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a diamond in the rough
the rules of engagement
by heather m. millen

When I announced my engagement in September of 2006, I had many visions of what the following year would entail. What I pictured was an endless year of one champagne-drenched celebration after another, all held in my honor. Red carpets rolled out at any available opportunity! And, heck, I didn't even necessarily need parties thrown for me, I'd create them wherever I went, celebrating the engagement until it was no more. I'd have to invest in a tractor trailer to haul all of my fabulous new party dresses from place to place.

Speaking of dresses, I was going to visit no fewer than 100 bridal shops. I would spend more time trying on wedding gowns than I did sleep. I would twirl around in each one for an hour, switch into another and twirl some more. This process would continue every available moment for a good 3-4 months.

But the dress was just the beginning! So many details to sink my teeth into! I looked forward to obsessing over floral arrangements and spending hours upon hours of fun deciding on color schemes -- Champagne or ivory? Is this gold too gold? Should I go with a merlot red or more of a cabernet? Why do all of my color choices share the name of an alcoholic beverage?

I have been engaged for 242 days now. I found my dress at the second bridal salon I went to, insisted on going to several more only to end up back with the dress that I knew was the one. Turns out that obsessing over color schemes isn't nearly as much fun as it sounds and that creating the wedding you dream of costs a lot of money, that even a dedicated party girl like me has a hard time parting with.

There have certainly been many can't-miss experiences over the last eight months. But amidst all the fabric swatches and Knot Magazines, butterfly stomachs and joyful moments, there have been many other things that have dotted the landscape of my engagement... the stress of taking on more financial responsibility then we anticipated. A million more stresses than we could have ever even imagined that suddenly made the financial one pale in comparison. Unexpected circumstances that could threaten to keep my favorite man on earth -- fiancé notwithstanding -- from being by my side on the most important day of my life. And the loss of a loved one that wanted nothing more than to be there come September 16th as well.

You could say, and you'd be putting it lightly, that as far as years go, it has not been a banner year for me. But you could also say it has been. You couldn't go wrong with either statement.

I haven't had 97 parties thrown in my honor. I haven't really had the time. And truth be told, sometimes weeks went by where I didn't feel much like speaking to anyone, let alone celebrating with them. It just seemed like there was too much happening, too much sadness and anxiety, that I couldn't say anything without saying everything. And that hurt too much.

At times, I've considered postponing the wedding. And when not considering that, I've felt guilty that I'm planning a "party" when there's so much more to focus on going on in the world. So much, that means SO MUCH more.

That's where I was wrong. This is the most important thing that I will ever do, no matter what else is happening in my life. And it has nothing to do with what color shoes I choose or how I wear my hair. Because while last year I may have ordered up a year of cake tastings and DIY bridal projects, I got more than I ever anticipated instead.

I've learned that in some of life's hardest moments, I have someone who knows just how to hold me and just the right thing to say: the right words, the right amount of words, even if that amount is nothing. I've learned that when all I really want is to shut the world out, there's still one person I continually want to let in. I've learned that I'm not nearly as strong as I think I am, and sometimes it's okay to let someone hold you up when can't stand alone anymore. I've learned that I don't want to get married... I have to. Because I've found someone that I can't live without.

We have received the best engagement present any couple could hope for. A year of learning and loving together, being tested and growing stronger. Who needs a set of steak knives?

That's not to say that I haven't gotten to enjoy the rites of passage for any bride. There have been highlights, and I look forward to a summer of many more. I have been able to relish the good things about planning a wedding. And I'm happy that I'll be able to have this one day to remember and hold onto for years to come. But I'm beginning to suspect that I won't remember what the placecards looked like or what was the last song the DJ played.

I think what I'll remember is how nice it was to have my mother in the bride's room with me as I'm getting ready. The bittersweet tears that will run down my face as my father gives me away. The rush of emotions when I see my fiancé as I approach him down the aisle. The excitement and joy of having all of our favorite people, two worlds of family and friends, coming together for one amazing day.

I am an extremely blessed bride-to-be. It just better not freakin' rain.


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


the rest of my life
ruminations on my 25th year
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 10.29.03

who moved my chi?
finding my way back to inner peace
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 4.23.08


russ carr
4.27.07 @ 8:36a

If you don't want your steak knives, we could use a set.

jael mchenry
4.27.07 @ 10:46a

I would joke about whether gold can be too gold, but just the other day I sent my bridesmaids links to four different sets of shoes expressly to demonstrate which shades of gold are appropriate and which are not. On one level, this stuff matters.

And on the other level, as this column expresses beautifully, it doesn't matter at all. The marriage is what will matter. It's good to keep that in mind when all the details threaten to overwhelm a person.

Sounds like you've been having a tough time lately, Heather. Hope there are happier days ahead; and it seems sure that there are.

dorothy kyle
4.27.07 @ 12:54p

I wish you the best. With that insight your marriage will last for years to come.

sandra thompson
4.28.07 @ 7:45a

Ah, Heather, my dear, to have become so wise so young is indeed a great blessing. All the best and I'm so very happy for you!!!

reem al-omari
4.29.07 @ 2:31a

You know, in some cultures, rain is a really good sign and means good fortune! Congrats anyway and I hope the big day goes swimmingly.

sarah ficke
4.30.07 @ 10:27a

Jael, I went with a friend to find gold shoes for a wedding and it was one of the most painful shopping trips ever. Do you know how hard it is to find gold shoes that don't also sport rhinestones, glitter, and 5 inch heels?

jael mchenry
4.30.07 @ 11:18a

But it's much easier than it used to be! Metallic is apparently in this season. And they've also been told that ivory, khaki, or tan would be OK too.

There are certainly some glittery gold travesties out there. Chinese Laundry makes particularly unacceptable shades of gold. Eck.

sarah ficke
4.30.07 @ 12:44p

Ah, well at least you're taking these things into consideration.

In fact, I'd like to congratulate you and Heather both for not turning into Psycho-Bride.

Also, rain? Just an excuse to get fabulous romantic pictures containing umbrellas.

heather millen
4.30.07 @ 12:46p

Ah yes... but it IS an outdoor ceremony. So, not so very fabulous.

At least we have a really nice Plan B in the estate ballroom.

Trust me, as Mike will tell you, I've gotten caught up in some things. But I'd have to say I'm not nearly the bridezilla I'd imagine I could be!

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