Can an engagement be too short?
Can an engagement be too long?
Unfortunately for my wife, I didn’t really put too much thought into the length of our engagement. We had discussed marriage, and although a winter wedding seemed practical to me, Rachel had other plans. After a time of reflection (or let’s call it – enlightenment), I realized that in order to have Rachel’s fall wedding, I had to immediately propose. Luckily, I already had purchased a ring and asked for her parent’s approval.
While an engagement can be too short (or too long), the length is not as important as what you do during that time. As a couple, you must discuss what is right for you. So if you are planning an engagement period, here are some positives and negatives for either a long or short engagement period.
Thoughts Concerning a Short Engagements
Limited Time to Process – Marriage introduces a ton of change into the lives of the couple, and these changes take time to process. While less time might be a blessing for doubters or those who struggle with anxiety, a short engagement can cause others to neglect thinking through the commitment that they are making. (Read more on the Purpose of Engagement)
Limited Time to Plan – Becoming one requires a lot of work by the bride and the groom. If both partners are working full-time, the extra workload of fulfilling the extra responsibilities during engagement will be extremely stressful. Even the simplest of weddings requires many hours of preparation.
Limited Period of Sexual Tension – While I believe it is best for a couple to remain abstinent before the wedding, the engagement period is a time when emotional, spiritual, and sexual boundaries in the relationship need to change. As a couple become more physically involved, their bodies will naturally lead them towards sexual fulfillment. A short engagement helps the couple maintain their boundaries. (Read more about the relational changes during engagement, Engagement is Awkward.)
While there is a lot of work to accomplish during this period, one emerging adult said, “If you keep a short engagement Christ-centered and smart, it can be wonderful.”
Thoughts Concerning a Long Engagement
Time to Process and Plan – A long engagement allows the couple to fully explore their relationship and the commitment they are making. The couple is not focused entirely on the day-to-day or the looming ceremony, but they are also able to think through their decisions and discuss the changes they are experiencing.
Time to discuss tough issues – Engagement periods can be a time when the couple is faced for the first time with conflict when their values clash as they are forced to make decisions together. Sometimes couple who rush through their engagement will bury problems until later because they know there is not time to fix the problem.
More Living Expenses – Unless one or both of the couple are living at home, living separately can often be a financial burden to the couple. Emerging adulthood can be an expensive phase of life with little income, and so it is wise to save whenever possible. I wouldn’t necessarily move up your wedding, but you might want to live with family or friends until the big day comes rather than pay rent at two places.
Difficult to maintain physical boundaries – One EA states, “Some of the long engagements I have seen have been so hard on the couple – specifically the struggle with sexual sin as the months pass.” Even for couples who maintained clear boundaries while dating find it difficult to remain sexually pure once a promise is made. A long engagement will require them to regularly discuss their physical boundaries, and the sexual tension between them.
There is no right or wrong answers, but each couple must decide based upon:
- How long have you known each other?
- In what capacities have you known each other? (Are you together regularly, or are you long-distance relationship?)
- What do your friends and mentors believe about your decisions?
- How well do you as a couple deal with stress and waiting?
- What do you sense God is leading you to do as you pray?
Whether long or short, your engagement can be all that you dreamed as you both seek God and follow His leading.
Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources, a non-profit designed to provide resources to Emerging Adults, and those who love them.