You always imagine as a girl growing up that it will be so exciting to be engaged. Planning a wedding, spending time with your beloved, knowing that soon your day-to-day life will drastically change. But Andrew and I, while enjoying all of those things, found engagement to be incredibly trying and difficult. I have heard from many friends since then, that they too, really disliked the period of engagement.
I don't think we surprised anyone too much as we started to call family and friends to tell them. My parents knew it was coming because Andrew had asked their permission. And the rest of our family and friends knew it was coming because most of them were avid readers of my blog, and they had read how in love we were. My most favorite memory of announcing our engagement was telling our friend Erin. She had told me months before that Andrew was delightfully quirky and "you MUST marry him." When we told her, at her house, on the fourth of July she screamed and hugged us. I made her re-enact it so I could get a picture.
But after the initial "WOO HOO! We're engaged!" wore off and we had to start planning things, engagement got a little more dicey. One of the first problems we ran into was picking our wedding party. It seemed only natural that since he had two sisters and I had two brothers that we would put them in the party. But what about our friends? And what do you do when you marry a man who doesn't have a ton of guy friends but you have some really great girl friends that you want to include? A bit of drama ensued around that. But nothing too terrible. I ended up with three bridesmaids and three honorary bridesmaids. And when you put 6 women together to plan showers and stuff... or even try to get 6 very different women to like the dress you pick for them... well, let's just say, it's not all roses and daisies. They were gracious enough to keep most of their opinions to themselves but the bride always hears murmurings even if she's not supposed to. Oh well.
Early in the engagement I had a lot of questions about my vocation. I had felt that I had been fighting a call to religious life for at least 4 years, and I worried and wondered if I actually had said "no" to God when I said "yes" to Andrew. But through much prayer and discussion, it just seemed right to be with Andrew. And I never felt I was fighting my call to be Andrew's wife.
By far the most disconcerting part of being engaged were all of the naysayers we encountered along the way. We had friends who told us we were spending "too much time together." We had family encouraging us to wait longer... think harder... even don't get married to each other at all. Their opinions weighed heavily on us. Their sentiments thwarted a time that I had imagined would be joyful. People weren't shy about expressing their thoughts to us. They came from both sides of the family. For different reasons and at different times. We heard everything from, "She doesn't want to marry YOU, she just wants to be married," to "Are you sure you can marry a man who will never let you spend money? Can you be happy living that way?" Throughout marriage prep, I kept getting a sense that if God wants something to happen, then the devil certainly does NOT want it to happen, so I leaned on that and just prayed that our loved ones would someday understand why things were right between Andrew and I, and we really were incredibly happy, and we were very assured that we were doing the right thing. There was a peace in our love that neither of us had ever experienced, and it seemed no matter how much other people tried to shake that peace, Andrew and I were always able to fall back on it.
It wasn't always easy to regain that peace. I found out years later that Andrew nearly called off the engagement on numerous occasions. But I vividly remember at least one conversation with him when I knew he was questioning us. We were standing by his car and I could see the worry and doubt in his eyes from a conversation he had just had with someone who didn't want us to be together. I was crying and crying because I just didn't understand why people couldn't see the peace that we felt together... the love that we had together... the depth that we shared.
I said to him, "Did you love me yesterday?"
"Yes," he said.
"Did you love me an hour ago?"
"Yes," he said.
"Then why would one conversation with someone who doesn't believe in us change your mind? I'm still the same girl you fell in love with no matter what they say."
We considered postponing the wedding on numerous occasions. One of our priest friends told us, "If you're going to get married, then get married!" But we knew our choice of a May wedding would mean Andrew still had a year of grad school to finish, and we might not be ready for a baby right away. We considered postponing to October so many times, but for some reason, the May date just seemed more right. (We now know that it was because our little Mia would be a wedding gift from God in May.)
Through all of the turmoil, angst and planning, Andrew and I made sure our communication was top priority. If we had doubts, we talked about them. If someone told us we were making a bad decision, we stood strong together. We prayed together. We talked to our Marriage Prep priest. We asked for our friends prayers. We forged a relationship that could withstand the force of all kinds of things and it only made us stronger as we headed towards our wedding day. Although I would have happily avoided all of the tribulations we experienced, I think we are stronger for them today.