This is the last Chapter House column I’ll write before I get married next month. It is no exaggeration to say that the last nine months have constituted, by far, the busiest season of my life.
Very recently, I finally became willing to admit to myself that a comforting fiction I had invented was false: No matter how much wedding-planning work I managed to accomplish in a given day or week or month, there would never come a point when we had “gotten past the hump” and moved on to easier, less busy, less stressful times before our wedding. It’s going to be like this until I walk down the aisle.
Though it doesn’t seem this way sometimes, it’s actually easier to simply accept the reality of the season and move on, saving oneself the useless effort of trying to shoehorn an unusually demanding stretch of time into something that appears or feels like normal life.
And don’t even get me started on the reality of a season that includes not only preparing for marriage but also planning a wedding and moving — all during a time made more uncertain by our society’s efforts to move through a global pandemic. I’m convinced that my lifetime of obsessive time management and addiction to office supplies was all meant to prepare me for this moment.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Soon we’ll be married, ensconced peacefully in our new home, and maybe someday I’ll look back and reminisce fondly on the season when we somehow managed to do so much at one time, maintaining a frantic pace that has been draining, but that has brought about beautiful moments I could never have imagined.
This season has taught me a lot, even when I wished it could somehow be other than what it was. One thing I’ve learned, for instance, is to make sure other couples preparing for marriage know there’s nothing wrong with them if they experience engagement as a uniquely challenging time.
In some ways, I wish our wedding culture permitted a leisurely season leading up to marriage, where the focus might be more on preparing for the sacrament than on preparing a party for family and loved ones, as wonderful as such a party might be.
In circles of young Catholics or Christians in particular, there is often such an emphasis on longing for marriage and an end to singleness that engagement is treated as a blissful state of having achieved one’s goal. Imagine my surprise when engagement immediately evolved into a season full of unanticipated challenges and demands on my time. It has been joyful and rewarding in many ways, and I’m grateful to be entering into this sacrament, but we could do a better job of preparing couples for this time, both spiritually and communally.
Learning to accept the realities of this season — in its surprises, both joyful and difficult — has, in the end, been a gift. In her podcast “The Lazy Genius,” Kendra Adachi often shares this wise principle: “Live in the season.” If you’re in the middle of moving, for example, be willing to accept that you’re in the middle of moving. The season requires a type of focused work that excludes living like you’re in the midst of “normal” life with your normal routines and habits, and that’s okay.
Preparing for marriage, too, is a unique season, an inherently busy time, and no amount of constant work or wishful thinking can force engagement and marriage preparation to feel like normal life. There is no easy or convenient way to combine two separate lives into one. In that way, as in many others, the rush of wedding planning and the blur of engagement lays the groundwork for what the sacrament entails.