"Guess what, everybody -- we're engaged!!!"
Yep, you're going to be hearing that a lot, and doing much congratulatory kissing and drinking Champagne, even if you're not the one getting engaged over the next few weeks. Because it will seem like everybody else is taking the plunge. And truthfully, some of the men and women in your life will be announcing that big step. And you're totally thrilled and celebrate with them. Unless, of course, you're not terribly happy about it and you think they're making a huge mistake. How do you handle the news of an engagement that you don't support or approve of, especially if it's someone close to you?
I got this question from a former client of mine, a fabulous bride who is now one of my BFFs. She texted me this message late Saturday night, a few hours after we'd had a long gab to catch up on life:
Okay wedding planner -- here's a blog idea. What do you do when your cousin who still has a year left of school (hence no job) gets engaged to someone who also still has a year of school, and neither of them have jobs or solid future plans? It's all over FB and everyone is liking it and congratulating them and I'm frankly upset and disappointed in their stupidity. I'm not fake enough to post congrats when I feel the total opposite. But this is family and I don't want to instantly create a family meltdown and get into trouble with everyone. What to f*cking do? Agh! Stuck between close family, an engagement, and my opinion. Help. Should I just fake it?
Short answer: Yes, fake it. Because expressing your opinion right now, no matter how right you might be, is bad timing. I assure you that if this couple is too young and is planning a wedding immediately after graduation, you are not the only one who shares this opinion. In fact, somebody closer to them who outranks you may step in and say exactly what's on your mind, and then you don't even have to take the hit.
Right now is not the time. Get through the holidays -- grit your teeth, grin and bear it. Have another drink maybe. But keep your opinion between you and your husband because you know the rest of the family won't keep their mouths shut if you vent to them (remember, I've met your mother). If wedding plans start up full speed after the holidays and you don't hear through the family grapevine that somebody else is putting the kybosh on June nuptials, and you are close enough to have this conversation with your cousin and still have a relationship afterwards, then that's the time to have the talk.
Don't lecture about getting engaged. It's done and it's not getting undone unless they split up (yes, it's mean, but you are allowed to wish for that -- they're kids). But no point in beating a dead horse when she's already wearing a diamond. That's a done deal. You can, however, make time to spend together where you can share how stressful starting your career can be, and how time-consuming. And how expensive real life is after graduation and how you need to build a little nest egg pre-wedding (even if their parents are footing the bill, they will have expenses they're not even thinking about and you can educate them). You can share that you're glad you waited, or wish you'd waited longer, or whatever... use your experience and talk about friends who jumped too fast and ended up in disaster. But you have to do it kindly, coming from the right place, or they're not going to listen to you. Even after you make all that effort, they still might not hear you and they might be mad at you, but if you take a gentle approach, you're guaranteed better results than being the one with the sh*tty look on your face in the back of the room every time somebody toasts them over the next 10 days. Because you know it's going to happen. Over and over and over again.
What's if it's a friend and not a family member whom you don't want to congratulate? What do you do if the reason you don't approve of the engagement is that you don't approve of the match? What if you think the guy is skeezy, or you know she cheated on him once? Should you handle it any differently? Not really.
Again, do you really want to be the turd in the punch bowl in a room full of people popping bubbling to celebrate the happy couple's excitement? No. Will you accomplish anything by pooping on their party? No. Will you look like you're bitter or jealous or just unbalanced? Yes. So stop thinking about everything you want to stay and practice your fake-ass smile because you're going to need it if these are people you spend a lot of time around. Let the fizz settle on the champagne, and get through the holidays. Then, and only then, take a step back and decide if what you have to say about this engagement is really appropriate coming from you. Maybe somebody else will tell him she's a cheater or that her special guy gave three girls you know something nasty. Why take the hit if you don't have to? Plenty of other people won't keep their mouths shut if the matter is really an egregious problem. You don't have to be the Paul Revere of the engagement-crashing business. Trust me, if you really feel that strongly, you're not the only one. If nobody else takes one for the team, you can have that talk with your friend a few weeks down the road when the ring isn't quite as new and shiny. But remember, you're risking the friendship big time. Unless she is very immature, most women agreeing to marry someone have decided he is her best friend now and she's not going to let something that could be construed as petty or bitchy shut down her wedding plans. It will, however, definitely knock you off the guest list.
At the end of the day, it is their special time, and even if you don't agree, you have to keep your mouth shut and fake a smile through the honeymoon period of the engagement. They're seeing everything through rose-colored glasses right now and nothing you have to say is going to matter to them, although it could have a negative long-term impact on your relationship with the as a couple when they do get married. If you absolutely, positively, must say something eventually, then try to do it in a constructive manner and be helpful and optimistic as possible. Saying "have you considered waiting six more months before you set a date to give yourself some time to breathe and grow your relationship?" is always going to be better received than suggesting that within six months she'll find what a cheating pig her fiancé really is. Just sayin.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra. And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our whole wedding planning team here in Vieques, Puerto Rico!