For Sophie xx
Newly sparkling left-hands are common on my news feed. To put it another way, ere’y body’s getting ‘murried. My husband and I are taking part in three wedding ceremonies this season, and attending at least one other. Over the last few months my heart has been so endeared towards these women that I have the pleasure of supporting as they celebrate their nuptials.
I humbly want to share some of the ways you, bride-to-be, can use this time of engagement for your good and God’s glory. Know that I don’t want to be another one of those pretentious people giving you unsolicited advice. I just want to be a married woman sharing what worked, what didn’t, and what I wish I would have done during the eight months leading up to my own wedding.
So, from my heart, here are:
- Attend premarital counseling. Would you jump out of an airplane without a parachute? I didn’t think so. Entering into marriage without some kind of counseling is pretty much doing the same thing. Except that in marriage, you have the potential to fall harder and with more life-damaging wounds. Ben and I found that premarital counseling equipped us in practical ways to transition from “two” to “one”. It also helped us focus our attention on the real purpose of marriage, but more on that in a bit. (Side note: Our counseling sessions ended up being the sweetest memories we have of our engagement period.)
- Reinforce boundaries. As your wedding day gets closer, the temptation to use the excuse, “We’re basically already married,” swells. Dear sisters, you aren’t married yet. During your engagement keeping appropriate physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries is as important as ever before. Marriage is choc full of responsibility and sacrifice. Don’t try to dip into the joys early.
- Invest in your girlfriends. When I was engaged, I was far too focused on spending as much time as possible with my husband-to-be that I didn’t use those precious, last few months of singleness to invest in my girlfriends.The marriage relationship is heavenly, but it isn’t the only relationship you have. Or the only relationship you will ever need. Your husband is a real catch, but he can’t fill every void. Only Christ does that, and the Lord uses lots of different people to do so. (And, let’s face it, sometimes you need to cry for no reason and eat a whole tub of Ben & Jerrys. Girlfriends were made for this kind of indulgence.) You have freedoms as a single gal that married women don’t. Use them wisely before tying the knot.
- Save money. Anticipate the responsibilities of joint checking by bringing as much as you can to the account. Engagement isn’t the time to go on free-for-all shopping sprees before you’re “tied down”. Be considerate of your fiance – and I hope he is just as considerate of you! – by making wise choices about your financial future.
- For the love of mercy, don’t obsess over ‘sweating for a wedding’. I sound silly, but I promise I’m totally serious. While I completely support healthy living goals, I think there is a huge pressure placed on brides to preform in the looks department. (If you don’t believe me, pick up any popular magazine and check out their exhaustive, year-long bridal beauty guides.) Your man loves you for you. He already asked you to marry him. Chances are, that probably means he already thinks you’re pretty hot. You don’t have to lose weight to impress anyone on your big day. I guess all I’m trying to say is be a healthy you, but don’t beat yourself up for days if you throw down another cupcake at your shower.
- Plan your wedding to bless others. Brides are often confronted with the, frankly, sinful idea that their wedding days are all about them. Your wedding day is not about you. It isn’t even about your husband. Firstly, your wedding is about Jesus – whether or not you’re accurately portraying him. And secondly, your wedding is about the “dearly beloved” that have gathered to support you two in marriage. Do as much as you can on your special day to put others before yourself. It’s a great exercise in, and introduction to, the sacrificial calling of marriage.
- Travel somewhere alone. If you’re able, take a little trip alone. Not to find yourself, but to remember who you are. Your husband will be the best earthly friend you have, but he will never define you. You are defined in Christ alone. I think that taking a mini-retreat would be a wonderful way to remind yourself of who you are in Christ before walking down the aisle.
- Spend a one-on-one evening with your mom (or mother figure). For whatever reason, it never worked out that mom and I could have some one-on-one time before my wedding. I truly missed the loss of that opportunity. (Which ended up making my mom’s solo visit after the birth of my daughter even sweeter.) If your mom or mother figure is close by, take time out of your busy preparations to just spend time with this amazing woman. If your mom lives farther away (like mine), it will take a bit more planning but try your hardest to make some time with just the two of you happen.
- Remember the goal of your engagement. You are engaged to be married, not to have a wedding day. Engagement is not a mere holding pattern until you walk down the aisle. It also isn’t merely a time to get all your wedding plans in order. Engagement should prepare you for marriage. Please, take these few months seriously. Focus your mind on the massive life change you’re about to have. Prepare your heart. And pray without ceasing. In addition to studying the Bible with your fiance, you might find it helpful to read through a book on marriage together. Ben and I chose to read This Momentary Marriage by Pastor John Piper together. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough to you. You can watch a video trailer for the book here.
- Pursue the Lord, ferociously. With a new husband and new baby in tow, I’ve often thought about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (32-35) I never understood what Paul meant as a single woman. To be honest, I thought this part of the Bible was a bit extreme. As if the Apostle was trying to rob some of my happiness and hopes for marriage. Dear ladies, this wisdom is so true. I don’t mean to say that marriage is a burden – it isn’t! – but the responsibilities of family life do take up much of your attention and energy. Above all you can redeem your engagement exactly how all of us should redeem our time, by focusing your eyes on Jesus.
The warmest congratulations and sweetest wishes to you, my dear!