Surviving The First Wave Of Engagements
When Matthew and I first moved to Chicago, a co-worker of his gave us a piece of advice. She was 28 years old and had been fending off marriage questions from friends and family for years.
She shared, that in her experience, there were typically two waves of engagements: one around 25—the early birds, planners or anxiety driven engagements—and then there was a second wave around 30—the slow movers, late bloomers or, in rare cases, second timers. If we could survive the first wave, she explained, it would all be downhill from there.
At the time, the conversation felt completely out of place. Matthew and I both laughed and politely segued into a new topic. In her defense, our relationship did suffer from some good old fashioned Benjamin Button syndrome: 10 years old on the outside, a pure infant on the inside. In just a year, we'd graduated from college, moved in together (in New Orleans), left New Orleans, moved to Chicago and finally settled into our first ever city apartment. But wedding bells certainly weren't on our radar.
Now at 26 years old, and firmly in the thick of our first wave, I feel like sending her the fruit baskets to top all fruit baskets for her valuable words of wisdom. Truly, if you happen to know of a service that provides gold encrusted papayas and Dom Perignon dipped strawberries, hook a girl up.
Once we received the first invite, the flood gates opened. Even our "vacations" became two-day wedding extensions spent site seeing our way through various US suburbias.
And, as fate would have it, we slowly began weathering wedding bell questions of our own.
When would we? Would we? Why wait?
And to be honest, none seemed like that much of an intrusion. In fact, I found myself asking the very same questions.
For years, my idea of having a wedding was nothing short of a made for TV spectacle. Most young girls dream of becoming princesses when they grow up. I had dreams of getting "big girl boobs" so that I could finally fill out an elegant fitted gown and sweetheart neckline. I was the go-to source in my friend group for wedding advice. Even the women in my family routinely joked about the feasibility of elbowing our way onto the set of Say Yes to the Dress.
And now that I'd finally met the man of my dreams, here I was: mid twenties, patiently waiting and confused. In the strangest of ways, I craved a wedding more than anything else in the world while also remaining whole heartedly adamant that it wasn't the right time in my career or my relationship.
So for months, I sat back as friends and family members sent over wedding Pinterest boards and decor ideas. We had a fridge door covered in beautiful engagement photographs. I attended bridal fittings where I attempted to reconcile the immense excitement I felt for the beautiful brides-to-be with a silent pang of jealousy for not knowing when it'd finally be my turn.
If I'd ever be ready for it to be my turn.
But as is true with most things, the flood slowly subsided. The sheer effort that went into planning a wedding wasn't lost on the remaining ringless couples in our friend group. Everyone else had decided to wait—focusing on travel, getting ahead at work or questioning the concept of marriage altogether. Because as much as the first wave can incite a bitch of insecurity and doubt, it can also serve as one hell of a lesson.
Or in our case, a stellar scapegoat.
We have an irrational argument after an in-law asks why we're not married? It's just the first wave. We stop speaking because he says the ring I like looks like costume jewelry (P.S. it totally did)? It's just the first wave. I have a panic attack because my chicken piccata "doesn't look like it does in the magazine and how in the world will I ever be a good mom/wife if I can't make a halfway decent chicken piccata?!" It's just the first wave.
The more I repeat this absurd mantra, the more I truly believe that surviving the first wave has nothing to do with marriage at all. Surviving the first wave has everything to do with understanding who or what your relationship will be amidst outward judgements, inevitable prying and well intentioned advice. It's all about learning to move at your own pace, regardless of the waves. Then having the courage to make a final call: either grow up together or grow apart.
Because at the end of the day, deciding to get married is the simple part: one person asks, the other responds. The thick of life afterwards? Well that's the beauty of it all: we get to figure it the hell out—busty necklines, crappy chicken piccata, untraditional unions and all.