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It’s Good Housekeeping’s 17th anniversary, and mommies, it’s your month, too! Enjoy meaty reads on everything relevant to you—from deliciously simple cake recipes to stories of compassion during Pope Francis’s visit.
When the man who makes your knees weak and understands the depths of your soul asks you to marry him, you’re possessed by a delicious, dizzy feeling that’s equal parts of joy and nervous energy. But other than parties and lots of planning, what can you really expect once you’re engaged? You’re in for surprises, say women who’ve been there. “I was shocked at how things changed once I started sporting that ring,” says Leila, 28. “It’s exciting, but it all gets weird very fast.” Cosmo gives the straight scoop on the strange territory that lies between bachelorette and bride.
People get nosy.
“When women I barely know find out I’m engaged, they’ll ask me all sorts of personal questions—from do I like the ring to will my fiancé and I stop having sex to make the wedding night more exciting,” says Melissa, 27. “I feel like my relationship is being scrutinized.” You should never feel pressured into answering any inquiry that makes you uncomfortable, says Cynthia C. Muchnick, author of “Will You Marry Me?” The World’s Most Romantic Proposals (IDG Books Worldwide, 1996). “When people pry, asking if you’ll take your husband’s name or what religion you’ll raise your children, respond with a polite-yet-vague statement like ‘I haven’t had time to think about it yet,’” says Muchnick. “Or if your interrogator is hitched, ask her what she did. Married women love to give advice, so that will take the spotlight off of you.”
Becoming a fiancée can transform friendships, says Aileen, 25, who noticed a shift in her ties with two unattached pals she usually sees once a week. “I just don’t have the time for a weekly girls’ night out now that I’m so busy, and I think they’re resentful,” she says. That’s why it’s important to reassure any single friends who feel left behind that you still do care about them. “Continue to go out with them whenever you can,” says Leah Ingram, author of Your Wedding Your Way (Contemporary Books, 2000). “And when it feels right, tell them you appreciate their standing by you during this crazy time.
You start having doubts.
After the initial excitement of saying yes to her boyfriend’s proposal, Carla, 27, freaked out. “Becoming engaged felt so adult—I just wasn’t prepared,” she says. “So I asked Mark if we could wait a week before telling anyone, to get used to the idea. He was upset, but luckily my nervousness passed quickly.”
Even if you’ve been wishing for a ring, your reaction to the big moment might be less giddy than you’d expect. All sorts of fears suddenly pop up: “Is he really the one?” “Are we rushing things?” “Does this mean I can’t hitchhike across America?”
To differentiate between normal nerves and ones that forebode marital disaster, ask yourself: Am I nervous about the wedding? Or am I worried about spending the rest of my life with this person? “If it turns out you’re simply anxious about planning out the ceremony or getting along with his family, there’s no cause for alarm,” says Judith Coché, Ph.D., a Philadelphia psychologist. Being uncertain and even scared about taking the plunge is also normal. “After all, you’ve never done this before,” says Coché, so take time to sort out your feelings and make sure you’re not having serious doubts.
What if your fiancé starts freaking? Talk to him so you can find out if he’s just having a case of jitters. “Say something non-accusatory, like ‘I’m a little nervous about this whole marriage thing, aren’t you?’ Once you’ve mentioned it, he should open up,” says Coché, so you can work through your worries together.
Your mom will get weird on you.
Normally sweet and sane moms have been known to morph into madwomen when their little girls announce they’re getting married. “My mom called me five times a day, pestering me about the wedding details before I’d even picked a date,” says Berna, 26. “Finally I snapped at her to leave me alone, and she was really hurt.”
A smart way to keep mom happy? Assign her specific wedding-research tasks right away. Invitations, guests accommodations, and reception locales are good choices because she’ll likely care about the impression they’ll make. If you and your mom have divergent mental images of your wedding (she’s thinking horse and carriage, you’re thinking barefoot on the beach), be assertive but sweet. “Say ‘Mom, I know you want my wedding to be perfect, and for me that means…’” says Denise McGregor, author of Mama Drama (St. Martin’s Press, 1999). “It’s a big day for both of you, so be gentle. Ultimately, she wants you to be happy, so she’ll likely acquiesce to your wishes.”
The bridesmaid question rears its head earlier than you’d think.
You may think deciding which buds to ask to be in your bridal party is something you can put off for a while, think again. “Shortly after I announced my engagement, friends started acting overly helpful around me, as if they were expecting something,” says Rhoda. “Some even dropped hints!” To prevent others from putting you in an awkward position, either suck it up and make your decision early or make it clear that you and your fiancé won’t be deciding about the wedding party for three, six, or even nine months.
Your groom hangs back.
It’s unfair but true: The stress of planning your blissful affair will fall squarely on you. “I feel like I have this huge task on my shoulders,” says Lisa, 28, of her upcoming nuptials, “while my fiancé, Ron, doesn’t even think about it that much. It’s hard not to become a little resentful.” Face it: Men just aren’t hard-wired to care about wedding details like flowers, cakes, and dresses like we are. Of course, the one time you do make a move without consulting him, you might just hear about it. To cut down on confusion and squabbling, Ingram recommends sitting down with your guy and asking him which wedding plans he really cares about so you can make sure to keep him in the loop on those decisions.
Your relationship needs TLC.
Once wedding planning begins, it’s easy to forget why you’re getting married in the first place. To put the focus back on you and your guy, Muchnick suggests periodically declaring a moratorium on matrimony talk for an evening or an entire weekend. “Recall all the things that you used to find fascinating about each other before your wedding took over your life,” she says. Or go an on “engagement-moon”—a romantic weekend getaway—a couple of months before the big day to give yourselves a break.
Most important, keep in mind that all the commotion is really about you two digging each other like crazy. “A few months into our engagement, Jojo stopped looking like my beloved and started to look like the jerk who hadn’t called the caterer back,” says Mabel, 26. “So one day, I packed a picnic with a bottle of Beaujolais, and we went to the park and spent the afternoon writing our vows. It reminded us of the true reason we were getting married—and made the actual day much more special.”