USA TODAY US Edition
Like Will and Kate, why wait?
Short engagements are popular as couples just get on with their lives
There are couples who take two months just to figure out the fonts for their wedding programs. Then there’s Felicia Sabartinelli and Aaron Abeyta.
In two months, the couple figured out not just their font (Baskerville Old Face, among others), but their venue (a Grand Junction, Colo., ballroom), their décor (old, rustic-chic wooden doors), their favors (homemade fudge) and her dress (off-the-rack at David’s Bridal, but customized with a daisy made from her great-grandmother’s buttons).
Sabartinelli wore the gown last Oct. 30 — yep, just two months after Abeyta popped the question.
“We just really didn’t see the point in waiting whenwe knew whatwewanted,” says Sabartinelli, 26, a cultural arts coordinator for Grand Junction.
She is one of a bevy of brides bucking her generation’s trend toward engagements that can last as long as, well, many marriages. Consider the most famous contemporary courtship of them all: Kate Middleton and Prince William, whowill have been betrothed all of six monthsbythe time they say “I do” on April 29.
With these rapidly arranged nuptials, no shotgun is required. (Even though friends and family often insist on probing: “You sure you’re not pregnant?”) And couples aren’t necessarily hastening their march to the altar for oldfashioned military or religious reasons.
Instead, these abbreviated engagements reflect modern mating trends: couples who date, if not live together, for years and years, to
the extent that a protracted period between the proposal and the ceremony seems pointless (it’s not as if William and Kate need time to get to know each other). Then there are older, sometimes second-time brides and grooms with the wisdom of past relationships under their garter belts who are eager to get other milestones, like baby-making, going. And then there are couples quietly rebelling against an industry that they say pressures them to spend 14 to 16 months — the average engagement length, according to a 2009 Condé Nast American wedding study — saving up for their dream day. (Average cost: $28,082, according to the same report.) Still other couples say it’s not the day they’re out to emphasize, but the years that come after.
“We put a lot of time and effort into thinking and talking about our marriage as opposed to thinking and talking about our wedding,” says Brandy Egan, 37, a nurse from Drexel Hill, Pa., who married her husband, Matt, last May after a five-month engagement.
The short sprint down the aisle is in some ways a response to the shifting definition of being betrothed. “I do think its meaning is declining,” says Carley Roney, editor in chief of wedding website TheKnot.com. Her pioneering two-month engagement was considered “outrageous” in 1993.
‘Telling your own story’
“For most people, getting engaged is not a significant change in their status in life,” Roney says, vs. a generation or so ago, when it was the time to make a commitment public and introduce future in-laws. Now, by the time many grooms get on bended knee, “all that’s already happened.” Heck, some couples have even bought a house together. Or had kids together. After, say, six years, two dogs, one house and one child, “it’s hard for an engagement to mean anything special,” Roney says. So why not shrink it to its most basic components?
“At the heart of every wedding is telling your own story,” says Millie Martini Bratten, editor in chief of Brides magazine. “Some people’s vision is very simple”: a cozy City Hall ceremony plus restaurant party, for example, or an intimate destination event in the Caribbean. Neither scenario requires months of preparation. The goal in these cases is “getting people together and having a lovely party,” Bratten says, “but not a big party with spectacular décor.”
(Of course, if you have a platoon of royal planners at your disposal, you can have your multitiered cake, and your 1,900 guests will eat it, too — all within half a year.)
When Justina Mejia checked out a couple of bridal gown shops, the employees chafed at her dress request. “They were like, ‘Oh, you have to order it five months in advance,’ and I’m like, ‘My whole engagement is five months,’ ” says Mejia, 30, who works in product development for a cosmetics company and lives in Queens, N.Y. The message she heard was: “You’re kind of late.” No matter: She went elsewhere and found a “simple and chic” Nicole Miller gown that could be ready in less than a month — plenty of time for her May 1 wedding to Lazaro Montane.
And though briefly engaged brides typically have to be more flexible (or resourceful) when it comes to settling on wedding dates and vendors, which can get scooped up more than a year in advance, technology has made the abridged planning process easier. “Your decisions can be made much more quickly,” Roney says. Instead of trekking to 30 photographers’ offices over several weekends, you can browse heightened expectations that a bloated planning period can stir up.“
The long engagement can glamorize what a wedding is,” Sabartinelli says. When it came to her 125-guest affair, “I was so tired. I didn’t eat. I met way too many people I didn’t know. The whole night is just a blur now. I keep thinking that if I had had a year-long engagement, I think I would have felt pretty disappointed the next day, going, ‘I did all that work for this?’ ”
Britani Hamill has sensed such misplaced priorities among her peers. “People get so caught up in wedding planning. They’re kind of putting onashowforeveryone else,” says the 24-year-old dental assistant, whose July wedding in Arlington, Texas, comes just shy of six months after her fiancé, Trent Blanchard, proposed. Friends and family are saying, “ ‘You don’t have to rush into this,’ and I’m like, ‘We haven’t rushed into anything!’ ” The pair have been dating for nine years. (Hamill is thrilled that she shares a wedding timetable with William and Kate. “Finally, someone in the public eye is getting this thing over with!”)
Of course, a protracted courtship can lead to a lingering engagement out of, essentially, laziness. “My generation lacks a certain amount of passion,” says Josh Shelton, 27, a deputy sheriff through 30 portfolios online in one night. Craftiness also is key, as DIY skills can make up for, say, an unavailable DJ or baker.
Indeed, Sabartinelli found an advantage in her shortened schedule. “You’re not having to over-think everything,” says Sa- bartinelli, who, as a side gig, has started her own wedding planning business. Brides with longer timelines are “constantly changing their colors and themes,” and ballooning their budgets. “It just becomes stressful.”
Adding to the stress are the from Rocklin, Calif., who, after six years of dating Carrie Coward, is purposely keeping his engagement to under eight months. “It’s the humdrum of cohabitation and complacency,” he says. “You go to work, you go about your life. People are still kind of sailing along in the wind.” And after, say, seven years as a couple, who is really itching to get hitched? “You’ve been together this long, what’s the hurry? What’s the push? I don’t think that way.”
His co-worker did. After seven years and one house together with his girlfriend, they finally decided to get married. It took three more years for them to make it official. “It sounds obscene,” Shelton says. Worse, after all that prep time, “there wasn’t anything that really stood out” about the wedding. “ There weren’t pure white unicorns that took three years to order from Siberia. . . . It was pretty run-ofthe-mill.”
Sometimes it’s a series of past (failed) long relationships that spur couples to take the precipitous marital plunge. Jennifer Wood, an event and portrait photographer in Chesapeake, Va., dated one man for 4½ years and another before him for 3½ years. “I didn’t know deep down in my heart whether they were the one,” says Wood, 28. “I kept thinking someday it’s just going to click, and it was the wrong person,” both times. Now, she’s engaged to marry Nick Adams on Saturday. He proposed in September. They met only last March.
Dinner and a proposal
Judith Jantz, a 32-year-old newspaper editor from Deerfield Beach, Fla., spent most of her 20s in an eight-year, “live-in, planning-to-get-married” relationship. “I thought I had been engaged until it actually happened the right way,” on Christmas Eve, at her fiancé’s family’s dinner table. She and Markanthony Zizzo had met just three months before. They’re saying “I do” on April 30.
Kristin Hess isn’t shacking up with her fiancé, Thomas Jaeger, before they wed on May 1 after 14 months of dating, including a four-month engagement. But it’s the second marriage for both of them, and by now, “you really know what you want and what you don’t want,” says Hess, 35, a beauty and wellness consultant in San Jose. Like, she and Jaeger know they want more children (they each have one) and “I’m not getting any younger.”
Her attitude? “Let’s just get our life started.”