After the question: ‘Will you marry me?’ is popped and the answer is given in the positive, you are considered as engaged! This is called as the engagement period. Being engaged is an exciting time and it is a step closer to solidifying the relationship in marriage. During this time, the couple that are going to get married will discuss and plan their wedding day together. Apart from being a happy and exciting time, engagement can also be a time of great stress where agreement on certain things may not be reached and end up causing a great deal of conflict. This conflict can be fuelled by relatives pushing their own agenda about who should be invited and not invited, theme colour, styles and so forth. There are also people who try to exploit engaged couples, by charging exorbitant prices for the different things that the couple might want to include on their wedding day. Wedding expenses can reach to the hundreds of thousands and the couple might even take a loan to have a grand wedding but then starting out their married life with a debt which they have to pay off.
Couples can get lost in all the euphoria and glitter and miss out on the point that the engagement period is there to help them prepare for marriage. The most important question in this engagement time should be: “How can I best prepare myself to be the best husband/wife to my wife/husband when we get married?” A wedding is one day but a marriage is for a lifetime. There are many things that people bring into a marriage: they bring themselves-who they are, likes and dislikes, their upbringing, their strengths and weaknesses, any unresolved issues in their life, their family, culture, etc. This can be made more difficult if they are coming from different cultures or faiths, etc.
In this engagement time, as certain items are discussed, one might realise that the other person is not who they thought or seemed to be at face value and might start having doubts whether to get married to them or not. Observation of behaviour is very important as well as identifying any similarities that both have. Their future spouse might lack the basics necessary for a healthy marriage: e.g. a negative attitude towards lasting commitment, children, money, unwilling to adjust and work together, is abusive, controlling, etc… Certain things that surface during the engagement period, if not dealt with before marriage will enter the marriage and potentially ruin it. So this engagement period is also a time of discernment and reflection before making a free, total, faithful and fruitful commitment in marriage to the other. Each day one should make a decision whether to continue the journey towards marriage or end it. Therefore a good time frame should be given (e.g. 6-12 months) for the engagement period and not rush hastily into marriage.
What I found helpful in my engagement period was that my fiancé and I attended a Marriage preparation course soon after getting engaged. This helped us to talk about many different matters, our expectations and way of looking at different topics. We recognised those things that we needed to spend more time on and because we did the marriage course so early, we got a head start. Instead of working on things after we got married, we started working on them during our engagement period, this actually helped us grow in communication with each other and we grew closer together. We also had some close friends who have been married for decades and they have offered their wisdom, experience and support.
Being engaged to the love of your life should make you feel happy and looking forward to spend your whole life with that person, your best friend! After marriage, one should not stop looking to their husband or wife as their best friend but it should actually be the opposite: their relationship should go upwards: growing from strength to strength in their married life and this will help them overcome any challenges that will come as two lives are made one. The help of God is also critical.
Below is a list of courses that are available to prepare engaged couples for marriage:
CatholicCare: www.ccss.org.au / (02) 9933 0222
- Pre Marriage weekend course where a multiple of topics are covered
- Prepare/Enrich (an individualised pre-marriage inventory which explores many aspects in the couple relationship, with a trained facilitator)
Other Pre-Marriage Services:
- Diocese of Parramatta Parish-based courses in Greystanes, Windsor and Glenbrook. To book, please ring the parish.
- Engaged Encounter: A weekend course from Fri evening-Sun afternoon engagedencounter.com.au / (02)9990 3212
- Smartloving Engaged: A course which integrates contemporary relationship psychology with Catholic Spirituality (6 individual sessions) smartloving.org / (02)9319 6280
- Catholic Adult Education Centre (CAEC): A weekend course that gives special emphasis to the spiritual and sacramental dimensions of marriage, while covering also the practical aspects. http://www.caec.com.au/marriage/index.html / (02) 9646 9010