Culture

Are the Royals onto Something with Their Short Engagements?

Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for photographers during a photocall in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The recent announcement of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle’s engagement was certainly a happy occasion for many royal watchers. But even more exhilarating was the brief statement from Kensington Palace on Friday—the wedding date is a mere five months away on May 19, 2018. Many are speculating that the short engagement is to accommodate Prince Philip’s attendance, while some are citing historically short engagements when it comes to royal weddings: Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge were married five months after their engagement announcement. Five months was also the length of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s engagement. And before that? Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were engaged only four short months before taking their vows in Westminster Abbey.

Granted, royal weddings involve hundreds of people coming together to pull it off. And the budget is more than outrageous—Kate and Wills’ wedding cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 34 million dollars. But even so, maybe the Royals are onto something with these short engagements. Would you be willing and able to pull it off?

Finances

One of the main arguments for a longer engagement is the amount of time you have to save up for the mounting expenses your nuptials will inevitably cost you. There is also something to be said for not paying “rush delivery” fees on things like invitations, décor, and gowns. But considering the long-term savings, a short engagement might be a more financially wise decision.
With less time to plan, a couple is likely to only focus on the most important things to them and their celebration. Variable and unexpected costs won’t find their way into your budget if they aren’t important enough to make the cut under time constraints. There is also less of a likelihood that you’ll lose deposits made if, say, you find a more favorable venue in the two years it takes you to plan.

Long-term financial decisions can be impacted by getting married sooner, as well. If you marry before the end of the year in which you get engaged—even if your wedding date is December 31—you can file as married on your state and federal taxes for that previous year. And with the changes in tax plans that seem to come with every new Congress, that could very well play into your favor. Also with a quicker, legally recognized marriage? Health insurance benefits. Sure, these financial decisions are far from romantic, but they certainly are practical in the long run.

Stress Levels

Wedding preparations are stressful. So why prolong the planning? With less time, you are likely to be presented with fewer options when it comes to venues and vendors. Some may see this as a drawback, but if you have limited options, it is often easier to make a decision.

Less time can also lead to fewer drawn-out arguments. Not between you and your betrothed, of course (because we all know you would never get into more than a tiff with your spouse-to-be…), but in trying to please and accommodate everyone who feels entitled to being part of your wedding. Parents from both sides of the aisle will have less time to draw out decisions that the bride and groom don’t have an opinion on. The same goes with your wedding party.

Knowing that you’re planning a whirlwind of a wedding, your friends and family will typically be more respectful of your decisions and less likely to second guess you. They know you’re stressed, but they also think you’re a touch crazy. So they will be more likely to lend help and support.

Relationships Change

No, I’m not suggesting your relationship with your fiancé with change drastically over a long engagement and you need to lock it down legally as fast as possible—if that’s the case, no length of engagement is a good option for you. What I’m referring to here is your relationships with those on your guest list. A lot can change over the course of 14 months, which is the current average length for a U.S. engagement. Friends and family members get divorced. People move. Friends get pregnant and have babies. Older relatives pass away. If you truly view your wedding as an occasion you want those closest to you to attend, it’s a wise move to seize the moment and not put it off.

Shorter Engagements, Longer Courtships

All this being said, it is ill-advised to have a quick wedding after only knowing a person in the dating world for a brief time. Some relationships work out that way—mere months between meeting and marrying and they live happily ever after. But with the current divorce rate, this is the exception and not the rule. A short engagement is only going to work if the relationship is based on a solid friendship and mutual love and respect.

There is a quote I’ve heard a few times that says a man and woman should be “friends first, sweethearts second.” Expanding on this idea, American sociologist Lowell Bennion equated romantic relationships to a sort of pyramid with friendship as the base. Each level up the hierarchy builds on that friendship, containing things like time, understanding, love, and respect, with the top of the pyramid being romance. If a relationship is built on romance, it’s like trying to balance that pyramid on its capstone. It won’t stand long, if at all.

What it comes down to is this: a wedding is an event, a union that marks the joining of two separate individuals and forms a family. It’s not necessary to spend ridiculous amounts of money while simultaneously trying to impress or please everyone around you. It’s not necessary to spend months (sometimes years) planning the perfect day, right down to the last detail. It’s not even necessary to set a specific length of time for an engagement. A wedding shouldn’t be looked at as the pinnacle of an engagement, but rather the beginning of a lifelong partnership. And if that’s the case, why not get to the nuptials as soon as possible?