I’m not buying into the trend of hating on people for getting engaged or married. I do, however, totally understand it. We still live in a culture that holds marriage above other achievements; we sell it to young women as the blue ribbon of validation that you are worth a damn, while failing to adequately uplift other benchmarks of personal success for everyone for whom marriage isn’t their target, or even a goal at all. Marriage is still a source of pain and discrimination because a lot of perfectly human couples aren’t allowed to take part in it. It’s still rife with antiquated nods to old-school patriarchy and the notion of women as property. In other words, marriage is inherently kind of fucked, but I think we’re generally doing our best to make it something that reflects our current, more evolved social ideals and vaguely better gender dynamics – we’re keeping the tradition of having a ritual solely dedicated to celebrating love and commitment and hope while trying to force out all the historical dirty associations. I can dig it. Let’s do that. Weddings are beautiful and optimistic and usually have an open bar. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE.
For a lot of people, weddings are great and marriage is cool or whatever, but there is nothing more stressful than being friends with someone who is engaged. *Shudder*. We’ve all been there: One of your best pals shows up to get drinks packing brand new bling and you’re all “Wooooo! Yay you! Yay for your love! Yay for morally questionable gemstones!” And you buy all of her drinks and laugh about how unreal it is to think about only fucking one person for the rest of one’s life, knowing that at the end of the night, she’s going to go curl up with someone who, for the moment, is without flaw to her and she won’t give one good goddamn about all the dick she might miss out on. She’s in love, and you are sincerely happy for her.
Until a week from then. Or a month from then. Or a mind-numbing year from then. Where did your friend go? Why is she screaming at you for not looking “hard enough” at pictures of centerpieces? What does that even mean? Where was she when you broke your leg last week and could’ve used some couch company? What is this life anymore?
So here’s the deal. As a service to all of our newly engaged friends, of whom there are quite a few as we depart the holiday season, we, your non-betrothed companions, would like to offer a few words of advice on how to enjoy this special, magical time in your life without totally fucking up every other relationship you have. Because we love you. And we are happy for you. We want us to all get through this time of transition and planning in one, friendly piece.
Please abide the following:
Ask people how involved they want to be
Something to keep in mind: The degree to which someone wants to be personally involved in the planning of your wedding is not an indication of how much they care about you as a person. Everyone has their strengths and interests; don’t take it personally if party planning and comparing caterers aren’t areas where your very best friend shines. A lot of wedding planning friction occurs when everyone’s expectations aren’t on the same page. Cut that off from the beginning – ask everyone clearly how involved they want to be; are they genuinely pumped to be by your side through every late night and painstaking our of poring over details and seating arrangements? Are they in for a few wine-soaked planning seshes and little more? Are they in grad school and love you but honestly will be lucky to even have time to attend? Have these talks, and you’ll have a much greater chance of everyone getting from “yes” to “I do” in harmony, with as few hurt feels as possible.
Give people wedding “jobs” they’ll love
Once you’ve figured out how much time and energy each of your friends and family members want to sacrifice to the planning of your upcoming nuptials, clearly tell each person what roll you have in mind for them, what the responsibilities of that role are, why you think they would be great at it, and if they’re down. And try to pick tasks that actually suit the personality and skills of each person – not only are they more likely to be enthusiastic about doing work for your special day which will make a more positive experience for everyone, but they’re way more likely to go a good job if that job happens to be something they know how to do well. Example: Your Etsy-famous, crafty friend would be the perfect person to make thoughtful, unique, handmade bridesmaids’ gifts. If, on the other hand, you assigned that project to your friend the copywriter, they might look at you like, “Whut.”
Don’t expect other people to care about your wedding as much as you do
Even when it’s their own, different people give vastly different levels of a shit when it comes to weddings. Maybe to you, it’s just a party and you refuse to let it stress you out too much, nor will you allow it to consume your life. But maybe you’ve been waiting your entire life to let yourself get consumed by wedding planning. For some people, the ceremony and celebration surrounding their commitment to another human is so goddamn important that they can’t imagine not pouring every ounce of their energy into making it as beautiful and perfect as possible. Both attitudes and all the shades in between, by the way, are very legit. Weddings matter varying amounts to different people, and don’t let anyone convince you that how you feel about it is incorrect. The only thing that’s incorrect is projecting your preoccupation with your wedding onto the people around you; they will never care as much as you. And it’s not their job to. Don’t except it, and don’t get upset about it. At the end of the day, as much as you want all the people you love to be a part of this important moment, getting married is essentially about you and your partner. Be obsessed together. Be happy together. Enjoy having other people join in on the love, but don’t require their excitement, or be a bitch-baby if you don’t get enough of it.
Don’t stop caring about other people’s lives
I think one of the biggest reasons why everyone cringes a little whenever one of their friends gets engaged is this immediate sense of doom that sets in; there’s an automatic fear that the darling person you know and love now ceases to exist, and has been replaced by a mason jar-obsessed robot who won’t want to do anything on any foreseeable weekend except drag you to farms an hour outside the city and ask you to weigh in on if the possible ceremony site under that “really excellent tree” is too far of a walk from the reception site in that “totally fucking adorable barn”. In other words, your friends are afraid that you don’t exist anymore, and that they are obligated to be friends with someone who no longer cares about anything but weddings. Don’t let it happen. Even if you have to set alarms on your phone that go off a few times a day and say “Call *BFF* and ask about her day”, you must force yourself to look outward from Wedding World often enough to still be a well-rounded, present human being for the people in your life.
Don’t relate every conversation to your wedding/fiancé
If you’re pal tells you about getting a raise at work, an appropriate response is, “Fuck yes, you deserve it because you are the genius queen of all that is brilliant plus your eyebrows are always perfect!” An appropriate response is not “Oh yeah, Mark just got a promotion too, and we decided to put all the extra money into the *really good* suite on our honeymoon. OMG, did I show you pictures of the view from where we’re staying? *pulls out phone*” NO. The week after you get engaged gets to be all about you. The week of your wedding gets to be all about you. In the interim, your wedding officially just becomes “what’s going on with you” and it doesn’t get more air time with your friends than any of their shit does. You are obligated to at least pretend to give a shit about what’s happening with them, even if you don’t. Don’t worry, you get credit for even faking interest in things other than you’re wedding.
Do realize the bigger lesson
The fundamental basis of the cliché divide between “the bride-to-be who wants everyone to put the universe on pause and focus on her wedding” and “everyone else who wants to suffocate the self-obsessed bride-to-be with a hundred pound of tulle” comes from having understandably different levels of excitement about the wedding. If you are engaged and experiencing this, I say this: No one is, will be, or even should be as stoked about your wedding as you and your beloved. And in reality, this is not only a good thing, it’s an instance of how the two of you, as a unit, in a marriage, will probably feel compared to the rest of the world for the rest of your lives.
Ideally, the two of you are in the process of building a very exclusive little world together; other people in your lives can see it, occasionally take part in it, and understand the magic to a certain degree, but since they aren’t in the middle of it, there’s no way they can ever fully comprehend the indescribable core of what you and your partner are. They can see the life you’re creating together, for each other, but they can never truly be a part of it. And that’s okay. That is, in fact, probably part of the reason you’re getting married. It’s reasonable to expect for your people to be excited for you when you’re engaged, but don’t anticipate their level of happiness and obsession about it to even nearly match yours – how could it possibly? Maybe take this as the first of what will likely be many times in the years to come when you and your partner share something that everyone else can only kind of understand. That’s not a bummer. Enjoy the presence of other people, and relish in the good times together, but enjoy even more the fact that none of them really, wholly is on your level the way your partner is.
And congratulations! Now please don’t become a monster, or make anyone wear mauve.