Most of our engagement was spent in airplanes.
Those five months as fiancés we flew back and forth from Texas to Wisconsin for three bridal showers, two weddings I was in, two receptions, once to surprise my parents so AJ could ask to marry me, and another to actually get married. That’s not even all of them. We had a flight every month of that year.
Even on the ground though, being engaged felt like being on a plane.
You’re in transition. Everything up in the air. You’re never in one place. Will I miss what I left behind? What’ll it be like when we get there? Are we there yet? Your life is changing at 600mph yet the flight feels long. As inpatient as I am, I’m grateful for the engagement airplane and how we got to prepare and chat side-by-side in the not most comfortable seats before landing permanently in marriage.
This is a checklist from someone who has recently been on that flight. It’s meant to be as short and concise as I could make it because I know if you are engaged, you probably don’t have much time or capability to remember yet another thing.
This is one of the best things we did. No matter what your situation is, do this. With a short engagement we didn’t have much time and should’ve gotten it started sooner. Tip: We made sure the last session wasn’t too close to the wedding date. Marriage counseling brings up deep conversations and tears may surface! If you don’t have time or think you’d be able to find counselors, here’s the book it’s based off of which was helpful too!
The in-law form
Woo! Something you don’t need to do! Just send this form to both set of parents and they each fill it out separately (very important). Doing it before marriage is so insightful (you learn so much about yourself and soon-to-be-spouse!) and it helps everyone in your family realize and write down their expectations (before a disaster happens). My friend recommended this to me and now I recommend it to literally everyone. Click here to download it.
Read a book of the bible together
For real. AJ and I read the book of Ruth together and it was my favorite thing we did. There was no plan or reading schedule; we just read it when we could. We took it chapter by chapter, talked about it, asked each other questions, asked about God, and discussed how the chapter applied to us right there in engagement. It brought us not only closer, but deeper. Stronger. There is something about seeing other’s character and love for the Lord that makes you fall in love all over again.
AJ and I waited to have sex before marriage, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t push the boundaries. The day we got engaged I felt convicted to stay strictly within our boundaries until we got married. We put pennies in a jar each day we resisted the temptation. Tiny pennies add up to something valuable over time. Each penny—resisting temptation—might not seem like a big thing, but we believed God would bless beyond measure the small sacrifices we made to wait until marriage. We trusted him that it was worth it in the long run, even though it was hard in the moment. In dating we tried a lot of different things to keep boundaries, but the pennies really worked for us. (And yes, it was very worth it).
worked hard on our habits
Both of us had habits we didn’t want to bring into marriage (that might be for another post long a while down the road). Some of these got revealed in marriage counseling, but most we already knew. We talked through those, kept each other accountable, and encouraged one another as we tackled them.
“Before you tell your mom about it, talk to aj about it”
My mom and I talked about a lot of stuff during engagement—especially AJ. Many times though, we were wrong when we thought FOR SURE we knew his intentions. Enter this rule which saved us a lot of trouble. It stopped me from assuming the worst and getting mad at him when I hadn’t even heard his answer yet. It reminds me of advice from our marriage counselors, “Don’t have fights with him in your head.”
long phone calls
We lived across Austin and AJ wasn’t a texter, so we talked on the phone for hours. I think it actually was a huge thing that helped us work on communication and forced us to really talk things out and use our words wisely. There were no distractions, just our voices.
Sitting on the porch.
Phone calls are great, but our best conversations happened on the porch. This was an A&M classic: A dimly lit balcony, sipping whiskey and wine, leaning back on lawn chairs, no matter the temperature. AJ would smoke a cigar and I’d spill my thoughts of the day. This was how we worked through almost everything in engagement. Whiskey might not be your thing, but however you do it, talk.
pick top 3 things for the wedding
Thanks to my mom we each decided on the top three things we would be sad if we didn’t have for the wedding. We prioritized those things in the budget and then there was no surprises when I wanted to buy a bulk pack of polaroids.
we stayed in budget
This started off marriage on the right foot and with one less thing to be stressed about. We also learned how to be a team with finances for the first time and kept us creative and communicating!
we took it serious.
Overall, we were serious about engagement because we were really serious about marriage. We held the mindset of caring more about the 60+ year marriage than the 12 hour wedding day. That seriousness lead to cutting things out, replacing them with better things, crossing rivers of tears, and throwing things off balconies. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
check in with each other more
We talked a lot, but I think we should’ve checked in with each other on purpose more often. Have two or three questions to ask on a certain day of the week or get in the groove of asking how the other really is. Even a “reason why I love you” text at the end of a long day.
didn’t Go on fun dates
This might be hard (it was for us) and you probably don’t have a lot of time, money, or energy (we didn’t), but looking back I wish we would’ve went on more fun dates as fiancés! Like a picnic. Going to get dessert and dressing up for it. Surprising the other person with a reservation. Walking downtown and to talk and take pictures. We didn’t do this often and I wish we had taken more advantage of those once-in-a-lifetime-we’re-engaged dates!
asked more questions to our marriage counselors
You don’t know what you don’t know, but I wish we would’ve ask our mentors more questions. Even if I would’ve sat down for 10 minutes and wrote down some questions, that could’ve been helpful.
“What was the hardest season of your marriage and what got you through?”
“What the biggest way you’ve had to change in order to love your husband better?”
“What was something you wish you didn’t do during engagement?”
“Your best tips on communicating better?”
Don’t put so much pressure to figure everything out
In the Christian community there’s pressure to have the deep wrinkles all ironed out in time for the wedding day. The best advice I received was from my freshly married friend, Annah. She told me not to worry about having alllllll of your issues figured out and knowing every little thing about each other. You have all of marriage to do that. You’re not gonna solve all of this now and that’s okay. Take the pressure off (There’s enough already).
Added more community
We both struggled in this area. Family gets more involved. You both are working on your relationship and self like never before. Time to the big day ticks on. A lot of my close friends were in Wisconsin. AJ was struggling making time for his guy friends. We didn’t have a consistent lifegroup. As difficult as it was, I do wish we would’ve involved our community more in the process. I don’t recommend stressing about this, so just find at least one person to hang out with a week. You are not alone!
prayed more and stressed less
This isn’t to say we didn’t pray. I also tried really hard not to stress. But I still should’ve done one more than the other.
More help from AJ
I tried not to, but I got bitter because everything for the wedding landed on me. It’s hard to know what a guy can help out with (most of the time they don’t care about the color of the invitations), but they do know how to put those invitations in an envelopes and put stamps on those. Anything you can think of for them to help out with, they should do. You don’t want to resent them by the time you get down the aisle. Teamwork!
Think twice about Birth control
I went on birth control a couple months before getting married and it made me a crazy person for all of engagement and half a year into marriage. I gave birth control a lot of thought, but I didn’t know everything and definitely not about the mood swings. It made me cry, sad, numb, sassy, mean, and AJ had to deal with all of it. I don’t know if I would’ve changed things because the peace of mind that comes with protection was really important since we didn’t want to get pregnant on our wedding night, however, I do wish I didn’t take it, purely because of how emotional I was during an already emotional time.
Get rid of expectations and love the story you’re in
There’s no right way to do it, and one of the worst ways to do it is to force exactly how you dreamed it in your head. Let go and enjoy the engagement story you’re a character in. Hopefully I get to hear about it someday! For now, enjoy the flight.
AJ’s advice to the guys
One of the main things I would recommend is to continue to pursue your guy friends and community during engagement. I essentially went through a drought of friendship, caused by apathy towards hanging with my friends with all the mental and emotional changes going on in my life. I don’t think dealing with all of that on your own will ever be the best way to go about this time in your life.
I also wish I had pursued Molly much more intentionally through our engagement. With being an only child, having poor habits leading into marriage, and experiencing all of this for the first time, I allowed my selfishness take over. This led to me to think of myself and my struggles more than I thought of Molly, which inevitably made the process harder.
My last thought is, dive deeper and deeper into the Word and into your quiet times with God. In my opinion, it’s very backwards to try to shoulder all of these changes without God being your rock. Although I prayed a decent amount during our engagement, I really didn’t spend the kind of alone with God I had been in a habit of before engagement. Make sure this stays a priority, because you need as close to an equal amount of time with God as your spend with your future bride; it’s obvious, but is easy to forget.
In summary, in engagement, prioritize your friends and time with your guys, don’t allow your selfishness diminish your pursuit of your future bride, and spend as much alone time with God as possible. Last but not least, enjoy and cherish it! I pray this is the one and only time you’ll ever be engaged, so don’t wish it away! Cherish it and have fun!!
Molly’s advice to the girls
Give your man grace. Give yourself grace. Like genuine, big cozy, hard to hand over, blanket grace. The kind of grace you might actually need to look up online and read your bible for the definition. I certainly did. Both of you don’t know what you’re doing, but especially him. As girls we are used to emotional conversations, discussing wedding details, and drying tears. Your fiancé probably not as much.
I had to learn a lot about kindness. I always thought I was a kind person until I got engaged to AJ. What do you do when he is late? When he doesn’t do the task you reminded him about 87 times? After he admits to you he sinned and it hurts you? I missed a lot of opportunities to show him kindness, but I sure got a lot of practice.
Find your pride and stomp on it till it dies—day after day. I never thought I was a prideful person until I got engaged either. You aren’t always right, being defensive doesn’t mean you’re strong, and it’s important to say out loud when you’re wrong. I had to learn how to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it.
Last but not least, spend extra time during engagement with your first love: Jesus. The man who knows your heart best, will never leave you alone, always has the right words, and will never stop loving you—even when you’re married these things will still be true. No one will ever love you like Jesus. Being with Jesus is the best way to love your fiancé and future husband. Plus, no one knows your future husband like Jesus does either.
All that to say, engagement! This is so exciting! Laugh about stupid stuff. Slow down, say thank you, don’t stress about how you look. You really are beautiful. Crying is normal. Your whole world is changing and it’s going to be good. Strength. Courage. I can guarantee you’re not going to get to everything in engagement, but you’re going to be a great wife.
The book before you’re engaged: Click here!
This book about love: Click here!
This book for marriage counseling: Click here!
This book on sex: Click here!
This book on marriage: Click here!
These question cards: Click here!
The in-law form: Click here!