure, July is likely to be pleasant, but for all we know, it could freaking snow. I mean, this week all 50 states hit temperatures below freezing. Think about it: That means Hawaii, too.

Pro: You can give your friends and family plenty of time to clear their schedules.

Though I’m from Chicago and we’re getting married here, our guest list is made up primarily of out-of-towners from both coasts and a few random places in between. It was nice to be able to give those people a heads up—even if just verbally, before official save-the-dates—so they could reserve the date, and start planning their travels accordingly.

Con: For every friend relieved about the advanced notice, you’ll have a family member wondering what the hold up is.

In the past year, I’ve heard my fair share of, ‘Why do you need to wait so long to get married?’ inquisitions from the, um, older generations. They don’t see any reason for a delay, and can’t wrap their heads around today’s wedding culture—which we’ve totally succumbed to—that has led to the hunger games of venue-booking and, thus, long engagements.

Pro: You’ll probably have time to gather ideas from other weddings.   

Attending a wedding while planning your own is great: You can get some awesome ideas, feel out what you do and don’t like, and start envisioning your wedding from the guest’s perspective. It’s hands-on research at its finest. And, because we were engaged for the entire 2014 wedding season, we got to do lots of it.

Con: You can drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with the inspiration.

Options for your wedding, from the centerpieces to lighting to desserts, are endless—just look at Pinterest.  You can’t possibly incorporate every good idea you see into your own nuptials, so you have to pick and choose. But what happens when you definitively decide against a photo booth, and then go to a wedding with the best photo booth ever? Or your bridesmaids order that short cocktail dress you picked, and then you go to a wedding where the bridesmaids are wearing ah-maz-ing long gowns? Unless you want to eat a whole lot of cash and annoy the shit out of everyone involved, you can’t change most of these things—you have to make a decision and stick with it, no matter what you see out there in the real world.