You just got engaged! Congratulations! Let’s see that ring!
While you’re still all aflutter from the romantic whirlwind of The Big Question (and during the holidays, no less!), you’re probably left wondering, “now what?” Well, settle in with a hot cocoa and start figuring out the big stuff you need to start thinking about now that you’re engaged.
Take some time and indulge yourself!
Over the next few weeks and months, it’s gonna start getting really real, so give yourself a little bit of time to just indulge in the moment right now. Call your family and close friends and tell them the happy news— they deserve to hear it straight from you, not from social media. Speaking of social media…
Go get yourself a nice, classic manicure since you’re going to be showing off those hands several times a day for the next few weeks. Go out to dinner with your new fiancé, and allow yourself a little time to read Bridal Magazines in the bath. Just luxuriate in that newly engaged feeling! You’ve earned it. And it’s fun to gawk at the zillion dollar weddings, even if yours will be on a budget. You’re about to get VERY practical, so enjoy these lux daydreams while you can!
Where does the wedding lay in your priorities?
If you grew up hearing that your wedding is “the biggest day of your life,” just remember that the wedding is only one day. And it goes by so insanely fast! Before you start making any plans, sit down with your fiancé and talk about where the wedding sits in the ranking of any other big plans you have right now, like buying a home, paying down student loans, or even taking a huge honeymoon. If you both decide that you want your wedding to be one for the ages and the other stuff can wait, then by all means, go all out! Just make sure it’s something you decide together so there’s no resentment over mismatched priorities.
Related: Wedding planning on a budget!
What’s your big picture for the wedding?
Is it going to be a black tie affair in a classical space? Or a hip soirée in a trendy venue? Or maybe a homey backyard shindig? Are you traveling out of state or staying in the neighborhood? Do either of you have enormous family or friendship networks that will make for a sprawling guest list? These big decisions will shape a lot of your planning, so it’s best to work it out now! If you’re thinking of a tropical destination wedding and your fiancé is thinking of their family’s lakeside cabin, you’re going to have to come to some sort of agreement. Marriage is all about compromise, so this will be the first in many!
Okay… now what’s the big picture for the marriage?
GULP. Ok, here’s where it gets really real. While making wedding Pinterest boards is fun (and it really, really is!), preparing for the marriage itself is a lot tougher and lot higher stakes. But this is the time to ask the big questions.
- Do you want children?
- Do both your careers take equal priority or does someone’s take higher priority?
- Would you be willing or wanting to make a long-distance move? What constitutes cheating?
- How will you handle your finances as a couple?
- How do you feel about a prenup?
Talking about these things early (and often) can lead to a stronger marriage. Your views on money will often mirror your views on life, and so it is important to be really explicit about your expectations. Below, we give some examples of questions you should be asking:
Assets & Debt
- What will happen to premarital property?
- Will premarital property remain as separate property, meaning that it will not become joint marital property?
- What about student debt, credit card debt, or any other debts acquired before getting married?
- Will premarital debts remain separate debts in the event of divorce?
- How will we pay off any debt that is accrued while married?
- In that same vein, if one of us goes back to school for a graduate degree or other training, will those loans be both of our obligations?
What about income and assets that are acquired while married?
- Will you split everything 50/50? Or are some purchases separate?
- If one party (party A) spends money on the other party (party B) to help with debt from education, vocational training, or any career training, does party B have to reimburse party A for their contribution towards party B’s success?
- If you each contribute to the purchase of a primary residence, will you both share in contribution to the down payment equally? How will the equity be distributed in the event of separation or divorce? What about any investment properties?
Even if both of you are pretty level-headed, consider going to a couple’s therapist or counselor to have these big talks in a healthy, constructive environment where they can help facilitate these discussions. Nothing wrong with setting yourself up for success!
Decide on your timeframe.
Some couples want to get married, like, yesterday, while others take a more laid-back approach to a long engagement. While the average length is 12-18 months, there’s no right or wrong way to do it! Once you figure out your timeframe, the rest of it will come sharply into focus because a wedding planned in three months will look very, very different than a wedding planned over the course of two years. Whatever your timeline is, work on locking down the venue and the date first, making sure neither presents a conflict for immediate family or close friends. From there, you two will embark on this very special joint project together! You can start figuring out your wedding party, your officiant, and your vendors for everything from food and flowers to services to simplify a prenup or a name change.
And remember to breathe and bond with your beloved spouse-to-be over the process. After all, that’s what engagement is really all about!