Ever since I got engaged last September, I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of "Congratulations!" and "Your ring is gorgeous!" and "You look like you're doing the ugly cry in every picture!" However, I've also been a little... caught off guard by other kinds of comments. In fact, I've realized that there are quite a few engagement expectations that are actually really annoying.
Engagements and weddings — similar to most things that we often examine through a feminist lens — should be about one thing: Choice. I'm hesitant to even call these engagement "stereotypes" — because if these are things you really want, then you should have them.
The problem, though — or at least, the problem as I've found it — is that our culture has set an abritrary standard for engagements, with anything deviating from that standard getting been deemed "lesser" or "strange" or "wrong." We feel pressured to have perfect engagements and perfect weddings because that's what we're "supposed to want, according to society; but society often seems to forget that "perfect" is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. In reality, we should have the freedom to get engaged and married however the heck we want, with zero outside pressure.
I don't think these expectations are meant to offend people. I don't believe engaged people are under attack. But like many aspects of our lives — the jobs we have, how we raise our kids, etc. — our engagements are still dictated by certain cultural standards, however normalized they may be, however harmless they may seem.
The point is this: Do what makes you happy. The point is also this: Remember that engagements come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. They're not meant to all look the same. Here are seven engagement expectations we might want to think about doing away with.
1. The Wedding Planning Should Start Right Away
More than one woman in my life has implied that a laid-back attitude regarding starting the wedding planning is a sign that something is wrong. I mentioned to one person that my fiance and I have no plans, don't know when or where we'll get married, and aren't in any kind of hurry. Her response? "...Why?" with a look of concern.
Not that anyone is entitled to an explanation, but there are a variety of reasons you might not feel any rush to plan your nuptials. Maybe you don't have the money. Maybe your current schedule isn't ideal. Maybe you don't know what you want yet. Maybe you're happy being engaged right now and just don't feel the need to get married. And that's all great! And if you do start wedding planning the instant the ring is slid on your finger, that's fantabulous too. You do you.
2. Wild Bachelorette Parties Are A Must
Strip clubs! Shots! Sweaty people grinding in your face!
No. No. No.
Is a gal entitled to one last wild night out as a single woman? Sure, if that's what she wants! Is this a pre-wedding requirement? No ma'am. Strip clubs make me nervous, I hardly drink, and I'm a germaphobe. I'm OK with that. And I don't need to justify that to anyone else.
3. Long Engagements Are A Sign That Something's Wrong
I've known women who were engaged for years. I've also known people who said about these same women, "Pft, there's never gonna be a wedding. You watch." Um, ouch?
We all move at our own speed. I happen to move like a snail; and now I find myself curious if people doubt my relationship because we've expressed we prefer a longer engagement. Can't we all just get along?
4. Engagement Rings Should Be Diamonds
Don't get me wrong: I love a big, 'ol diamond ring. I also love my rose quartz and aquamarine ring. No one else needs to love it, and it's OK if they don't. But comments like, "Aw! Well... I mean, it's still pretty!" are a tad uncalled for.
Your engagement ring should reflect your sense of style and fashion, because it's an accessory — if you even get one at all, because not having one is also totally fine. If one gal is more traditional and another is more gothic, modern, vintage, etc., would you expect them to dress them same? Of course not! It's the same deal with your ring. Wear (or don't wear) what makes you smile.
5. The Wedding Planning Is Everyone's Business
Aside from the underwear I plan on wearing, I've been asked about every minute detail of the upcoming wedding — you know, the one I've not yet started to plan. My answer is always the same: "I don't know."
I know people don't mean anything bad by it. They're just curious. They're interested in knowing more. Maybe it's just that grilling a bride-to-be about everything she's going to do feels a wee bit invasive and kind of puts the pressure on something that's supposed to be fun.
6. Kids Are Just Around The Corner
Engagement = wedding = reproduction. False! Engagement = engagement and nothing more. Some people want kids. Some people don't. Some have kids before they're married. Some have them before they're engaged. Some never have them at all. Some are happy with dogs. Some are happy with houseplants.
7. You Should Invite The World
I knew a girl who had 20 bridesmaids. 20! I don't think I even know 20 people — but that's what she wanted, and that's wonderful. I've been to weddings that fill an entire ballroom. I've been to weddings that could fit in a closet. Everyone is different.
And yet, I've had people I hardly ever speak to overtly express interest in coming to my wedding (which, again, is not even in the works). Some people have actually already invited themselves. Others have started planning the bachelorette party I'm definitely not going to have. What's with this expectation of everybody and their brother being a part of the action?
Some of us have a lot of people in our lives — many of which we want involved. Others, like me, aren't quite the social butterfly. If nothing else, I know my wedding will be very intimate. (And by intimate, I'm referring to the, like, nine people that will probably be there.) Your wedding is a special day, and it's up to you who does — and doesn't — come.