questionswell, i'm engaged. now what? (please read all…

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Her father and I came to the unanimous decision that I should propose that day. I asked for his daughters hand in marriage, he gave us his blessing, and as we hugged it out, I received a text from my girlfriend, who was in a different part of the hospital, saying “I want to have the wedding next year on Mom's birthday” Unknown to her, she had just removed all doubt in my mind that this may be a strange idea. “Well I guess she's on board then.”

One problem remained: I didn't have a ring to propose. Her father said that since his wife couldn't wear the rings while in the hospital, I should borrow them. So I drove to their home from from the hospital to retrieve the rings that had been dropped off at the house and returned to the hospital. CONTINUED...

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When I arrived, my girlfriend and her father were standing in the hallway. I asked if they would follow me into the hospital room. I stood at the foot of her mom's bed, took her by the shoulders and said “I know you're going through a really tough time, and I don't want you to go through it alone. I want to be there for you no matter what happens” I got down on one knee, and pulled out a jewelry box which was wrapped by a pair of earbuds (I was in a hurry!) and asked the four words that frighten every man:
“Will you marry me?”

She couldn't even answer. She burst out crying and nodded her head slowly in approval, and we embraced. After a minute of happy tears, I said “C'mon, let's go get that brain activity up.” We walked to the side of her mother's bed and started shouting that we were finally engaged and she needed to get up and come to the wedding. CONTINUED...

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Sadly, She passed away two days later on Friday, and the funeral was on Sunday followed by the burial. Jewish tradition is to bury the deceased as soon as possible. My girlfriend will be in mourning for a year, and we plan to get married either June/July/August of 2013 (Complications prevent us from having it on her mothers birthday as we had hoped.)

So it's been a pretty hectic time and I've been helping the family for the past week, but this doesn't change the fact that I am now engaged. Most people plan that their engagement will be awesome, and you never expect something like this. But I digress...

Does anyone have any advice for a newly engaged couple on what we should be doing at this time? Please keep in mind that we are Orthodox Jews and not all of your suggestions will be relevant, and I apologize if I shoot down suggestions. Thank you guys in advance for all your help. This community has always been kind to me, even when it's loving sarcasm.

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Have you done any financial planning? Have you resolved where you plan to live once you are married? If you are planning to buy and have the means, it's a home buyers market right now in most places. If you are planning to buy and have never owned a home before, look into the First Time Homebuyer's program in your community. Do you both want the same kind of wedding, or do you need to work out any differences on that?

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Oh, my goodness. You've brought tears to my eyes, and that's very hard to do. First, for the engagement news: Mazel Tov! I send you virtual hugs, and share your sorrow.

I also invoke that kind and thoughtful person, @sgoman5674, who may be the most likely to offer good suggestions for you.

I hope that you are able to choose June as the wedding month. I don't know the area of the country you are in, but have always loved backyard weddings. If you were close to me, I'd volunteer my own (I'm sure you are not; the population of Jews of any kind in this area is vanishingly small).

Blessings to you, and to your bride to be, and my sympathy to both your families.

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@moondrake: Currently we are working on the slight religious differences. My family's community is more religious and will probably be against any secular music, so we plan to have the wedding either in her community or between the two locations. First half will be traditional and the second will have more modern music and maybe mixed dancing at the end. We haven't gotten to the whole house thing yet, but we will certainly start thinking about it. Thank you

@shrdlu: Thank you very much! I've told this story many times over the past week, and most people seem to cry, so don't feel defeated by that fact. At this point we are looking at mid July, but again, it's up in the air. There is no real rush to reserve any locations as a large number of jewish engagements last only a few months, so we have plenty of time in that respect. My dad likes the idea of an outdoor wedding, but only because it's cheaper :P

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I'm terribly sorry for your loss. You must indeed love her and know her and her family well to have gotten engaged in that way. It's always a little surprising to me when such major life events happen so naturally (in reference to the engagement). Hmmm, when I say naturally, I guess I mean you two seemed to be very much on the same page.

My wife and I have been that way since we've known each other and had a wonderful time together during our engagement, but it wasn't because of anything special. We spent as much time together as we could (we had other life events that limited that time together), and we prepared for our future. I'm a little confused as to what you want advice about. Enjoy your time with each other. Do fun stuff together. Plan your wedding together. Talk about your future, hopes, dreams, fears, etc.

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@thepenrod: Thank you much. The reason the engagement happened so naturally was because we have been sorta "pre-engaged" for a while. We would randomly just start talking about kids and the wedding and such things as if we were already engaged, and really we just needed to make it official.
Advice-wise, everyone's minds are so blah from the crazy events that have transpired, that we can't think straight and I was just looking for some form of guidance to get us started on the right path.

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Just some advice. Those "slight" religious differences may seem minor now, but once children show up parents' emotions often flare up.

Strangely enough, the topic of religious differences and children came up one my first date with my wife, to whom I've now been married for over 17 years, so obviously it's something we've overcome. My wife was raised Jewish in an observant household, but abandoned most of the more obscure tradtions after she'd moved out. And I'm a hardcore atheist who makes Bill Maher look like the pope.

What we agreed to on that first date was that religion is not heredetary. It is a choice and children, once they're old enough to reason for themselves, should be allowed to choose their own beliefs. They should certainly be exposed to both parents' belief systems but we both agreed that telling kids they had to believe/practice something just because mommy and daddy do is not fair to the kids.

And yes, we really did bring it up. The first date was THAT spectacular.

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And now a continuation because I ran out of space before I could offer any congratulations. So, congratulations!

I proposed without the benefit of a ring either. Granted, I proposed to my wife in the aftermath of the Northridge Earthquake (hey, something good had to come out of that day), and since I hadn't planned on proposing I didn't have a ring to give her. But she did accept the proposal, and whenever people asked I told them I'd put a ring on layaway at a department store that had been demolished in the quake...

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I have an observant friend at work, so I'm going through him right now. First impressions, after sharing everything in the thread thus far, is 1) "Wow, that's a long engagement" and 2) "We tried to have no strictly enforced separation at my wedding, but the florists (seriously, the florists) put up barriers on their own."

Obviously the first does you no good, as the date is significant for you two. The second may be something to watch out for, though, being that more conservative communities like to get their hands on details like that.

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Here's my two cents: This is advice that was given to me 1000 times over, but I didn't realize its importance until after our wedding day--enjoy every minute together.

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@elforman: For the first post- We are aware of the fact that there will be some religious issues with the kids, as I'm more right wing and she is more left wing. We will certainly be discussing issues, but the only major issue I can think of won't be until 12 years after we have a daughter, so plenty of time.
For the second post- Thank you for the congrats. That's a very nice way to propose as well. Tragedy followed by good news seems to be a good combination. It's actually how I informed my parents. "Her mom may be brain-dead, but we're engaged." The wording was much more careful than that, but that's the gist of it.

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@abramokids: Sadly, the only good thing about my brief marriage was our lovely garden wedding. We were poor, we had less than $1,000 to spend on everything, but we put together a really wonderful event. Although we wore the traditional tux and gown, we had a native American ceremony. My ex is an anthropologist and I have a deep love of Native American traditions and beliefs so it was the right choice for us. A family friend owned a property in Lincoln National Forest, so we were married in a beautiful garden bordered by tiger lilies and surrounded by thousands of acres of untamed forest. A co-worker with home baking business baked the cake as a wedding gift. The kids of another co-worker came and played chamber music on a violin and cello. We had a cookout instead of a plate dinner, and I spent a good deal of the money we had on a case of classy champagne. The garden was part of a summer home and the family friend let us stay there a week for our honeymoon. It was wonderful.

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Or rather, the amount of time passing between then and now (he referenced shloshim, I think I have a good source here) rather than the date.

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Condolences for your loss, and mazal tov in equal measures. Families are amazing, and it's amazing that your family story will have new chapters written just as old ones come to a close.

The best advice I can give is, don't sweat the wedding. Seriously, just don't. There are a million details, and for every firmly-held opinion, somebody is going to hold a conflicting opinion just as firmly. So take a page from Sun Tzu and be like water--give way with no resistance at every possible opportunity. If there are one or two points you personally need to hold firm with, do it--but be honest with yourself, is this about making sure X happens at the wedding, or about having control of the process? Control is overrated; let someone else have it.

In the grand scheme of things, weddings are not really about the bride and groom, despite all the cultural cues telling the bride "It's Your Day!" No. It's the community's day, to celebrate its continuance through new families coming into being.

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@abramokids: Well, you have over a year so I wouldn't worry too much about the wedding. Based on the kind of relationship you have, I would say that for the next few months, let those conversations happen naturally as you and your fiance think about things. That also gives her time to grieve. I'm sure she'll want to go do some things to distract her at times, but you also don't want to over do it. My recommendation is to do something enjoyable every week for an extended period. Not dinner and a movie but go to a museum or something like that. Plan a long date day every week. Those days will give you longer periods of time to just have fun, or to talk about ideas and plans for the wedding, or to remember and grieve.

I also recommend that you take her someplace special as soon as possible to celebrate your engagement. And if you haven't talked about it yet and if it's okay with her dad, have her mom's rings adapted or remade or stones reset or engraved.

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@lotsofgoats: Thank you for the input.
1) According to Jewish law, my feonce will be in mourning for 11 months, and is not permitted to attend any parties or celebrations, including her own, hence the long engagement. Also, we like having well laid out plans.
2) I have been to many a party where there was a plant barrier, including my own High School graduation. As was mentioned earlier, we plan on having seperate seating/dancing at the begining and then breaking down the barriers towards the end of the wedding

@dergage: Thank you. Certainly words to live by.

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Ugh. So sorry to hear about your wife's mother. Really must have been difficult to balance out the emotions, one minute elated and the next sorrowful. I commend you and your father-in-law for the courage to embrace the situation and insert some joy into it. You have my deepest condolences and blessings for a life of happiness with your bride.
As for what to do.... I suggest that you buy your fiance a wedding planning binder/book. My wife just loved hers'. It was a great tool at laying out the whole process from start to finish. It contained lots of great ideas, creative alternatives to traditional, money saving tips, and many other insights.

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Mazel tov on the engagement and my condolences for your loss.

Seeing as you have an observant family (families?) something traditional might be best. Give it a couple of months, then start talking to her. See what she wants in the wedding and go from there. I know that she wanted it to be on her mother's birthday and since that isn't going to work out, perhaps slide in an homage to her? Either something public for everyone to see, or something just for her. I think that she would really appreciate that.

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@codex: Agreed about the wedding details. Compromise is key.

The bride and groom are the two people who, despite being the center of attention, really get to enjoy and experience the whole thing the least. While everyone is gathering, they're usually off taking pictures or getting dressed. For instance, I didn't get a single bite of the hors d'ourves at my wedding. (Someone snuck some out to my wife.) Then the ceremony is usually rigidly choreographed. Finally, at the reception, the bride and groom are constantly dragged from one activity to another, to the point where the entire ordeal will feel like one big blur.

So just compromise when you can, let go of things that won't matter and go with the flow.

However, if there is anything that you feel you must be absolutely rigid about, then perhaps it's good that it comes up before the wedding and not after, as it may be a sign that you're not as compatible as you think. Get those issues out in the open as soon as possible.

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@lotsofgoats: Ah, if he knows about Shloshim, you have a good source indeen. Shloshim is the thirty days after the burial where the family is still semi-mourning. After Shloshim, everyone stops mourning, except for children of the deceased, so she will still be going for the year

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i realize you have been together for a long while, so this may sound silly. get pre-marrital counseling from whatever source you both feel comfortable with. the counselors (may i suggest someone from your belief system) have more experience with what you will experience in your future.

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@codex: Thank you. That's very good advice and something I will need to keep in mind, seeing as I am a bit of a control freak.

@thepenrod: I was just saying a couple minutes ago, that there are no parties for a year. Jewish tradition says you have an engagement party, but due to the circumstances, that won't be happening. Perhaps we will celebrate when she finishes mourning. I will certainly be spending more time with her doing things, as she just finished a semester in college and will be very lonely at home this summer

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@jimmyd103: Thank you very much. That sounds like a really good idea, and I will certainly look into getting one

@thedogma: Thank you very much. As for why the date had to be changed, it coincides with a period in which marriage is pretty much forbidden. We are thinking of having the civil marriage on her mom's birthday, the jewish wedding a few weeks later, and celebrating the anniversary on the civil date

@moosezilla: We may indeed do some counselling, however we would be more comfortable finding someone on our own, but thank you for the thought, and this will help serve as a reminder to look into such things

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@abramokids: You are so funny. Hopefully the comment will just disappear, like the wind. I have realized that a June wedding would put far too much stress on the both of you (I just glanced at my calendar, and realized that June is nearly here). July's a good month, too. ;-} Be sure not to get too close the the 4th. Best thing about holidays is that the weekend after tends to be easiest for those that will have to travel long distances.

I liked the idea suggested by someone else about using the bride's mother's rings, but that's a question best left up to her and her father, and it's awfully soon to be thinking about it.

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Let me drop in my congrats while I'm here. :)

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@abramokids: My post was before you said that. Also, I meant the two of you, not a party. Consider it a commemoration.

I'm much more familiar with ancient Judaism and I have no expectations that I know or understand current customs and traditions. (Ironic that "current" and "tradition" can be used together but they can when you are talking millenia.)

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@shrdlu: Oh dear, I believe you misread the year. It's July of NEXT year.
As for the rings, a decision has been semi-made. She wants a new ring of her own, because I asked that she keep it on at all times, and she told me that for comfort reasons, it would need to be a different kind of ring. She has a tendency to take her rings off when she sleeps/ relaxes/ etc.

Currently, she is wearing her mother's wedding ring on her necklace

@inkycatz: Thank you very much

@thepenrod: I understood that you had not yet seen that, and I tried to convey that in my post. Guess I didn't do a good job. Oops.

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@abramokids: Nope. I understood which year. I just extrapolated a year out from now, is all.

I think having a new ring is the right thing to do.

Would you consider sharing the bride's name with us? Either that, or choose a name we can refer to her by. It would make the discussions so much easier.

I'm still campaigning for a backyard wedding, you know. I love weddings. :-D They're just the happiest time ever.

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@shrdlu: She says we can refer to her as Light. That's not some weird poetic thing like how she is the light in my life (although she is.) She says if she ever joins Woot (which I think is an inevitability) her username will be some variation of that name

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I built our chuppah for our wedding. If you plan on having one I would recommend building it - way cheaper.

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@jordan711: My understanding is that the Jewish wedding halls all have Chuppahs ready to go that they use over and over, but if that turns out not to be the case, or if we have it outdoors, I can certainly look into making my own. I consider myself to be fairly handy :P Thanks for the advice

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First off, my condolences and congratulations as well! Being engaged is very exciting!

@thepenrod had a great idea about just letting things progress naturally -- do activities that give you lots of time together...and thus time to talk!

Also have to agree with @elforman about compromise...this is definitely true.

@moosezilla is spot on here. My fiance and I are currently going through pre-marital counseling right now and have gone through a couple of books.
(101 Questions Before Saying I Do)
We're both Protestant Christians, and go to the same church, so thankfully there's no real issues that way, but I've seen others with different belief backgrounds do alright...it's DEFINITELY something that you're going to want to talk about BEFORE the big day...at least get it out in the open.

@jimmyd103 is correct as well -- those wedding planning books list everything! So many things that you probably wouldn't have thought of right away!

Glad @johnnys13 comment was removed! Ridiculous!

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Most before me have said what I wanted to say to you, and with warmth & eloquence. Joining in with my heartfelt sympathy to you and yours. Congratulations on your new life, too.

Will only add: I am astounded & heartened at the depth of your feelings. The thoughtful & open expression of your love is refreshing. In a time of throwing aside values, yours prevail. Thank you for sharing with us. I've learned something from you.

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Congratulations!

One word: Delegate.
Your time is valuable. These things are stressful.
Enroll support and help liberally.

(ETA: Yes, new ring. New.)

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My ex-fiance and I had our wedding date picked out as July 7th, 2013. We liked that date because July 4th is a Thursday, so people could come to D.C. and make a long weekend out of it.

Just an idea...if you have extended family around the country, the holiday weekend would give you more time to see them if you don't get to see them often.

And, Mazel Tov!

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@abramokids: First - and most importantly - condolences on the loss of your mother-in-law/your fiancee's mother, and mazel tov on your engagement!

My advice, FWIW, is a bit different than previous posters. My suggestion would be to let wedding planning be for a while; the loss of one's mother is often one of the formative events in a woman's life, no matter how old she is when she loses her mother or what the relationship was like. I think it's extremely touching that Light's mother was able to witness your engagement and that she knew of it, as well as very touching that you were able to propose with her mother's ring. My ex-boyfriend showed up at my mother's funeral, the first time I'd seen him since we'd broken up a year earlier, and we ended up getting back together; I used the relationship as a distraction from my grief and that was a huge mistake in the long-term. (continued)

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Focusing on the engagement and wedding planning would probably be a welcome pleasant distraction for Light right now, but that's not necessarily a good thing in the long-run. I highly recommend Hope Edelman's book Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss; I've only read the first edition, although it looks like it's now in a revised second edition. It was recommended to me by my second cousin who lost her mother when she was 21; I found the book both enormously painful and helpful: painful to read the stories of women at all stages of life discussing how they missed their mothers at different milestones - graduations, weddings, childbirth, child-rearing, menopause, reaching the age their mother was at the time of her death - and realizing that the loss of my mother was something that I'd never "get over" but would instead revisit in different ways at different points in my life. (continued)

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I also recommend the companion book, which consists of letters women wrote to Edelman after the publication of the first edition; understanding that I wasn't alone, that others had experienced the same thing, and I could survive it if they had, no matter how difficult, was extraordinarily valuable. It looks like Edelman has published a third book, Motherless Mothers: How Losing a Mother Shapes the Parent You Become. I am not a mother and I'm not sure at this point in my life if I ever will be a mother, but I may visit this anyway. At the time these books were published - and when my parents died (1999) - Edelman's books were the only ones available that specifically looked at motherless daughters rather than parent loss in general; looking at The Parent Corp, it appears that there are several other books available that touch on motherless daughters, but I'm not familiar with any of the others. (continued: sorry!)

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My condolences on your loss.
And for the wedding, just remember-the wedding is one day, the marriage is a lifetime.

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Okay, one piece of early-engagement-planning advice that I give to anyone who will stand still long enough to hear it. :) I've observed that couples who are newly engaged often tend to rush into wedding planning and the period of engagement becomes very much about wedding planning. This is a special time in your relationship: soak up the attention that you'll receive, enjoy the time together and the love between you, and try to stay in the present moment even as you're planning your wedding and discussing things about your future life together.

A brief thought about asking Light to wear her ring all the time: be careful asking her to do something that may turn out to be somewhat impractical. (continued)

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My fingers swell/shrink quite a bit with weather and hormonal fluctuations (i.e., resizing wasn't the answer). I was nervous wearing my rings when my hands soaked and I found picking flour, etc., out of them to be a huge pain. After misplacing my rings over and over, I started just taking them off when I walked in the door and putting them in a basket. I am not sure of your reasons for asking Light to never take off her ring, but it's unusual for people to never take them off (I have known men who never took off their ring once in 30+ years of marriage, but I can't think of any women I know who say the same thing; I think rings must come off for labor and many (most?) women find that their rings don't fit in late pregnancy). I'd hate for Light to feel like she was letting you down if she decides that she'd rather shower without them, for example.

I wish you two a future filled with love, laughter, and joy, and I hope that you'll continue to update us on your plans as they develop.

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In regards to not feeling "prepared" or what have you without a ring, remember this: she is saying "Yes" to YOU, her lover and best friend, not to a shiny piece of high-pressure carbon. A very good friend of mine told her boyfriend-at-the-time that she did not want to see a ring in his hand when he proposed. Instead, the day after he popped the question, they went ring shopping together, to pick out the symbol of their commitment. They just celebrated their first wedding anniversary.

Obviously your fiance's one of those women whose heart and feelings need no physical gift, other than your shared love and commitment. Wise woman. And may God bless you both on this new adventure! Take pleasure in the little things.

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Sorry for your loss. If you can, I would give yourself extra time to let your fiancee grieve for her mother before stressing her out with wedding stuff. We were engaged for a couple years and early on I just tried to nail down the date and get location ideas, then book the location as soon as I was sure (book it as soon as possible: deposits are usually refundable). The best advice I was given is to decide what your priorities are early on and why they're a priority. Don't try to compete with your friends or the blogs or what everyone in the wedding industry says you HAVE to do. Just figure out what will make you two happy and represent your personalities. Also, it's just a single day and is over in a flash so don't sweat the small stuff. Some things about my wedding day didn't quite go right, but nobody else noticed except me. I look back and remember the love I felt and being surrounded by family/friends and not the things that went wrong.

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@sgrman05: Thank you very much, and congrats to you as well!

@gmwhit: Thank you. You're too kind! I honestly just do what I think is right and I've been getting so much positive response to what I honestly felt was the most logical and sincere thing.

@pemberducky: Thank you very much. New ring is definitely the way to go

@levenhopper: I mentioned that we had hoped to have it on her mother's birthday. What I didn't mention was that her mother's birthday is July 3rd. It would have been amazing to have pre-celebration fireworks for our anniversary, but as mentioned, it coincides with a time when marriage is not permitted

@flyinggirl: Very important to remember. Thank you very much

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@neuropsychosocial: Don't think I forgot about you! Thank you for the extensive and insightful input. I will try to address all the things that you mentioned, but forgive me if I miss anything:

Books- The jewish mourning period is actually very therapeutic. You have people walking in and out of your house for 7 days and everyone tells stories about the person or anything else really. Even if a mourner is closed off at the beginning, they tend to open up towards the end. Today is day 6 of mourning, and while at the beginning, Light didn't want to talk about much of anything, now she has completely opened up and is having full conversations.
Light is definitely a reader, but I don't know whether or not she would want to read those kinds of books. Everyone has their own way of dealing with issues, and what may be right for some, may not work for others. That being said, I will still pass on your book suggestions and let her use that information as she sees fit. CONTINUED...

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@neuropsychosocial: Wedding planning- This is basically the same idea as with the books. It may be helpful for her to focus on this rather than having sad thoughts all the time. Again, I will discuss this with her as well, but she seems really happy when we make plans. Both of us are planners by nature.
With a username such as yours, I can safely assume you know what you are talking about and I picture you as a counselour of sorts, so I will be going over all the above with Light

Wearing the ring at all times- My main reasoning is that she takes off her watch and rings when she relaxes, she sometimes can't find them. Losing an expensive tiny object disturbs me :/ She has agreed to wear it at all times (As I type this, Light is looking over my shoulder saying “I told you I'm not taking it off!” and this is her choice) We are getting a ring with inlaid (inset?) stones to avoid problems such at dirt/snagging on things. It was never a demand but a request

I think that about covers it...

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Every comment and bit of advice I've read here is what I would have said (but not have said as well) had I gotten here earlier.

It feels very odd and a little sad to say Mazel Tov! and then offer condolences in the same sentence, but what else can one do? My heart and thoughts are with you both, in sorrow and in joy.

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@unpetitfou: Thank you very much. Our relationship is certainly the kind where material things are not needed, but I would feel like a bad person if I didn't follow the standard. Light has insisted that she doesn't want diamonds on her ring, and my biggest concern is that people will think "He gave you an engagement ring with Garnet? He must not love you enough." or "What a cheapskate. WHERE'S THE DIAMOND???"

I don't want her to go through any embarrasment because of these little things that the world just expects.

I think I completely digressed...

Anyway, yes, our love for eachother is more important than some rocks