So you just got engaged: here’s all the annoying things that’ll happen this year!
The engagement year is fun and fraught, and if you're not vaguely considering eloping by the end, it's a goddamn, frickin' miracle.
Are you one of the multitudes of newly faux-surprised proposees? Congratulations! However, when the warm feelings subside and the fizz has worn off, perhaps you’ve noticed that the heartfelt toasts and champagning with every meal have given way to a far less pleasant aspect of the engagement: LOGISTICS (capitalized to signify annoyance levels).
The first order of business (and yes, bad news kids, being engaged swiftly becomes a business matter) is the telling of the people. Much is made of getting the pre-city break manicure in anticipation of the planned-in-advance proposal, so much so that one of my friends was actually incensed when her partner had neglected the cajoling and ultimatums usually attendant to the modern proposal (no outrage in the comments please, we all know the drill) so she was woefully unprepared for the shock-proposal and complained bitterly later: “I hadn’t even got the f*cking manicure!” However you choose to spread the good news, enjoy this moment as fully as possible because after the tsunami of congratulations comes the deluge of questions. So many questions.
When are you doing it? Buffet or table service? City wedding or are you going to make everyone shell out for accommodation (note: there will be much unsubtle passive aggression underpinning this questioning)? DJ or band? Will you be a meringue bride or a boho bride or a glam bride or an alternative bride? Pick one, PICK ONE!
Will you be having a natural birth? Oh, wait that’s for a different period of female inquisition. You will not know the answer to many/all of these questions and will find yourself trotting out a stock answer that is drenched in smugness but sadly a necessary defence: “Oh, we’re just going to enjoy being engaged for a while.”
The dress seems like it’s going to be the fun part of this whole palaver. Until you try to go dress shopping and realise that despite the fact that you intend to spend more than I have cumulatively spent on cars in my lifetime (I’ve had four cars, each shittier than the last) in their shop, bridal shop owners will essentially give you a sort of shopping hazing before deeming you worthy of setting foot inside their establishment. You gotta earn it, basically. Book about a month in advance if you want any hope of looking at a wedding dress on a Saturday. When you make the booking, expect a grilling of Spanish Inquisition proportions as they apparently try to ascertain whether or not you are lying about being engaged. Seriously, is this a thing? The bridal shops definitely seem to think so. Anyway, booking made, it’s on to the people you will now spend all major holidays with, mostly against your will, until the end of time.
If you’re really, really lucky you might, just might, tentatively like your in-laws before you get engaged. Post-engagement, this will change. They will become strangely unreasonable about everything, as will you. This does not make for harmonious decision-making around guest lists, venues, budget, anything. I feel if you’re not hating your in-laws for the duration of being engaged then you’re not doing it right. You’re being too reasonable and too relaxed or something. You might need to amp up the stress levels and who better to help you do that than your own mother?
This role should be renamed, something like the Monster-Of-The-Bride or Maniac-Of-The-Bride, or My-God-The-Woman’s-Gone-Insane-Of-The-Bride. There are some women who endeavor to not be a controlling nightmare during the engagement process. My mother was not one of them. My mother argued with me about every single detail. It was practically cardio.
The seating plan
AKA the most annoying thing you will ever do in your life. Imagine birthing a 10lb baby with no epidural while Where’s Me Jumper plays and someone flicks the lights on and off throughout – this is still less annoying than creating a seating plan that will comfortably accommodate the decades-old grudges, Machiavellian alliances and overt hatred enjoyed by every loving family.
Trying to avoid being accused of Bridezilla behaviour
I was more of a Bridezealot than a Bridezilla, in that I was obsessed with very, very tiny and largely inconsequential aspects of the day: the handmade wedding favours (earl grey truffles in embossed boxes because I AM A KNOB) and bunting (I made miles of the stuff and enslaved my bridesmaids to this activity also). However, if you so much as request that people don’t bring a random plus one because you’re already buying dinner for 120 friends and extended family, you will most likely be accused of being a Bridezilla. Luckily this will most likely take place in a WhatsApp group and not to your face.
They’ll hate you at some point. This much is a given. I think mine hated me for all the bunting (they had another word for it by the end). I’ve wound up hating the Brides I later maided for for anything from making me pay for the bridesmaid dress to giving me a crap seat at the reception – unreasonable, I know. It’s weddings, I tell ya. They make pr*cks of us all.
The dress (again)
So you’ve finally been allowed past the door at the bridal shop. “Here’s the fun part,” you think, giddy with anticipation. “Here comes the bubbles and squealing and perhaps even some emotional weeping.” In fact, here comes the part we never see on Say Yes To The Dress. There’s no booze and every dress in the shop that is available to try on is either four sizes too small or six sizes too big and nothing in between. The bridal shop assistants use every bit of trickery in their limited arsenal to “give you an idea of how it might look…”, with industrial-size clips to gather excess material out of sight for the larger sample, or else simply holding the teeny, tiny dresses adjacent to your body. Booze would definitely improve this process, you might think, as you either sweat or cry (who can even tell what salty fluid is leaking from your body right now) all over the shop assistant inside the smallest changing room known to man.
The mother-of-the-bride’s dress
Actually a bigger headache than your own dress. Seriously.
The hen party
The hen party, in my opinion, is the payoff for all the other bullsh*t that brides are plagued by during the engagement year.
The big day
AKA the funnest day ever! And so worth the minor headache that being engaged actually is… despite all I’ve said here.
Photography by @dkharbour
This article was originally published in June 2022.