How To Say “No” After You’ve Said “Yes”
Disastrous. That’s what it’ll be if you’d have to retract your “yes” to your fiancé after he’s asked you to marry him.
And that’s certainly not what I’m recommending here! (But if you ever feel like you ever need to do so, then you’d better pray really hard to God and consult the wisest people in your life! Though I hope that it’s not the case here.)
What I’m talking about is how you can gracefully say “no” to overcommitment.
As an engaged woman, you will be in demand. You’ll receive unrelenting requests for your time from:
Family who will start feeling the reality of letting you go;
Curious family and friends who would want to hear the blow-by-blow account of the proposal;
Helpful friends who’d want to check up on you constantly to make sure you’re ok - because being engaged is a big commitment, and wedding planning a huge undertaking!
Wedding suppliers - for obvious reasons;
Your fiancé who now has a greater feeling of responsibility to protect you, care for you, plan a wedding with you, and prepare for marriage with you!
Simply put, this may be one of the busiest times of your life.
I’ve gone through it myself. It felt so touching to be wanted by so many people, but at the same time, very overwhelming. And a few times, even annoying.
In the past, I’ve had several calls past midnight from girlfriends who felt like they were left on their own to plan this major production called “The Wedding Day”. Some have cried tears of frustration, some even cursed at the top of their lungs.
But while some level of stress is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be the norm.
After saying “yes” to your fiancé, you’ll find yourself needing to say “no” to plenty of things. It’s not a bad thing. If you know what you should be saying “yes” to, then it’ll be easier to say “no.”
I’ve coached about a hundred people before on this subject. This is a skill that anyone can learn. This engagement season can be, in fact, the best time to hone this skill. Practicing this now will definitely benefit you and your relationships in your lifetime.
So here’s my take on how to say “no” to overcommitment after you’ve said “yes” to your fiancé.
1. Fill up your schedule with things that nourish you.
Have you ever experienced a day when you’ve accomplished so many things, but still feel oddly dissatisfied? I get that feeling when I get so many things done at the expense of things that truly feed my soul.
You may not like what I’ll say - but really, it’s like eating your vegetables and protein first.
Google “food sequencing” and you’ll read a lot about the benefits of this (I’ve tried it, and it works for me). But before we digress, there’s an analogy between this and being disciplined and wise in your prioritisation.
Eating your veggies and proteins first before carbohydrates makes you eat less. There’s just little or no room left for other food after the first two. Likewise, “high-fibre activities” cleanse your mind and spirit and fill them up in a good way. After these activities, it’s so much easier to say “no” to things that can fatten up your calendar, and leave you busy but unproductive.
See, carbs is not entirely bad. Likewise, you’re saying “no” to certain things is not because they’re entirely bad. They’re just not what you’re supposed to fill yourself up with.
Here are three things I suggest you to commit to before saying “yes” to anything else:
a. Daily prayer and meditation
This is where I speak to the Jesus believers out there. If you say you are, then this is definitely top priority - whatever your mood is for the day, no matter how rushed you are, and regardless of how sorted out you feel things are.
Why? Because our most beloved person in this life, God, deserves to have our undivided time. And also because we ought to hear (ergo read and understand) how He’d want us to tackle our day.
b. Self care
Sleep less, do more - I highly suggest AGAINST this. Trading in your sleep to try to accomplish more things during the day is simply cheating. It’s stealing from what the body needs to satisfy your other desires.
Though there are inevitable situations when we can’t avoid it - when an emergency arises, or when you’re a new parent. What greatly helped me during the first few months of our newborn’s frequent night wakings was the sleep credits. I slept 7 to 8 hours a day, as often as I could (almost 90% of the time, as 10% of the time I suffered from acid reflux), before and during my pregnancy.
Aside from getting a good night’s sleep, self care also includes getting yourself regularly checked by the doctor, eating healthily, and having me-time.
c. Key relationships
You definitely won’t be able to respond, let alone have FaceTime, with every single family or friend you have. But you can set aside time, which you will need, with a few key relationships.
I like lists. While they’re not a be-all-end-all reference to life, they provide loads of guidance. Lists, like to-do-lists, are good for your brain like what research like this one suggests. One of the yearly and seasonal life lists that my husband and I make is our “Relationship List”.
We identify who we want to be more intentional with. Having this list allows us to evaluate if we are indeed spending quality time with them - either virtually (since some of them are overseas) or physically. Here’s more about how to make that Relationship List.
Needless to say, your fiancé is now your top priority among your key relationships.
2. Put these things on your calendar.
Thinking and deciding to commit to these things is one thing; giving them a defined and scheduled time is another.
One of the productivity gurus I follow, Mike Vardy, shares about Scheduling Time Blocks here.
What I find most effective when trying to establish a routine is marking out exact times when I need to do anything. Having these things on my calendar makes me less likely to skip them. So the one commitment I have to make is to not schedule more than one thing at any given point in time!
It’s just simply impossible (and ridiculous) to spend quality time with your best girl friend while crunching wedding numbers on your laptop. Sure, many of us women love doing errands with our friends, but I suggest for you to be more discerning of which activities you place together. Having your nails done with your prospective maid of honor (MOH) is quite a good idea. Lots of conversations can still take place.
3. Pause and evaluate any invitation that comes your way.
Now that you’ve prioritised scheduling things that will nourish you, carefully evaluate how to use your remaining free time because that will no longer be free for long.
After I’ve scheduled my top 3 life priorities (as mentioned on #1), I evaluate all other invitations of my time this way:
Missional over Entertainment.
Seasonal over Missional.
Entertainment - activities that I do because I just have extra time. There’s nothing else that is requiring my attention at that moment. I’m at peace about having spent lots of quality time with God, caring for myself, and my key relationships. There’s just nothing else that requires my time right now. I get some entertainment time--call it rest and relaxation--that’s over and above my “self care” time just because I can. My aimless Pinterest-ing or social media scrolling are two examples of them.
Missional - activities that I am called to do in general - over and above my top three life priorities. I’d say that it takes some discernment, thoughtful prayer, and some form of structured thinking process to know what these personal missions are.
If you’re a Christian, you know that our purpose in life is to worship God and tell other people about Him. Now how does that BIG mission translate to smaller ones, while taking into account your personality, life experiences, and talents? These smaller missions comprise your Personal Mission.
My personal mission statement is “to help people realise and achieve God’s purpose for them.”
I make time to meet friends, friends of friends, or even complete strangers who ask if they can talk to me about their thoughts and lives. Topics they open up about are either on setting up a non-profit group, dating, marriage, pregnancy, starting a business, organising events, or even about music (NOT my cup of tea). I’m not an expert on any of these things, but I know God has gifted me with the ability to speak encouragement into people’s lives. In the process, I pray that they clearly hear from God on how to take steps to pursue their purpose in life.
I love helping women particularly in the area of identifying their personal mission statement! I’ve coached about a hundred people in the past on this subject. I’ve learned so much about the power of having this statement. If you’re interested to go through a coaching session with me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seasonal - required activities for the particular season I’m in. In a lifetime, we will go through different seasons - like winter, spring, summer, or fall (not apparent in the tropics, but hopefully you know how they work!). They don’t last forever. They usually require much of our focus for a period of time. I’m in the early motherhood season as I write this post. My toddler needs lots of my time. I have had to drop a lot of my previous activities - like organising fundraisers through my non-profit, or traveling for leisure with my husband Mike on a bi-monthly basis.
Once I know what season I’m in and the activities I need to prioritise for that season, it’s easier for me to say “no”, for a period of time, to some missional stuff. If I have extra time after I’ve served my seasonal responsibilities, I choose missional over entertainment.
4. Decide on how much time you’ll devote to wedding planning.
Have you ever felt like your work grew more and more, every time you decided to stay longer in the office? That’s because work expands to fill the time available. This is Parkinson’s Law which you can read more about here.
It’s totally the same with planning a wedding.
If you give wedding planning a full year, the amount of work will be equivalent to a year’s worth of work. If you give yourselves 6 months to plan it, you’ll find a way to compress preparations to 6 months.
My husband and I were engaged for 8 months, but only gave ourselves 4 months to work on the wedding. The wedding happened, and it was the wedding we wanted. It wasn’t because we’re exceptional, we were just strict about where we put our time.
Here’s a challenge that might benefit you, your fiancé, and your other relationships:
Decide together how many times a week, and how many hours you’ll spend planning your wedding. That time shall cover everything that is related to wedding preparations.
But decide on this AFTER you’ve exacted how much time you’ll give to praying and meditating, caring for yourself, and spending time with your key relationships. Since preparing for your marriage and planning for a wedding is your current season, it’s OK to say “no” to the usual missional and entertainment priorities in your life.
The interesting thing about working within a schedule is that it compels you to make a decision quickly, but not necessarily harshly. With the vast options now, especially for weddings (think Pinterest), it’s just so much harder to decide. Sometimes even after making a decision, when we see a seemingly better idea, we retract our decision and look for options again. And before you know it, you’re down the rabbit hole!
If you haven’t decided yet on how long you want to be engaged for, here are some things to consider. Hopefully this also helps you in identifying how much time you’ll give to wedding planning.
5. Gracefully say “No” and move on.
If you’re like me who still falls into the trap of wanting to please people (News Flash: No one can!), saying “no” can be tougher.
I’ve learned that saying “no” is more respectful than saying “maybe” when you really mean “no”. It sets expectations that result in disappointments when you don’t follow up on your “maybe”.
When you get invited to take part in anything, it’s an honour! So thank the person who asks. When I was engaged, I felt annoyed sometimes when people reached out to me to ask for help on certain things. Even when it’s just a cup of coffee to talk about something. In my head I thought “Don’t they have any idea how busy I am right now?! Please give me a break” Oh, how prideful and ungrateful of me! It probably is one effect of being a bride - feeling like I was the center of everyone’s world. Haha. I’ve repented since then.
Say “thank you” and extend your appreciation to the person asking for your time, and for even thinking about you. Follow this statement with “Sorry.” A statement that I use is: “I’m so sorry that I won’t be able to give time for this one at the moment.”
And of course, you can expound on it. I try to avoid explaining myself when not necessary. It unfolds plenty of other debates in people’s minds - like “Why is she placing that over me?” or “Can’t she not squeeze me in even just for a few minutes?” Believe me, you will disappoint people on different levels. AND THAT’S OK. You have to be ok with it. Sure, if you really feel like you need to explain to someone (usually family or friends) why you’re saying “no”, allow God to lead you to those conversations. Key is to humble yourself when having to decline.
If practicing saying “no” turns out to be extra challenging for you, pray. And maybe even consult a trusted mentor who’s also a believer. God might be dealing with something in your heart, and He wants you to work with Him through it.
Let’s start a discussion! What kinds of invitations did you have to say “no” to since you got engaged? Share your answers on the comment section below.