Monday, May 17, 2010

Just got engaged? Don't rush to wed.

Engaged couple Roger Doran and Christine Ness pose
Roger Doran and Christine Ness
By Lauren Elkies

After being engaged for the last five months, Christine Ness and Roger Doran have only just started discussing wedding plans.

The couple met on Match.com in April 2008, moved in together the following year and got engaged Dec. 28, 2009. They're now contemplating a May 2011 wedding, which would mark a year and a half since Doran proposed.

"Our priorities are very different in this regard than most people. We had no interest in making plans immediately," Ness said. "We have enjoyed [our] engaged status for the last [five] months without any pressure."

Are other couples following suit? Wedding-Scoops.com contacted relationship experts to find out if there's a trend among couples to stay engaged longer.

Barbara Feld, a social worker, family therapist and partner at Park Avenue Relationship Consultants, said she has seen more engaged couples putting a greater emphasis on the engagement period than making a beeline for the alter.

"I have seen many couples that don't care about the wedding per say and they just want to be together, and as long as they don't want children, -- they're busy, they're into their profession, whatever it is -- they're fine once engaged to just stay together," Feld said.

Other reasons for not rushing to get married include money issues, school and avoidance of stress, whether family-related or not, said Dr. Jim Walkup, a marriage and family therapist. Or maybe the couple already lives together.

"Couples that live together tend to drag their feet to get to the altar," said Emma Viglucci, a marriage and family therapist, and founder of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy.

And obviously hesitation can be indicative of a larger problem.

The couple may not be "certain at some level about wanting to be with the other person or not ready for the stage in their life -- still settling in career, trying to make money, etc., or are 'developmentally delayed,'" Viglucci said.

The engagement time allows couples to explore their values and goals, maybe meet each other's families and emotionally transition from singlehood to coupledom.

"It's perfectly okay to allow the engagement to sink in without starting to plan right away," said Sheryl Paul, founder of Conscious Weddings bridal counseling service and author of "The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings about Getting Hitched." "In fact, the planning often distracts from the necessary emotional processing that needs to occur in order for the transformation from single to married to be complete."

She compared the engagement period to "a dress rehearsal of marriage without actually being married."

While the length of an engagement obviously varies, the average, Paul said, is a year.

The ideal amount of time, Viglucci said, is one to one and a half years. That amount of time allows the couple to "address any conflict between themselves, and to leisurely plan their wedding and the start to their marriage. Shorter doesn’t allow for these things, longer means something is holding someone back."

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