Dana + Tanner's 2.5-month engagement and Christ-centered wedding

Oh, man. This is as goosebumps-givin' of a love story as any I've ever read (or seen played out on the Hallmark Channel, for that matter). I came across Dana's original post about her Christ-centered love story and wedding day while scrolling Pinterest one night, and wrote her an email requesting an interview immediately afterward. Her words so beautifully reflect the heartbeat of what Taylor and I want A Short Engagement to be—a space that believes in "immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine" love stories written by a God who knows us better than we know ourselves; that celebrates alternative timelines and encourages couples through the quick wedding planning process; that shares continual reminders that the purpose of the planning isn't a party that's over and done with in 24 hours...it's a marriage that's meant to last a lifetime. 

As part of our interview, I asked Dana to describe marriage in either a word or short phrase. She chose "Gospel Re-enactment"—such a perfect picture of the giving of self that marriage requires. Through marriage, the Father gives us the gift of a companion not to be our savior, but to point us continually toward the Savior. The only One who completes. The only One who fulfills. He is good!   

Get ready to be blessed, and to marvel at the creativity and the goodness of God.

Short Engagement Stories: Dana + Tanner Arnold

all photos: Kelsey Page of Kapp Visuals

How long were you engaged?

82 days! Roughly 2.5 months. We got engaged on August 22, 2017 and married November 11, 2017.

How long did you date before getting engaged? Had you known each other for a long time?

We met around Thanksgiving of 2016, we got engaged 9 months later, and married 2.5 months after that. We actually were one week married when we celebrated our year of meeting!

What kind of reactions did you get from family members when you announced your engagement...and your quick wedding timeline?

My family was really excited about our engagement. Tanner and I both have always taken the road less traveled. The night that we got engaged, our family asked when we wanted to get married. They were a little surprised to know that we wanted to tie the knot before the end of the year, but they totally embraced our decision. My mom is an incredible hostess/party planner, so I really owe our beautiful wedding to her hard work and attention to detail! When Tanner and I first met, we knew right away that we’d get married. It sounds kind of crazy, but we just knew. I think our quick confidence initially freaked my parents out, but after they got to know Tanner, they “got it.” He is the most incredible man I have ever met, and they are over the moon that we found one another.

How did the two of you meet?

We met through Christian Mingle—sort of. In the summer of 2016, my sister dared me to make a profile. I purchased a brief membership that lasted 3 months or so, but after a week of being on it, I actually silenced all of the notifications. It stressed me out and I just wanted to meet someone “organically,” through church or volunteering. A week before Thanksgiving, I received an email through my music website. It was from Tanner! A friend of his had a Christian Mingle account and he decided to look through it. He came across my profile, and since he didn’t have an account, he did a little bit of research (stalker much?! haha!). He found my music website and used the contact page to reach out to me. I was really touched by how much effort he put into finding me and reaching out. I’ve always longed to be pursued by a godly man. We talked throughout the week and he was unlike any man I’d ever met. He asked all kinds of questions that actually mattered—about my faith, my view on finances, health, kids, family...everything! I was blown away by how confident he was in what he wanted.

In all honesty, at this point, neither of us were attached to making anything work—so we both spoke openly and honestly about our answers. It was crazy how we connected on just about everything. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Tanner drove 5 ½ hours up to Chicago (from Southern Illinois) to meet me in person. We went out for pizza and walked all around the city. He stayed in a hotel that night and picked me up the next morning to go to church together. We went to a coffee shop and talked for hours. That night, he met my parents and got to know my family a bit. Before he left, we prayed together that God’s will would be done. We had really strong feelings towards one another, but we didn’t want to be blinded by those feelings. Anyway—the feelings didn’t change, they just strengthened over the following months. We both are big dreamers and doers and want to make an impact for God’s Kingdom. It just works. And the rest is history. 

Why did you decide to have a short engagement?

We didn’t want to wait any longer! We’d been dating long distance for 9 months and well, when you know, you know! It felt silly to keep leaving each other after visits when we knew we were going to spend our lives together.

What are the benefits of having a short engagement? 

The benefits are many! Our main goal with our wedding was to give all the glory to Jesus. He is the reason we met, He is the One who gave us the gift of each other, and He is the reason that we love one another, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We wanted to get started on our lives together as soon as possible. We know that life is short, like vapor, and we know that Jesus has a plan to use us as a team for Him and His purposes.

When you taste real love, Jesus’ love, the wedding planning process becomes so dim in comparison. I’d grown up thinking that my wedding day would be the best day of my life, but that’s only because I hadn’t yet experienced a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We knew that even if it rained and only three people showed up, it didn’t ultimately matter. The point of our wedding wasn’t to look our best, be in our best wedding shape, or have the most luxurious invitations. The point was to celebrate what Jesus has done in both of our lives, and the fact that He brought us together. We were excited about our wedding, very excited! But we were and are most excited about what He’s doing through our marriage.

What about the cons of having a short engagement? 

The only tough part about having such a short engagement is that some of my favorite people weren’t able to make it. That was a little sad because I would’ve loved them to be there. But in all honesty, they’re still a big part of our lives, and ultimately, if we understand that a wedding is just a day and a marriage is a lifetime, our perspective changes. Even if we knew everyone could’ve been there if we decided to have a year engagement, we wouldn’t have done it because our priority wasn’t for a perfect day, it was for glorifying our Perfect God.

When did you know that Tanner was "the one?"

It’s hard to say when it was that I knew Tanner was “the one.” I’ll always remember sitting across from him at a little coffee shop on a cold day, holding his hands, and talking about our future together. Knowing that he loves Jesus more than he loves me makes me feel safe. His love for the Lord and for the people in his life inspires and encourages me more than anyone before. He’s not afraid to look silly and he’s not the kind of guy who ever tries to fit in. It’s refreshing to meet a man who is so comfortable in his own skin. A man who always does what he says he’s going to do (always). He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t just dream big, he does big. He knows that all things are possible with God. And he lives in such a way. When you’re around him, you can’t help but reach for your own dreams. He really is the most inspiring person I know, and I love that I get to call him mine :)

Do you have any special memories from your engagement season? 

We got engaged when we were on a trip with Tanner’s family to the Grand Canyon! His whole family made me believe that his sister’s boyfriend was proposing on the trip, so I thought I was in on a big secret. BUT, the joke was on me! He proposed at sunset on the Grand Canyon. No selfies. No cameras. No one else around. Just us. It was breathtaking. We went to a beautiful restaurant that overlooked the canyon, and guess who was there?? My parents! He had my parents fly out to Arizona to surprise me on the day we got engaged. I felt so special!

What was your favorite wedding detail? 

The ceremony and the music! I’m a singer-songwriter, so it’s hard for the music to not be my favorite detail! I took a lot of time to plan the music choices for our ceremony, and we had the most incredible man who sang and played guitar. As I walked down the aisle, he played a slow version of “Priceless” by For King and Country. Before the ceremony began, we worshipped to “King of My Heart,” and as we braided our God Knot (Ecclesiastes 4:12), he played “Divine Romance” by Phil Wickham. It was absolutely beautiful. I loved that Jesus was the focus of our ceremony, not us.

Did anything go wrong on the day of your wedding?

Not that I know of! Oh, except that I had a major flare up of my Crohn’s Disease a few days beforehand, so I didn’t get to eat! I was living on smoothies and juices for the week of our wedding. It was pretty scary because we weren’t sure if I’d have to be hospitalized, but by God’s grace, the medication my doctor prescribed held over for the time of our wedding and honeymoon. I was in excruciating pain for that week but it made the day even more special. I’m always aware that life is precious and we have to cherish the good days.

Did you go on a honeymoon, and if so, was it difficult to book on such short notice?

We did!! We went to Maui. It was a totallllll dream come true. My husband took the initiative on this part of our planning, which was a huge help. We set a budget for our Honeymoon and managed to stay within it. He had some help from a travel agent friend. If it’s too expensive to book, I’d suggest doing a mini-moon to somewhere you can drive and then plan a bigger trip for a date in the future! I’ve known a lot of couples who have done that.

What's your best advice for other engaged couples who have said "yes" to planning a wedding quickly?

B R E A T H E. And make quick decisions. I’ve known a couple of brides who freak out about every little detail and it drives them insane, not to mention creates a ton of friction between the bride and groom. At the end of the day, the napkins, place settings, colors, and all of the stuff that we’re made to think are soooo important are just silly. They can stress you out if you don’t put it into perspective. Come up with a mission statement for your wedding. Ours was to glorify Jesus and to make our day more about honoring our guests than about us. For example, we didn’t have a grand entrance into the reception, we walked in with everyone else, because we didn’t want to have all of the attention on us. I’m not saying a grand entrance is a bad thing, it was just a choice we made influenced by our mission. I stayed up super late a couple days before the wedding to write a note to each of the guests for them to receive as they sat down for dinner. It was really important to me for our guests to feel seen and loved, so that detail was worth staying up for. I also recorded a song that I had written and gave out free download cards to our guests as a gift. Decide what is important to you and focus on getting those things done. Really pray about which details you want to focus on and which decisions can be made quickly. It will save you a lot of time and stress!

About Dana

Dana Marie Arnold is a singer-songwriter, blogger, and self-proclaimed professional encourager! In her own words, she is “head-over-heels in love with Jesus.” Dana tells stories and offers hope through writing and singing country-pop and Christian worship music. She feels most alive with a guitar in her arms and a song on her lips. Jesus has transformed the pain of her past and used it to write a beautiful story. She believes that each person has total freedom and joy available to them through Christ. So, she’s on a mission to share the awesome love of God. Stop by her digital front porch, kick up your feet, and feel free to pick up some music and an inspiring message while you’re at it! | Find Dana on Instagram: @lovedanamarie

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