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Navigating a company Christmas party is easier than navigating the relationship timeline.

At least at a holiday gathering you know the ground rules with some degree of certainty.

You’ve identified who you need to glad-hand, what’s off-limits and whether you should go with the reindeer-festooned sweater, or if a sensible shirt and tie is the right call instead.

But when you’re dating someone, knowing the right time to move in together, what’s the right occasion for popping the question and how long should you be engaged before marriage is much more difficult.

That’s because there really is no right or wrong answer. You’re dealing with your heart much more than your brain, and hearts can be stupid and can get you in trouble!

Rather than answer the question for you, we’ll give you a handful of things to think about so that you can add a little bit of brain power to the heart-to-brain decision making mixture.

We may not provide the answer you’re looking for, but it sure beats a one year subscription to the jelly of the month club.

Is There an Average Length of Engagement?

The oft-quoted average length of an engagement is between 12 and 18 months in the United States.

With a year to a year and a half between, “Yes!” and “I do,” couples have plenty of time to enjoy the experience of being engaged, plan for their wedding, let themselves have some breathing room in between getting big things crossed off the wedding prep to-do list and to keep the timeline short enough that there’s an ending (the beginning of the marriage) in sight.

But don’t feel like you have to listen to The Man.

Your engagement and your wedding and your marriage is your life. Do with it as you please.

With that being said, we’re here to offer some things to think about.

Short Engagement

An engagement on the shorter end of the scale, 12 months or less, could be right for you if:

1. You simply don’t want to wait to start your married lives together.

Some couples have ants in their pants and are intensely ready to bask in the glow of wedded bliss for the rest of their lives.

If you’ve found the most incredible other half in the world and don’t feel complete until you’ve put a ring on it, hustled off to the preacher and tied the knot, a short engagement is the way to go.

You might be missing out on all the fun things to do while you’re engaged if you rush straight into marriage.

But then again, maybe you’ve been saving sex for marriage, in which case it’s understandable that you’d want to get on with it so you can get it on.

2. You need to make it official so either of you can access the other’s health insurance benefits. 

Alternative couples who also have alternative work situations may find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to employer-sponsored health insurance.

If one of you is a freelancer or doesn’t have the option of an employer sponsored plan, while the other of you has a traditional salaried role for a company offering affordable health insurance, it might be helpful for you to get married and get those benefits.

Run the numbers and see if you’re better off married or if it’s smarter to stay on separate plans.

3. You don’t need forever to plan a big traditional wedding.

Twelve months or fewer might be plenty of time to plan a big wedding.

If you’ve had the time of year, the venue, the decorations and the guest list planned out in your dreams for decades then you might be able to get everything in motion relatively quickly.

Even if only some of the pieces are in place, if you have a solid starting point then the finish line isn’t as distant as if you’re starting from zero. 

Additionally, if you’re having a big wedding but aren’t too picky about the planning, then it can be done in a shorter amount of time.

Or perhaps someone else is paying for it so they get to make the decisions and there won’t be time needed for debate. Planning time could get cut way down if someone else is calling the shots. 

If any ol’ date will do, or you don’t give a rip about what the venue looks like as long as it’s big enough to hold all of your guests, then you don’t need a huge time window for making all the perfect arrangements.

Sometimes the only perfection you need can be found in being wrapped up in each other’s arms.

4. You’re able to plan a minimony or elopement in a shorter amount of time.

If you are downsizing to a micro wedding, minimony or elopement, and just need a few months to give yourselves and the MVPs on your guest list a bit of a heads up, then you can certainly turn things around pretty quickly after your wedding proposal.

Bigger than life moments can happen on a smaller scale and with less advance planning necessary.

Our team at Electric Sugar Elopements has been known to pull off a kick-ass wedding in just 24 hours, so if you’re in Vegas and just got engaged and want to get married right away, we can help.

5. There are family circumstances like a sick or elderly relative you’d like at the wedding.

If a family member becomes terminally ill or is quite elderly, this could put you in a (completely understandable) time crunch and shorten your engagement.

Touchy subject, but it does happen. If this VIP is crucial to your special day, you may want to get a move on.

6. You’re eager to get it over with and move on with your lives together. 

Lastly, a short engagement may be for you if you just don’t care to have a long engagement. If the wedding is more of a necessary evil and you just want to be married already and not have to spend the next year or more stressing out about an upcoming wedding, then that’s another reason to keep things short and simple.

Having everyone you know constantly ask you questions like, “How’s the wedding planning coming along?” can get freaking old fast.

If you’re not looking forward to all your time being eaten up by this one special day, then that’s totally ok too.

Long Engagement

On the other end of the spectrum are couples who spend upwards of a year and a half (or more) being engaged before they get married.  Here are some factors that might be at play:

Long engagements give you time to build the life you want. 

Maybe you know you’ve met the love of your life but have more work to do to build your life together before tying the knot.

Many couples use their long engagement to start adjusting and planning their combined finances, purchasing a house, repairing credit scores and/or moving to a new city. This could also be the case if you’ve been in a long distance relationship.

It might take time to switch cities or change jobs to be in a good spot once you’re married.

Changing “me” to “we” is a big step, and for some it’s a bigger mental hurdle than for others.

You may choose to have a long engagement so that you can sort out your emotions, get comfortable with expectations and discuss boundaries. Working through premarital counseling needn’t be rushed and may be why your engagement is longer than average.

2. You have more time to plan a bigger wedding.

A second reason to opt for a long engagement could flat out be that there’s not enough time to plan the traditional wedding of your dreams.

Say, for instance, you get engaged during the holidays, like everyone else, and you want a big traditional spring or summer wedding.

Get in line, because here’s some news for ya: your big ceremony likely isn’t happening this spring or coming summer.

All the best dates and venues and vendors were booked by couples that got engaged a year before you. 

A large part of the planning timeline is locking shit up before other couples can get their grubby hands on it.

If you’re dead set on a popular venue, or a busy 3-day holiday weekend, then you have to book well in advance.

3. You’re  looking to build your savings before starting your life together. 

Saving up a cushion for big expenditures (honeymoon, house, kids?) coming your way as a married couple is a great reason for a long engagement.

Weddings aren’t cheap — the average American wedding costs more than $30,000.

If you don’t have a bank roll like a college football star with a lucrative NIL deal, you may want to take some time to build your savings before blowing a big chunk on your wedding. 

If you just dropped a stack on an engagement ring, then your savings might be depleted before you even start shelling out for the wedding itself.

Take some time to replenish it before your wedding. You’ll enjoy the whole experience much more if you’re not strapped for cash.

4. It gives family and friends more time to prepare for the wedding. 

Lastly, giving yourself more time to enjoy your engagement gives your guests more time to make arrangements to attend the ceremony. 

For example, say you and your partner get engaged in December and want to get married in the spring.

If you’re insistent on such a short timeframe, and don’t want to push it to the following year, you might piss off your family and friends who already have plans for Spring Break or Memorial Day.

Three day weekends and holiday breaks are like gold.

Not everyone is willing to cancel their plans to go hiking in the Alps so that they can be your bridesmaid. Don’t count on people changing their plans for you.

A Disney Cruise that someone has been looking forward to for years trumps your wedding and reception at the country club 10 times out of 10.

Planning further out also gives the people you’re asking to be in your wedding party time to prepare.

Being a member of the wedding party costs money — sometimes a lot of money.

You may have been planning for and saving for your wedding for years, but to your wedding party it’s likely to be an unexpected expense — and unexpected time off from work that they may not have been ready for.

Giving everyone extra time to figure it all out is another important consideration when you decide how long you should be engaged before marriage.

Be Yourselves

The right amount of time to be engaged is whatever you want it to be. You haven’t followed a script your whole life — why all of a sudden would you listen to “experts” tell you how long you should be engaged before marriage. 

It’s your damn wedding. Do what feels right. Do what works. Do it your way.

Get in touch with the wedding experts at Electric Sugar Elopements for help putting together your kick ass wedding day now!

McKenzi Taylor
McKenzi Taylor

For couples with personality wanting an offbeat, boundary-pushing wedding, McKenzi Taylor is fast-becoming America’s go-to elopement and micro-wedding expert. Electric Sugar Elopements barged onto the scene in 2021, with the company drawing on McKenzi’s 15+ years as a wedding photographer, 5+ years as a successful wedding coordinator, and standing as a board member for the LV chapter of WIPA. Her ‘let’s do this differently’ attitude to weddings has helped over 700 couples get hitched in style around Las Vegas, San Diego and Black Hills, and has led to her being featured in small and major media outlets, such as the New York Times.