There are two significant markers in a bride-to-be’s life: the engagement and the wedding. The engagement is mostly characterized by simultaneous disbelief and excitement - emotions that first run right through you, out of nowhere. Suddenly, you’re riding on this wave as everything mandatory transpires. A slew of ‘Congratulations!’ come in; questions about the proposal, the wedding date, the dress, even the color scheme; ‘likes’ and messages from acquaintances you haven’t heard from in a while. You’re the center of everyone’s attention. ‘All men around the world are mourning now; all women wish to be you now,’ they say.
Well, at least for a bit until it becomes old news and everyone’s on the subconscious lookout for the next thing to squeal about. So yes, just as a wave does to the sand on the shore, you’re left feeling quite winded. But this flurry of events happens again on the wedding day. I’ve been told it’s quite the rush. You wake up that morning and everyone’s eyes are on you. And your beautiful laced veil. And your photographs, your hashtag feed. Your same-day-edit video. Your first dance. Your vows, your husband. Of course, the congratulations and best wishes are in order. In spite of the template of it all, it still is an undoubtedly beautiful day and you’d gladly do it all over again with him.
But what about the dash, the time between the engagement day and the wedding day? Who looks at that? Who captures that? The truth: no one. Because while everyone can ride in on the biggest moments of your life, there’s only so much space for the ordinary moments, the daily struggles, the quiet triumphs. When the season of pruning, of growth begins, there’s only space for one.
When the news of my engagement died down and when it finally settled in me, I found myself feeling overwhelmed. Not so much by the planning of that big day but by the necessary waiting. My fiancé and I were neither here nor there; I felt like we were stuck in limbo. Almost married but not quite. And for someone like me, the act of waiting is like an act of penance. There are times when I wished we could just elope, times when I questioned why we had to wait a year. I grappled with the patience I knew I had to have.
But not as much as I struggled with the fears of marriage that I occasionally found by my side. The looming prospect of not being good enough cracked me like nothing else ever had. Did I have it in me to build a home and mold a family? Was I ready to leave my comfortable life, my home for almost two and a half decades? My imagination runs wild and the thoughts of the worst sometimes drove me crying alone. And more arguments happened between me and my fiancé, especially the trivial ones that I can’t believe we fought over. It’s true what they say, it’s practically training ground for marriage.
No one sees this part because it’s not something you can photograph and filter, not something you can caption or instantly share. It’s not something anyone else can understand the way you do. But as I have come to realize, this engagement period is so significant because it determines the value of my marriage. It’s what filters the exhilaration, the excitement, and the emotion of the engagement day from the sacred simplicity, the deep joy and peace only a strong marriage can bring.
While we have been fooled into thinking that being engaged means Fireworks! Surprises! Happiness! every day, the truth is slipped under the rug. The truth that it’s not easy; that you don’t feel like a glowing bride 24/7. But with that truth also comes the promise that if you can get through the muddles with grace, and love, and compassion, that walk down the aisle towards your universal constant, your best friend will hold itself as the most beautiful one you will ever do.
Then in that moment, as you stand before all your loved ones at the holy altar, everything in the past becomes a triumph and everything ahead becomes a beautiful challenge. This time, there’s space for two.
Photography by Toto Villaruel.