Bride-to-be Blogger Stephanie: Our 11-Year Road To Engagement

Pat and Stephanie in a shot from college.

I awoke the morning after the proposal feeling supremely happy, brimming with sheer joy. “On cloud 9” had taken on a whole new blissful meaning. Instead of waking up groggy and grumpy as I am known to do—I’m a vehemently self-professed non-morning person—a huge, irrepressible grin spread across my face. My eyes immediately darted down to the stunning ring on my left finger to assure myself that yes, it wasn’t a dream.

Pat and I have been dating for 11 years—nearly half of our lives. When he asked in 7th grade if I would be his girlfriend in the Ancillae Assumpta Academy school library, I shrugged and said, “Sure.” I knew very little about him at the time, and yet, he apparently knew from the first time he saw me in 2nd grade that we were going to be together.

Our grade school romance consisted largely of blushing cheeks, slow dances at school formals, chocolates on Valentine’s Day, and a perceived mutual acknowledgement of “I like you, you like me.” Very little conversation. We were both exceedingly shy. Our primary means of communication actually was through letters. That Valentine’s Day card that accompanied the chocolates revealed a whole new person that I desperately wanted to get to know.

Miraculously, we carried the relationship through to high school, where it really grew. I discovered that the relationship I kind of happened upon was more than I could have hoped for—the boy that I had an innocent grade school crush on was the man I was falling in love with.

After much debate, with many family members weighing in on whether it was a good idea to go to the same college, we set off for the University of Miami together. And remarkably, in our junior year of college, we set off on another telling adventure together: three months circumnavigating the globe on a study abroad program called Semester at Sea. Thirteen different countries in 4 different continents—we saw the world together.

Ironically, it was after college that we learned to live apart. He got a job in Washington, me in Philadelphia—a constant Amtrak weekend ping-pong that has been played for the past two years. Fortunatel—extremely fortunately—Washington is only a train ride away, but the ups and downs of a long-distance relationship certainly still endured. An end in sight—a set time when you know you’ll be back together—is often what it takes to get you through. And two years in, I was looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.

We knew we wanted to get married. We had known it for a long, long time. It was mostly a matter of establishing some stability, getting our careers on track. I may have possibly gotten a bit antsy over the winter, to which he eventually told me that we would get engaged “before it got warm out.” And we had a very mild winter! But on that April day, as I walked to the White House, I had absolutely no idea what was coming.

That morning after the proposal, exuding elation, Pat and I met our parents at their hotel. When we arrived, my mom was seated at a table with wedding magazines sprawled out around her. She looked up from her iPad and asked, “So what do you think about…” And that marked the official beginning of wedding planning—an incessant stream of questions that come with difficult answers and challenging decisions.

It hasn’t been anything quite like I imagined. It’s hard! I feel like most brides don’t tell you that. It’s hard to determine your vision; it’s hard/impossible to please everyone who cares; it’s hard to let down interested vendors; it’s hard to squeeze planning into your work schedule. I look forward to sharing more about the process with all of you, and most all, getting your expert input! I will definitely need it. Next on the agenda: I’ll let you know about the quest for my perfect venue. I visited 13 venues in total—yes, crazy—so for any brides currently on the search, I hope I can provide some insight, and please feel free to share yours.

Did planning your wedding prove to be much harder than you imagined?