This weekend, I watched one of my dearest friends get married.
Nowadays, this is usually how it works: you date someone for some length of time, get engaged, spend about a year planning your wedding, and then you get married. People usually don’t think too much of it, but this engagement period is crucial and serves a very important function. We think that everything between the engagement and the actual wedding is about putting together this big elaborate event, but as I watched my friend go through this period between dating and engagement, engagement and wedding, I realized that it is way more than just putting on a party. The celebration at the end is just the fake medallion, the tangible reward we look for at the finish line. But, the journey and the process and the learning in between is the actual true reward.
As family and friends, post-engagement, we rally behind the couple. We put them in the limelight, make their wedding preparations the center of conversation. Leading up to the engagement, we focus on the couple. During the wedding, we turn all our attention to the couple. And, for the first year of marriage after the wedding, we check in to see how wonderful the first marriage is.
But, what we are really doing in all of this is affirming the couple’s decision and setting them up for a successful marriage. We hold these events (bridal showers, bachelorette parties) and construct these question and answer games: What is his favorite feature on her? When did they meet? What is her favorite childhood memory? While playing these games, the bride and groom are (a) realizing they know everything about each other or (b) find out there is still stuff to learn. Through these events, we ask them to find out unusual and extraordinary things about each other that they might not otherwise think of.
Through the wedding planning, we ask the couple to endure immense amounts of stress–and see how they problem solve. We ask them to work through family dilemmas (which, really can make or break a relationship). We ask them to learn to compromise on “important” decisions (should we have white cake or pistachio-chocolate-peanut butter cake?). After all, these are just minor obstacles, but the way the couple solves these issues is setting them up for how they solve much larger obstacles later on.
Post-wedding, we talk to the couple about what a lovely time we had, how we enjoyed meeting their relatives. A couple months after the pictures come out, we rush over to their house to dote over the pictures and re-live the memories. We inflate their egos, tell them how beautiful everyone looks, and how in love they look. We continue to re-affirm their decision to get married, which based on the self-fulfilling prophecy, causes them to fall even more in love and in appreciation with each other.
And, after a while, this attention goes away, someone else gets married, and the couple must rely on the bonds created to sustain their marriage on their own. It’s like scaffolding that we use in teaching; we offer supports and then slowly, pull them away, and ask the couple to stand on their own.
If there wasn’t love between Brittny and Dillon, there certainly is now. I have had the pleasure to watch their relationship bud and blossom throughout this engagement period and into their marriage. I know that they will be a successful couple.