Caution: Up To Date is designed to be read in a linear fashion, as each chapter builds on principles established in the previous chapters. For your best relationship success, begin with the introduction and progress chapter by chapter.
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:7).
“I have nothing to offer you but my strength for your defense, my honesty for your surety,
my ability and industry for your livelihood, and my authority and position for your dignity.
That is all it becomes a man to offer to a woman.”
Now is the time you can say “love” as freely as you like. Woo hoo! I just had to put that in this chapter ASAP.
Then her dad says, “You realize that you need to ask me for her hand in marriage before you pop the question to her, right?” but by now you pretty much know his answer. You are such a stand-up, respectable guy that her dad isn’t likely to let you get away. You are experienced at “asking-dad” now anyway, so this will be a piece o’ cake. Once you have his permission, ask her.
“Well, how is that best done?” You may ask. Well, ask her Dad, ask her, but avoid asking your buddies. This is not the time for competition amongst the guys. It doesn’t matter what any of your friends have done. It just does not need to involve more people, more media, or more flare. She will want this memory to be unique to you and your relationship with her, not your relationship to your friends.
Many people plan a private proposal in a special place; some make it a huge event with lots of witnesses. Some are spontaneous while others are rehearsed. This is your party, so do it however you like, taking into consideration her personality and preferences, as well.
If you dated an appropriate amount of time and took the right steps during courting, you are confident in the marriage plan, so make the engagement phase short in duration. We suggest only four to six months—plenty of time to plan a wedding but less time to torment yourself with physical temptation. Don’t get me wrong. You will be tempted no matter how long the engagement, but it’s best to balance the span of temptation with the feasibility of wedding-planning.
Heads up, Guys . . .
Because guys tend to get a bit anxious about all of this wedding stuff and most men, if totally honest, would rather just skip the wedding and jump straight into the honeymoon, as we’ve alluded to before. Here we review the wedding-planning basics so you have no surprises. Don’t worry though; by time you are done with this chapter, you’ll be, well . . . even more anxious. Here is the rundown. See it, realize it, but don’t fight it ;-)
Traditionally the guy proposes, but the gal pays for most of the wedding—or rather, her family does. The groom and/or his family are usually responsible for some things. If, as in some circumstances, the bride and groom will be paying for the wedding, it’s your party and it’s all up to you. If paid for by the parents, it is a gift to the bride and groom, which means it’s their party (the bride’s parents). Because it’s a gift, they may not even want you to know the cost, and it’s alright. It’ll make sense in the end.
In the mean-time, it’s best to roll with the punches and make sure you, the groom, are doing your part, which is making decisions in a timely manner, assisting the bride to make decisions in a timely manner, helping where needed, and being appreciative, empathetic, and supportive to those doing the planning and work. Let me say this again, you part is making decisions in a timely manner and being supportive to those who are giving so much of their lives to make this occasion special for you and your bride ;-).
If the bride’s parents are paying for the wedding, should there be something of which you don’t approve, avoid complaining between each other unless it’s one of your ideas. It is best to use your appropriate communication skills to speak directly with the parents being sure to show your appreciation for their efforts and contributions. Since you are a couple now, it’s OK to approach parents from that standpoint rather than alone. Doing anything other than going together to the source, where discussion can be productive, will create more stress for everyone than is necessary. Though it might be easier for you, be sure not to put your bride (or your groom) into a position of go-between with either set of parents.
Anticipated costs . . .
I’d like to work you in gently, Guys, but I think the best approach is to just say it. The last beautiful, but not overdone, wedding we attended cost about $4000, which included a whole lot of free labor from over thirty extremely organized and energetic friends. Such a thing is difficult to arrange, and risky, but it can be done.
Even though the groom’s wallet is the least tapped, this is about the time he says, and understandably so, “Uh, why can’t we just do this simply for a couple thousand or less—or skip it all together? We don’t need to be fancy.” The answer, “No, you can’t.” Here’s why . . .
According to costofwedding.com, the average price of a wedding in our area today is $12,698 to $21,163 without the honeymoon. It’s 2010 and at this point, the cheapest wedding with just a dress and a church will run at least $1000, unless your church eliminates their fee. The groom’s cost in all this is usually about 10 percent, but at this price, the groom would be coming in an old suit. If you decide to add a few guests with a cake-and-punch-only reception, without decorations or anything else, you will at least double that. If you want to have a simple ‘traditional” wedding you will, at bare minimum, quadruple the cost, but all your friends will need to pitch in on the labor—big time. If you want the wedding to come off OK, your friends will actually have to show up and do something instead of just promise. If you want a wedding with trimmings but choose to hire it done so your friends can enjoy it instead of work (or if you aren’t sure if they will actually show), the wedding will cost a minimum of $8000 to $10,000.
I’m being really straight up again here, but before you write off any nuptials in favor of your pocket-book, you should realize two things: 1) to a girl, asking for vows without a real wedding is in the same category as asking a guy to have a honeymoon without sex, and 2) that the high expenses are just the way of the twenty-first century. It’s just life.
It really does help to know what all these fund’s are going for, so a list follows. You might sit down with your bride-to-be and see what you can decrease, but it’s not likely to be a lot. A perfect example for why all that practical prep is so important.
The following event accommodates about fifty guests and this is a pretty conservative estimate. Now of course this is in 2010, so it will likely be much different by time you read this. I put an asterisk next to any traditional American groom’s expenses just so you can get an idea, but of course each family has their own traditions.
· Marriage License $75*
· Invitations $250* plus postage
· Rehearsal Dinner for the bridal party and family $250*
· Church $250 to $1000 ($250 is usually only if you are a member of the church)
· Flowers $1000 (*brides bouquet $75)
· Candles and candelabras $100
· Wedding dress/shoes $250 to infinity
· Tuxes or suits/shoes for groomsmen and fathers: $150 each to infinity*
· Musician $75 fee or gratuity for wedding
· Musician $450 to infinity for reception
· Pastor $10, gifted*
· Coordinator $500
· Reception hall $700
· Cake $300 minimum
· Tables, chairs and linens $300
· Canopy if outside $800
· Caterer $2500 to infinity, about $30 a head for a very simple menu
· Attendant gifts $200 total (*groomsmen’s gifts)
· Gifts for each other $100 (*bride’s)
· Thank you notes $20
· Photographer $2500
Let’s see, that’s about $4500 without the most expensive items: the reception hall, caterer, coordinator, canopy, photographer, and honeymoon. What I left out of the total, those things that your friends may be able to do, are important things, but the above estimate is still lacking decorations and other wedding niceties.
Keep in mind that if your friends are willing to help, willing to drive or fly to your event and do something you would normally have to pay for, you need to have some token of appreciation ready for them at the wedding.
A note about the photographer – if we have heard one recurring nightmare from wedding stories it’s that of picture disasters. We have seen so many weddings where a friend took pictures and the bride and groom never received them or the friend wasn’t as talented as they thought. Many believe that this is the one place where money can be saved. Pictures are your one financial and relational investment that you will take away from the wedding and actually use. Everything else will go in storage or be tossed. Over the span of time, during the stressful times, it’s those pictures that will bring back the romance in your life; it’s those pictures that will make a difference after the wedding. If you have to cut elsewhere, do so, but please hire a good photographer, and spend the money for not only quality pictures but for the rights to them, as well.
I like tradition, but I also like to change them. The current trend is to have the bridesmaids and the groomsmen pay for their own attire. I hope to change this one. Paying for attire that may not be in their own taste, that they have little or no choice about the color or fashion, may likely only wear it once, and has already interrupted their lives, time, and work, often traveling long distances to be there, and putting them to work when they arrive . . . well, that really can be asking a lot of your friends. Instead of it being an honor to be your bridesmaid or groomsmen, it becomes a real burden.
The bride and groom are the host and hostess, but we’ve seen many a host and hostess who are so stressed over the budget that they have been pretty bold in asking their friends to carry the load as though the friends owed them the world.
One bride was unprepared for the compounding cost of wedding purchases. As time went on, her stress reaction caused her to actually get angry with her friends for asking her to pay for the things the she asked them to help with. Think about it. Friends are not required to pay for your wedding. It’s easy to laugh at such a thought, but ill preparation and stress will make people do strange things. Be prepared that this event will cost you, and that it will consistently throw unexpected expenses your way—even into four digit numbers. Plan ahead, and cut where you can so you can honor your friends and not expect honor in return.
On similar lines, another tradition I’d like to change, as would many others, is that of “Bridzilla.” I could tell you unbelievable stories, but I won’t because they are just not pretty. I’d like to help you, the bride, understand that you are not the guest of honor. Yes, it is “your day,” but that means you are the hostess of the party and not the goddess. Putting on a wedding is stressful. Perhaps your wedding will be the busiest time of your life, but it will not likely be the most stressful. More life, kids, and trauma is yet to come. Things will go wrong at the wedding—they will. If you can’t fix it, just let it go no matter how big the issue. Stress brings out the best or worst in people, his or her true character, so think of how you want to be remembered on “your day.” Will you represent Christ at all times, planning ahead to act rather than react? Will you be remembered as a radiant bride and gracious hostess or a Bridezilla?
If anyone ever had an excuse to be irritable, if anyone ever had a right to say, “This is my day,” it was Christ on the day He was crucified. The future of all eternity culminated in that one day, yet He wasn’t irritable or angry, and He was more concerned for the weeping women and His mother than for Himself even as He breathed His last. So, no matter what goes wrong on “your day,” your wedding, and the remembrance of it, will be what you make it.
Be aware, seriously aware, that we have seen most every couple have at least one major issue come up sometime during their courtship, but more often during engagement. It’s like a testing time, and it’s serious. It may not be over any specific event or idea, but it could be a major mood change, distraction, fear, “Bridezilla” behavior, or cold feet. Be on the watch for this. If you can see it as another cosmic battle plan, you can and will overcome by God's grace—one way or the other. Keep in mind that there is nothing but virtue in postponing the wedding should you have any hint about a red flag. If you see problematic traits during this time, no matter where you are in the wedding process, postpone it until you are absolutely sure this isn’t God’s last warning sign before taking the plunge. Do not ignore an uncomfortable feeling that arises from a hint or concern.
Most businesses won’t return your money, but they’ll usually apply it to another date down the road. What you lose in finances will be made up for in surety and security. It won’t matter in the whole scope of eternity. Remember that by being wise, we decrease divorce statistics.
It is easy to be overly-stressed during engagement. Everyone is excited, there are lots of things to do, and the entire extended family wants the newly engaged couple to come visit. Someone might even throw an engagement party. You will be busy. During this time you are stressed about money, making tons of decisions, maybe even disagreeing—often, and you still have to work (maybe even more now to pay for the wedding) while keeping up all your other obligations. You need to represent Christ even more so now, no matter what the in-laws have already started doing ;-). These things can really try a relationship. These will not be the worst trials in your life, but it is a lot of busy work. Since wedding-planning is so stressful, planning some un-planning time is all the more critical. You will find very early on that prearranged dates alone together are really important. Do them, but for Christ’s comfort, have that alone-time out in public ;-).
It’s usually the groom’s role to plan and pay for the honeymoon. You can surprise your bride, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that unless she believes you are really good at planning travel. Do consider what your woman will like. It's best to balance down-time with activity. For astute reasons I don’t recommend camping or backpacking, and I highly recommend the availability of modern facilities twenty-four/seven. An “experienced” girl (and I’m not talking about backpacking experience) may be OK with it --she knows what she's getting into. An inexperienced girl may believe she is OK with it, but she needs modern facilities with a private restroom for you both. If a girl isn't aware that she needs these accommodations, it makes no sense to ask her if she's willing to rough-it. Instead, take the initiative to be considerate and make proper honeymoon arrangements for her comfort. You have plenty of time to go camping and backpacking over the next sixty years. I will elaborate more on the rationale in Honeymoon Ed.
Two weeks to go . . .
You can’t wait to be married, but not so much for the wedding part. By now you are just ready to be alone and independent of other influences. You are really ready to get on with life together. The cool thing is, the morning after the wedding you will wake up with the most peaceful feeling in the world, because now you answer to no one. Well, OK, you still have to answer to God, but it’s just the three of you: a twitterpated bride and groom and God. There are few other feelings in life that will top that of the feelings of freedom and love that you experience the day after the wedding—especially after such a busy engagement time. It’s a great feeling to wake up to together, but what about the night before—the honeymoon night? Well, what about it? ;-)
Hey,” you ask, “don’t we get any advice about the wedding night?” “Well,” I’m compelled to ask, “doesn’t it all come naturally?” Yes, eventually it does, but preparation will ease any nervousness and foster a more enjoyable experience—and memory. If you will send me your printed wedding invitation long with three dollars to cover my printing/mailing costs, I will send you a copy of “Honeymoon Ed” two weeks prior to your wedding date.
To wrap it up
Though “getting on with life” seems as if it will never come, it surely will. Once you’re married, it’s time to sit back and float, right? All too soon you discover that there are too many life-distractions to allow floating. Time-spent is still the best woo, but even though you live in the same house, it’s challenging to fit each other into a busy life—at least as much as we’d like. Without decided effort to stay connected, a few things get in the way like the five most stressful marriage issues.
Watch for Up To Date’s sequel, Updated, where we enlighten the readers as to where and why marriage is said to be hard work and how to mesh two differing individuals on the topics of sex, money, kids, in-laws, and unexpected events.
In the interim, “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown herewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousal . . . , and in the day of the gladness of his heart” (Song of Solomon 3:11).