If you recently got engaged, congratulations! Here are some practical tips for your Catholic engagement (and also some helpful suggestions for those who are single and waiting to get married):
Prayer: Foundation for marriage
Pray a lot. Prayer must be the foundation of your life and your marriage. Pray often for yourself and your spouse that you may both become great spouses, parents, friends, and lovers. Your Catholic engagement starts with prayer, continues with prayer, and will last the rest of your life. After all, your goal in marriage is to help each other become holy, to become the best version of yourselves, and to get each other to heaven. God must be included in every part of the journey. The more you’re filled with Him, the more you can share His love with your spouse and kids.
It is important to make disciplined prayer habits now. Your life only gets more hectic as engagement and marriage progress. So form that bedrock foundation now, even when it’s a sacrifice!
Plan your wedding together
Discuss everything, and decide things together. This is important. My wife and I have heard too often the false notion that the wedding is “the woman’s day,” and therefore she makes all the decisions.
Really? Is she getting married alone? Some may retort that the woman has been dreaming about this for her whole life.” So? Does the future husband not have any desires? Are they superfluous?
Engagement is a time to put all selfishness away and realize that you are embarking on a life-long journey together. I know women who have controlled every last detail of their big day and ended up divorced within a year because they didn’t know what the day or the marriage was about. We are not planning for one day, we are planning for every day after that, for a lifetime!
Many men, though not all, are happy to take a back seat and let the women do all or most of the planning. This isn’t good either. Many women are all too happy to take the reins. But, this will shoot your marriage in the foot. Why? Because what you do before marriage will set the tone for what you do in marriage.
It’s no wonder that many women suffer in their marriages, having to do everything while complaining that the husband “sits in front of the computer and does nothing.” Getting your way might be fulfilling for that one day, but eventually, a woman will begin to resent a man who always has to be called upon to do something. Many men need to learn to serve, sacrifice, and put their spouse first. Many women need to learn to give up control and learn compromise (This could go both ways). Both need to get out of their comfort zones and work together. For those who already do, great job!
Planning everything together allows you to really get to know each other in a necessary way. You will learn the way each other thinks, makes decisions, and what annoys the other. You will also learn how to disagree, handle conflict, work out problems, and so much more. There will be many surprising things that will emerge during this time, and that is usually good!
For example, my wife and I had big disagreements during our engagement planning. This was a challenging time for us as we saw things differently. Our emotional baggage and fear was also beginning to emerge. Consequently, we had to learn and practice healthy conflict resolution, self-sacrifice, and compromise, based on selfless love.
Learn before you are married
I needed to learn how to love my spouse the way she needed to be loved, not the way I felt like loving her. These are all lessons that are indispensable for marriage and are absolutely necessary for the rest of our lives. These virtues that form our character don’t start in marriage, they are formed, fostered, and developed before marriage. The more you practice self-sacrifice before marriage, the stronger martial foundation you will have.
In fact, my wife and I had our biggest disagreements and emotional tantrums during our engagement process and we learned to work through them. Doing so cultivated important lessons that we can now use for the rest of our lives. We learned how to communicate with each other, what to do, what not to do, what set each other off, and we grew a lot closer and more intimate in the process. The engagement time can be challenging, but the more you put into it, the more beauty it will yield!
And, if in the process, things begin to explode and spiral downhill to where they can’t be worked out, then it’s a very good thing you discovered it before journeying into the forest of no return.
God be with you in your engagement!