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We've all heard a little saying that goes a little something like this: It's not the destination — it's the journey. But when it comes to your wedding, is that still the case? Or can you journey through your engagement for far too long?
Most wedding and relationship experts agree the majority of engagements span nine to 18 months. Longer than that, and an ongoing engagement "can keep you locked into a state of impermanence, without really tackling some of the heavy decisions that go into planning your future," warns Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? How to Keep Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.
She continues, "it keeps you living your life in the present, rather than laying down roots for the future. One of the things about getting married is planning a future together. If you just stay engaged, you're not building your life, but rather staying in the here and now."
Of course, points out psychotherapist and marriage therapist Karen Ruskin, a longer engagement means you get to know your future partner even better before you say "I do." She explains, "getting to know the person prior to marriage is advantageous so you can evaluate whether they are really a good fit for you." And that doesn't mean taking your time on the way to the proverbial altar could end in a breakup. "You can discover things you don't like about each other," Ruskin says, "but if your philosophy about marriage is to stick it out, you could be willing to work on your relationship rather than call it quits — and you'll have the time to do so."
From a planning perspective, a long-term engagement gives you "the luxury of being more structured, calm and thoughtful about each piece of the planning," says Julie Bunkley, owner and creative director of Invision Events. Of course, there's a less awesome flipside to that: "Many times, people who have a long time to plan get the thought process of, 'we have so much time! We can wait to do X, Y and Z,'" she warns.
At the end of the day, you have to decide what's right for you, experts agree. There are good and bad points to both short and long engagements — but the only thing that truly matters is that you're happy when you finally walk down the aisle.