The average engagement for an American bride is around a year. For many couples, this is the minimum time required to pull together their dream wedding, while for other couples, the idea of waiting a year or more to get married seems crazy. So which is better in the end, a short or a long engagement?
Each way has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start by looking at the traditional long engagement. Around a year is fairly typical, although in some areas, even a two year long engagement would be pretty standard. This is not true in every other country, by the way; brides in Russia, for instance, generally get married very soon after becoming engaged.
The chief advantage of a long engagement is that it allows the bride and her family plenty of time to plan the wedding. Availability of a favorite venue is one of the biggest reasons that couples have long engagements. If you were to become engaged this summer, the chances are that you would have to wait a year or even two to book an open date at one of the top reception sites in your area.
More planning time can have additional benefits. It allows the bride ample time to shop for her dream bridal gown and the perfect veil, tiara, and jewelry to complete her look. It also ensures enough time to have things customized for your wedding, like your bridesmaid gifts, your invitations, or your linens. One huge advantage to having a longer lead time is that it also allows the engaged couple and their families time to save up money to pay for all of these things, as well as to shop around to find the best values on items such as wedding favors and personalized bridesmaid gifts.
A long engagement provides a few additional benefits. If your family is scattered far and wide, you can send out save-the-date cards to allow relatives to book their travel arrangements. For those who are social butterflies, a long pre-wedding period will give you time to savor the engagement parties, bridal showers, and bachelor/bachelorette outings that are part of the fun. There are a few practical concerns that you will have time to address too, such as toning your arms to look great in a strapless wedding gown, or growing out your bangs for the perfect wedding day hairstyle.
The biggest disadvantage to a long engagement is perhaps one of the reasons why some couples prefer a brief one. All that planning and the lengthy delay can take away from the romance and excitement that you feel when you first become engaged. For some couples, the wedding planning process is so stressful, that by the time the day of the wedding rolls around, they are questioning whether or not to even go through with it! If you and your fiance are the spontaneous and passionate types, a quick engagement followed by a trip to Vegas or the city courthouse might be much more your style.
There are other reasons why a short engagement can be the right choice. Certainly, it is preferred when the bride is “in a family way” and is hoping that the trip down the aisle predates the one to the delivery room. Another reason is that weddings that are pulled together more rapidly tend to be smaller, more intimate affairs, which is to the liking of many brides and grooms. One of the biggest drawbacks to a short engagement is fairly obvious: you may have difficulty getting your wedding pulled together with a shorter than average lead time, and you might be forced to compromise on your dream wedding. The other potential disadvantage is more serious; if a short engagement is a part of a whirlwind romance, you might find yourself rushing down the aisle with a virtual stranger.
Both long and short engagements have their potential benefits as well as some drawbacks. As long as you have thought through the consequences of choosing one course of action over another, you should be fine. After all, the engagement and wedding planning process is a very personal and individual experience for each couple; as long as you are both on the same page, you can feel confident that you have made the perfect decision for your own life.