I’m engaged. Now what?

I’m a pretty organized person. More than “pretty organized,” actually. Like, I’m one of those people who color-codes things and makes lists and, basically, creates some sort of system for just about everything. And although I HATE to plan things like day trips and weekend getaways (I’d rather fly by the seat of my pants), I’m excellent at planning things like fundraisers and other big projects.

I always thought I’d make a great party planner. Or wedding planner. Like J.Lo in that movie — the one where Matthew McConaughey says, “But I know the curves of your face and I know every fleck of gold in your eyes…” [*swoon*] Why can’t real-life boys read from a script?

But I digress.

I thought that, if I ever got engaged, planning my big day would be a cinch. I mean, I’m organized, I’m thorough, I know people who could assist along the way and, most importantly, I work for a bridal magazine, so it’s not like I’m a complete rookie when it comes to all things wedding-related.

And then I got engaged and none of that actually mattered. My mind went completely blank. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do first.

We got engaged on a Monday night. We made some immediate phone calls to family, and saved a few others for the next morning. By 10 a.m., the texts started rolling in. And as much as I wanted to give each one the proper attention and response, that’s impossible after the sixth or seventh. So we had to put the phones down and decide how to announce it before social media and friend/family phone chains took over.

I remember my fiancé watching me just stare blankly at my phone for a minute and asking, “Are you getting nervous now?”

About the engagement? No. Not at all.

About how quickly word spread out of my control? Yes. Absolutely.

It doesn’t matter how many to-do lists wedding magazines and planning professionals put out for newly engaged couples — real life doesn’t work that way. Sh*t feels out of control super quick, excitement pretty much takes over, and it becomes hard to think straight almost immediately.

So here’s what we did — we posted a picture to social media. Made our announcement the same way most people do these days, and then we watched our phones light up.

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To be honest, I wish we wouldn’t have announced it that way. But here’s the thing — word spreads. People talk and social media is at everyone’s fingertips. So someone who probably should have been among the first to know could have possibly been one of the last if we had tried to keep it to ourselves. Someone would have found out, and then mentioned it to someone else, who would have then posted on my Facebook wall, and then BOOM! That quick.

And I thought I had my sh*t together. At this point, I had only been engaged for about a minute and I already screwed up! And I don’t think it’s cause a first-timer — I just think wedding planning is a lot and there’s no right or wrong. I know I’m not alone in this…

The next few days were definitely fun — impromptu work parties, congratulatory gifts and cards, champagne toasts, chocolate cake. You know, all the good stuff!

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But then the questions: Have you set a date? Will you have a big wedding? What’s your dress gonna look like? Are you having it here or in Pennsylvania (both my fiancé and I are “transplants” to the beach)? Where will you live after the wedding?

WHAT?!? Honestly, people. I’ve been engaged for, like, 30 seconds. I announced my engagement with freakin’ Facebook post and I’m still trying to remember to put my ring on after a shower — do you REALLY think I’ve actually got it together enough to have given ANY of those things any thought just yet?

In hindsight, I wish I’d taken a day or two to just be with my fiancé, and to keep it all to ourselves — just like the wedding magazines and planning professionals suggest. But, when it all goes down, it’s SO hard to do that. It really is.

And then there’s a list of things you need to do shortly after your engagement. Insure your ring, pick a wedding date, call venues, schedule appointments at bridal shops. Oh, and also go about life as usual.

Oh. My. God.

We got engaged in early June. I knew EXACTLY where I wanted my wedding to be, and I had my heart set on a specific photographer, florist and deejay. And we nailed down those few things immediately. Oh, and we set a date — Oct. 14, 2017. Outside of that, not much got done. By July, wedding plans took a back seat to our busy lives.

That was a mistake. There’s so much to do, apparently, and it’s mindboggling. Overwhelming is a better word. Planning your wedding could really be a part-time job. Even if you decide it’s going to be a small, simple wedding, like we did. It’s still the same amount of research, planning and decisions. And keeping order is hard. Doing it all in the right order is hard. Even for someone as organized as me.

But, as I always say, “It’ll get done.”

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Hell yeah, I will!

Before I get too far into my crazy adventure in wedding planning, I should probably tell you the story about how I got to the point where I’d be planning a wedding in the first place. It’s not fairy tale material, but it’s beautiful to me. And so perfect. Imperfectly perfect, in my opinion.

My now-fiancé had planned the most amazing birthday weekend. It was my 40th, a big one, and he scheduled every day and night. Friends from New York and Virginia came to town. There were dinners and bonfires and late-night giggles. All of my favorite things.

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He was especially secretive about a Saturday night bonfire at Assateague, though. He got up really early that day and told me he’d be gone all day because there was so much “setup” needed before everyone headed out to the beach. Which was weird, I thought, because honestly, how much effort does it take to plan a bonfire? Wood, matches, beer — boom! Done. But I let him do his thing and I spent a peaceful day alone on the water, just me and my paddle board.

I figured that something pretty special was planned, though, since he made such a big to-do about the bonfire. So when I was getting ready, I put a little bit more effort into my hair and makeup — you know, just in case there were pictures to be had. I also figured that, since preparations were an all-day affair, I’d be welcomed on the beach with a beautiful spread of white twinkle lights, candles, balloons, a big Happy Birthday sign — the whole nine yards. So imagine my surprise when I arrived to a semi-circle of three SUVs, a not-yet-built bonfire and a handful of my dearest friends. It was, just as he’d plainly said that morning, a typical Saturday night bonfire.

No twinkle lights. No down-on-one-knee. No oohs or ahhs. And a faceful of the GOOD makeup, all for naught (ladies, you know what I’m talking about).

I won’t deny that there was the teeniest, tiniest pang of disappointment, but also a wave of relief — I’m not good at being the center of attention. I’m super awkward and visibly uncomfortable when I’m put on the spot. And I probably would have crawled very, very deep into the sand.

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The day after, I slept a little later than usual, I ate birthday cake in bed, had lunch on the water, and I rode my pretty pink Hello Kitty bike in the rain. It was perfect.

And then Monday came, and life was back to normal.

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That night, we had tickets to see one of my favorite reggae bands. We met a few friends at the bar, had a few drinks, and watched the band from the same spot where we hang out every time we go to this particular bar — tucked away to the right of the stage, close enough to see everything, but far enough away from the crowd. A few songs in, my boyfriend — who would rather punch a kitten than rub sweaty shoulders in a pit of drunk 20-somethings — grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s go in. Let’s get closer to the stage.” So I obliged.

We weren’t there long. Like, half of a song. He looked at me and asked, “Are you over it?” I didn’t even answer. I just started walking toward the back of the mass. We kept walking till we were in a completely different room, at a completely different bar, where we sat down with the intentions of getting one more beer and some food to go.

While we waited, he asked me if I had had a good birthday. Did I get everything I wanted? I was honest — told him there wasn’t anything tangible that I wanted, and that hanging out with him and my friends was as perfect as it gets. Although, if I were being honest, I had thought that maybe he had something more planned for that night on the beach.

HIM: “You thought I was going to propose at the bonfire?”

ME: “Well, yeah. Why else would you make such a big deal about a stupid bonfire?”

HIM: “I wasn’t going to propose on the beach. I was going to propose tonight.”

And then the most perfect ring, and the most intense feeling of love, and the most beautiful tears, and the probably the most amazing hug we’ve ever hugged. I almost forgot to say “yes.”

And then the applause, and the bells, and the cheers and whistles. And then I realized we weren’t alone, but at a bar with a few hundred other people who had been watching the whole thing! It’s crazy how you can truly get lost in a moment…

My boyfriend had planned to propose on stage that night. He’d met with a member of the band earlier that day and had the whole thing arranged. Which is why I was pulled into the crowd that night, so we’d be that much closer to the stage. But the musician flaked, so the plan was altered.

But it turned into the most amazing, perfectly imperfect proposal. At least, in my opinion.

** ENGAGEMENT VIDEO: https://youtu.be/QthmChdFOX

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Yes, it’s my first time…

On June 6, 2016 — one day after my 40th birthday — I got engaged.

For the first time.

I feel like I need to add that second part because, when I tell people I just got engaged, a lot of them hesitate, then ask, “Is this your first marriage?” So, apparently this whole “first at 40” thing is hard for some people to wrap their head around. Which I sort of understand — I come from a small town where girls marry their high school sweethearts and live happily ever after with three kids and a beautiful house on a hill.

But that was never me.

For the last 20 years, I’ve lived in a beach town where the population triples in the summer, but trickles back to a few thousand as September rolls into October and “tourists” roll out, giving us “locals” our home back. Everybody knows everybody here, and a lot of us have the same story — we spent the summer here once, working our butts off to help pay next year’s college tuition, but then decided to stay. The service industry money was too sweet to pass up, and living a stress-free lifestyle was just far more tantalizing than a 9 to 5.

A lot of my friends here have never been married, and none of us thinks that’s strange at all. I also have many friends who are getting married in their 30s, and that’s actually the norm — at least in this town.

My story is a smidge different. I’ve worked in the service industry every year that I’ve lived here, but only on a part-time basis — because I also had one of those 9 to 5s I mentioned. Since 1997, I’ve worked in the media — newspapers, magazines, online publications. The bad thing about that is, there’s little to no money in journalism, despite working a hell of a lot of hours. The great thing about that is, I learned a hell of a lot. I’ve been a reporter, a copy editor, a managing editor, a graphic designer, an online content creator and a social media coordinator. I’m super organized, super creative and I know a whole lot about a bunch of random stuff — I just don’t know a whole lot about any one thing.

But lucky for me, all of that is pretty damn ideal for someone who’s just getting engaged at 40.

Since June 6, I’ve been trying to plan my very first wedding and it’s been nothing short of comical. Only a part of me knows what I’m doing; the other part is asking stupid questions, doing things “out of order” and making mistakes. But my motto has always been “It’ll get done,” so I imagine this won’t be any different.

I’m going to write about this whole wedding planning thing as I go along because, let’s face it, everyone loves a good giggle. We can all laugh at my expense… and maybe we’ll learn some things along the way. Like, what NOT to do when planning a wedding at 40.