4/2 Real Bride Julie: The Long and Short of a Long Engagement

When we get married, it will be 4 years, 1 month and 7 days since the day Matt proposed. I’ve come to terms with the long engagement. It’s given us plenty of time to get  comfortable with the wedding industry and to know what we want. A lot of long engagements on TV or in movies you see consist of people in relationships that have stagnated, or aren’t totally committed to each other. I was afraid of a long engagement at first for those very reasons, but realistically, it couldn’t be further from the truth for us. If anything, we’ve grown to love and appreciate each other even more over the past few years and we’ve grown into the bride and groom we want to be, as opposed to what we would’ve been had we just jumped into things head first.

Here's a picture of us way back in the day...So young and unaware of all the challenges ahead of us.

Here’s a picture of us way back in the day…So young and unaware of all the challenges ahead of us.

When we first set out on this whole journey, we were clueless about the wedding industry. We thought we could easily pull together a shindig in less than a year for 300 people for less than $10K in Boston (where we live).  I thought finding a venue was as simple as finding a space big enough for all your guests that you liked the looks of.  I didn’t realize at the time how expensive it can be to get married in a major metropolitan area. I really didn’t know the cost of anything. Boston at the time was number 8 on the list of most expensive places in the us to get married. These days it’s fallen to number 15 on another list, but the average cost range has stayed comfortably in the $35K-$39K  area since I got engaged (This list here  breaks down the cost for the higher end of that range). This is a fact I learned quickly as I began calling up venues to figure out pricing. Even a church hall I called had a rental fee that would’ve taken up our entire budget at that time.

It was easy to lose our planning momentum when we realized this. We didn’t have the money to have a wedding like that, especially with some of the financial issues we found ourselves in.  We both ended up being unemployed and underemployed at different times over the past few years. And then of course our car broke down (it was due … the car was as old as us) and replacing it became a priority so other big purchases (like a wedding for example) went on the back burner for a bit. For a long time it felt like we’d never be able to rub two nickels together. Many people suggested that we elope. We thought about it, but any time we did we’d find ourselves starting a list of people that we’d bring along with us and eventually that would grow to a number so big that it didn’t make sense to not just invite everyone we would’ve wanted at a bigger wedding anyway. When you consider the fact that somewhere around 40 people show up to my house on Christmas (and that number is just “immediate”* family members) , you can kind of see how that would happen. It became apparent to us that what really mattered the most to us about our wedding wasn’t the pomp and circumstance, but that we were surrounded by the smiling faces of the people we loved when it all went down … and unfortunately, we’d have to feed those smiling faces after the fact, too.

Once we were both gainfully employed we decided to start to look at planning seriously again. We started with the single biggest cost-cutting measure: Trimming the guest list. Today our list is just under 200 people. This is still a pretty high number and we realized we needed to up our budget to accommodate all those people. We decided that in the time we’d like to get married, we could probably save around $12,000. After searching all around the Boston area for an affordable venue, we started to look towards other cities and towns nearby. We couldn’t roam too far. Matt has elderly grandparents that couldn’t really travel and having them at our wedding means a lot to us. We started searching in a radius of about 20 minutes outside city limits … and found that even our new budget was too low.

At this point, we had been engaged for somewhere around two and a half years. We had both lost loved ones over the course of our engagement (my brother passed away and Matt’s grandmother died) and the fear of losing anyone else before the big day was really hitting home for us. We didn’t have time to wait to be able to save more. We did something we didn’t think we ever would do … we asked for help. And magically, we received it. Our families agreed to help us up the budget to right around $25,000. I realize that to many people $25,000 might not quite seem like a broke-ass budget, but remember it is about $10K-$14K less than what it would’ve cost us to get married in Boston proper. It is also not too far off from what I make in a year, and it’s much more than we’ve made in some years of our engagement. Even if we’re spending more than the average “broke-ass,” it doesn’t mean we’re not “brokeass” ourselves. We still have had to change our lives and lifestyles to be able to save $12,000 and still be able to eat lunch every day. Keeping our total budget under $25,000 with a guest list as big as ours wasn’t easy either. It meant prioritizing what meant the most to us and focusing on those things — cutting the extras out either completely, or down to almost nothing. These are the things all broke-ass brides need to do …we’re just doing it on a larger scale in a place that unfortunately costs us a lot more. Finally! We found ourselves in a place where we could begin to jump into the real meat of the planning.

Here we are today - Seasoned Vets ready for anything the world can throw at us, as long as we're together!

Here we are today: Seasoned Vets ready for anything the world can throw at us, as long as we’re together!

At times, it feels like we’ve been engaged forever. I won’t really know what to do with myself when I’m done searching for cheap alternatives to my favorite decor pieces, or sharing advice with other brides on Facebook groups. This is happening way later than we thought it would originally. It’s also way more than we thought it’d cost us. But it’s happening and since a marriage is supposed to last a lifetime (and hopefully we’ve got a lot of “lifetime” left in us), 4 years will be like a blip on a radar in comparison to the length of our marriage. We’re a little older and wiser, but our love is no worse for the wear.

*Matt asked that I include a footnote here to explain the quotes around immediate. I don’t go by the dictionary definition of immediate. I have 7 siblings, who are all married or are in serious relationships. Most of them have kids (totaling in 16 nieces and nephews)  and a couple of those kids are either married or in serious relationships as well. Adding in my parents gets you to 40. That’s my “immediate” family as far as I’m concerned.

Julie is a mild mannered secretary by day, and a blogger/screen-printer/whovian/netflix-connoisseur by night. She was born and raised in Boston in a very large family, where she is the youngest of 8 siblings. Her hobbies include cider brewing, writing, stewarding a Little Free Library, and debating any number of their shared nerdy interests with her boyfriend. She enjoys a love-hate relationship with the word fiance and hopes to some day rule the world. She also has the distinction of stealing the "longest engagement" Dundie from Pam Beesly, as she will be celebrating her fourth year of being engaged in October, one month before her wedding. Follow along on Twitter.