What I Thought I Would Feel on My Wedding Day but Didn’t


scary dating

So…I’m married.


The scene that was the wedding day seemed to play out in a directed concoction of met and exceeded expectations.


The drive to the temple excitement, reception stress, hair problems, sheer happiness, craziness of actually getting married, tears of joy, laughter of a final dance, a humorously awkward drive to the hotel—they all appeared right on queue center stage during a perfect wedding day.


But there was one actor that did not play a part.


Not only was I surprised—but shocked.


I had him cast as a lead.


The villain’s name?






It was an omission, which left a (former) singular audience of one giving a standing ovation.


But I was not alone in my pleasantly unmet expectation.


Who else was flabbergasted?


Oh, let’s say just about everyone who knows me.


See, the week after I got engaged my father called me for a chat.

“Son, you are going to have doubts and be afraid sometime between now and the wedding. You may want to run Just get through it. It will pass. You found yourself someone really special and everything will be okay.”


So I hunkered down in my seat and waited, with a fixed determination to outwit the frightened scoundrel.


And waited…


…and waited.


I knew it would come eventually. After all, my entire life I was accused of being someone who had a fear of commitment.


The inevitability of the fear from jumping into the biggest eternal commitment of my entire life (and eternity), was getting closer and closer.


It is simply a matter of time, I doubtlessly thought.


…but it never did.


It was as if I showed up to the battlefield ready for war and was met by a middle school theater class fieldtrip who offered to share their lunches with me.


Even moments before the ceremony, my trepidation for a surprise entrance was evident.


On the drive to the temple with Annie, I turned to her and asked, ‘How do you feel?’


‘Me too…? Aren’t we supposed to feel—scared or something?’

‘Not when it’s right, I guess.’


Ah, and there it is.


Turns out, I wasn’t afraid of committing, but just committing to the wrong person.


A wedding day is the intermission of the eternal play that is our existence. It gives us a moment to just be completely present in between everything that has taken place from our pre-earth life, birth and life and everything that will take place from our death to forever after.


This is not to say that I wasn’t afraid of commitment at other times in my life or that cold feet is a foreboding omen, for everyone goes through their own wedding scene, but rather that sometimes,
“it” can be easy.


Yes, while I expect staying in love will be work, falling in love was easy. Some might even call it play.


So don’t fear if you feel fear—it might not be you, it might just be that you haven’t found them. (And a simple way to tell if it is you…pray to fall in love and see if you mean it.)


If You Want to Get Married, Take the Popcorn Challenge


popcorn dating Zack Oates
The ACTUAL box of intervention popcorn.

8 years ago, my friends had an intervention for me.


“Zack, you date like popcorn. Just bouncing around everywhere. So we’re going to give you a challenge.”


They gave me a box with 8 bags of Old Fashioned Natural popcorn and wrote on the box the following, “The possessor of this box, Zack Oates, agrees to go on 8 separate dates with the same girl and on each date eat one bag of popcorn (one per date)” and made me sign it.


My roommates ate 3 bags without me asking over the years, so it was down to 5.


Truth be told, I don’t believe on going on movie dates (kissing) before a third date (until I met my fiancée, that is #sorrynotsorry).


Needless to say (yet for some reason I’ll still say it), I didn’t pop a single bag.


Now that I’m getting married, the 5 remaining bags are expired. BUT the principle of focusing on going on dates with one person changed my mentality and is what enabled me to get married.


A couple weeks ago, I blogged about not dating too many people at the same time because it is like putting a bunch of candy in your mouth at once and then trying to figure out which one you like the best. Candy and popcorn are the best couple ever to take to a movie…even if you’re the third wheel, so we’re going to put this to the test.


Here is your challenge:

Think of ONE person you are dating that you like the most or figure out someone you’d like to date. Now, hang out with them and then get them on a date. And then go on at least 5 dates in a row before you go out with anyone else.


Here’s the thing–dating, love, marriage–are all choices. A choice to be ready, a choice to be open and then a choice to be committed.


Everyone is loved incredibly by someone. Use those 5 dates in a row to find out why.
Take the popcorn challenge and get married!



5 Relationship Questions You Didn’t Realize Were Answered in Alma 32

Shot of an affectionate young couple relaxing at home

Alma gives a beautiful dissertation about the seed of faith in Alma 32.


But as I read this chapter recently, I realized that the advice and principles in it are just as true if you change the word “faith” to “relationship.” Here are the answers to five common relationship questions, as explained by Alma 32.


1. How do I know if I’m dating the right person?

“Now we will compare the [relationship] unto a seed. Now if ye give place, that a [relationship] may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true [relationship], or a good [relationship], if ye do not cast it out by your [pickiness, laziness, busyness, fear of commitment, etc.]…it will begin to swell within your breasts…”


Jonn D. Claybaugh said, “Some people expect the Lord to provide a dramatic revelation about their eternal mate, but what usually happens is that we drop our defenses and communicate with a potential spouse, we experience subtle, ongoing spiritual promptings about the relationship. Inspiration can come only when we are honest with ourselves, our potential mates, and the Lord” (“Dating: A Time to Become Best Friends,” Ensign, Apr 1994)


2. Once I’ve found a good relationship, then what?

“As the [relationship] beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us.”


Spencer W. Kimball said, “The successful marriage depends in large measure upon the preparation made in approaching it…One cannot pick the ripe, rich, luscious fruit from a tree that was never planted, nurtured, nor pruned” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 242).


3. The relationship is dying after it was growing. Not my fault, right?

“But if ye neglect the [relationship]…when the heat of the sun cometh…it hath no root and withers away…Now, this is not because the [relationship] was not good…but it is because your ground is barren.”


Yikes! We must remember that who we are affects how our relationship grows.

5 Relationship Questions You Didn’t Realize Were Answered in Alma 32

4. How do you know when the seed has grown into “true love?”

“…ye will begin to say within yourselves—it must needs be that this is a good [relationship]…for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”


David O. McKay said, “‘How may I know when I am in love?’ That is a very important question…in the presence of the girl you truly love you do not feel to grovel; in her presence you do not attempt to take advantage of her; in her presence you feel that you would like to be everything that a [great man] should become, for she will inspire you to that idea. And I ask you young women to cherish that same guide. What does he inspire in you?” (“Chapter 14: Preparing for an Eternal Marriage and Family,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay)


5. Is all this work worth it?

“But if ye will nourish the [relationship]…as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience…behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet.”



(To read the actual commentary and not just quotes AND a nice little ending, read the full article (3-min read) at LDSLiving.com!)


It’s about TIME and How They are WRONG About Mormon Dating Demographics

A little while ago, TIME published an article about the dating demographics of Mormons and Jews titled, “What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis.” It bothered me, but I didn’t write a response because (1) I wasn’t sure why it bugged me and (2) I got engaged 5 days before it was published, so I didn’t really care.


Yesterday, one of my good buddies, Brett Winn posted his thoughts on the article and I’d thought I’d pass them on. Not only is it a great piece, but so is he. Enjoy the read and cheers to you, Brett!


Brett Winn

I finally found the time to read the above article. Some of it I agree with because it lines up with perfectly with what I have observed in the real world (like the outrageous number of Mormon women that have had cosmetic procedures). That being said, this is not a very scientific study. The author performs no experiment, makes several non-sequitur leaps and, worst of all, arrives at his conclusion upfront and then goes searching for data to support his bias. I am quite disappointed that Time magazine would hold it up as a reputable study. This is not science. This is propaganda. For some unknown reason the author wants to persuade Mormons and Jews that the plight of unmarried women is basically hopeless and driven solely by demographics. I strongly disagree and am prepared to counter his non-scientific study with one of own.


Let’s follow a case study – single, Mormon, Male, 40-year-old virgin (and never seen the movie). Hey, wait… that’s me! I have quite a few male friends in a very similar boat – older, single, Mormon, don’t sleep around and are genuinely, sincerely looking for the right woman.


Here are the facts (anecdotal, but factual from where I stand) —


(1) Dating preferences shift slightly over time, but I always been drawn to women with the same basic qualities – humorous, kind, intelligent, attractive, outdoorsy, artistic, Mormon women. Perhaps I am still single because these qualities put such women squarely out of my league. Perhaps, but for purposes of this informal study, all that matters is that the selection criteria has remained consistent. And it has.
(2) Mormon women (as a group) are similar to what they have always been. I arrived at this conclusion because the relative ratios of women that fit Fact #1 have remained the same. Yes, finding a woman that makes me so excited I am scared to pick up the phone is rare, but it was equivalently rare back in high school. Mormon women are still made up of all different shapes and sizes and types – from Molly to rebel, sweet to sarcastic, and crazy to unicorn. Some of my contemporaries lament that “all the good ones got married early.” To which I fire back, “Good news. Thanks to the knuckleheads that divorced them, many of the amazing women you might have missed in your early 20s are now available again!” So no complaints, gentlemen. There really are lots of fish in the sea … and by that I mean, lots of quality Mormon ladies to date.
(3) When I honestly look back 2 years or 5 years or 10 years or even 20 years, nothing has changed for me socially. There are still plenty of women who brush me off, want to hangout in the friendzone or are just not interested. That is fine. I am used to it. Those have been the social realities since I started liking girls in the 2nd grade.


Here’s the problem. If the above three statements are true (and they are true for many Mormon men I know), it completely derails the article’s conclusion. The author leaps to the idea that there is a purely demographically-driven, social “buyers market” for men because it supports his predetermined paradigm. But when I compare his conclusion with the last 20+ years of actual experience, there is a giant, glaring error – namely fact #3. There has been no real change in the way women act and react to me. If the article’s conclusion were correct, shouldn’t there be a clearly perceptible change in “social success” for eligible, sincere Mormon men?


Answer: Yes. Absolutely, there should be.


If the odds were really ridiculously stacked in my favor, shouldn’t I be seeing an obvious reduction of selectivity among women? Shouldn’t there be a lot more “yes” and a whole lot fewer “no” than there used to be? Shouldn’t large numbers of amazingly well-qualified, affection-reciprocating women be throwing themselves at me and other single Mormon guys? If the article were correct, they would be. But truthfully, they aren’t. And good for them! Despite the reported man-shortage, far from panicking, Mormon women are holding to their position and standards with grace and dignity. No begging. No desperation. Maybe demographics explains why Mormon women are opting for “surgical enhancements”, but from a purely pragmatic standpoint everything is still the same. Women still turn me down with roughly the same frequency they always have. Meeting a truly engaging and interesting woman with reciprocal interest is still the exception. As near as I can tell, eligible women are just as choosy now as they have ever been. And the vast majority of my male peers are having the exact same experience. My former singles ward bishop was fond of saying “the problem is 80% of the guys are chasing the same 20% of the girls and 80% of the girls are chasing the same 20% of the guys.” It was true then. And its still true now.


Some might say “you are just playing around and delaying marriage just like the article says.” And though that is patently false, it does not affect my argument. As more men leave the church (another of the article’s claims) it should add to the epic, eligible-man shortage and result in mass desperation among Mormon women. Every Mormon guy who is hanging out waiting for a bigger, better deal should see his options improving year-by-year. But that is not reality. This is not Isaiah 4:1. If it were, I am pretty sure I would have noticed. The author didn’t take the time to ask, interview or even consider the common Mormon male perspective in all of this. Or if he did, he certainly didn’t choose to include it, because the real story destroys his case for Mormon matrimonial hysteria.


There is an old saying “any difference which makes no difference IS no difference.” If there has been no appreciable change in the dating scene for Mormon men like me, that calls the author’s entire conclusion into serious question – no matter what the demographics say. The 80% will go on chasing the 20% and the dating landscape will remain, for all practical purposes, unchanged. Do demographics affect the dating/marriage market? I believe they do on a certain level. Are demographic changes the major reason Mormons are marrying later in life (as the article asserts)? No. From all the evidence I have seen, it is a small piece of a much larger puzzle.


BOTTOMLINE: Ladies, no need for panic. There are still lots of single, Mormon guys out there, so keep flirting and friendzoning until you find the right one!

(Brett with kids (not his)) Somehow, this guy is single…


5 Reasons Why I Wear a MANgagement™ Ring

mangagement ring Zack Oates Annie Williams


It had been three days since we got engaged.


My fiancee’s phone buzzed.


“Notice of Charge on Venmo from: Zack Moab Random Guy.”

She hadn’t changed my contact name in her phone during the course of our two-month courtship.


She opened the notification: “$16 for ‘MANgagement™ ring.”


A puzzled look crept over her face as she completed the charge nonetheless.


Yeah. That’s how it went down. No confession of love, rain storm kissing or even diamonds (low maintenance kind of guy, you know…why’d you laugh?).


A venmo completion was all it took. (The first right-swipe that I’ve been happy with for a loooong time.)


I picked out a ring on Amazon for $16.99 and charged her for it. I decided to cover the $0.99 to not look cheap, but I wanted it to be “from her.”


I didn’t need the fanfare, the secrecy or even the cost that surrounded my proposal–but I did want a ring.


Since making that decision, I’ve been met by a lot of super confused people with a lot of surprisingly strong opinions against me wearing a mangagment ring. So let’s just clear the air.




Reason 1: I want to. And that sums it up. Annie didn’t ask me to, but she loves it.


Reason 2: It isn’t that weird. Some celebs are doing it like Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, David Otunga (Jennifer Hudson’s bae) and Michael Buble and the Atlantic also did a piece on it recently where they note that 5% of engaged men are rocking a mangagement ring. So yeah, not many, but some.


Reason 3: Annie has one. I’ve been most surprised from my “equal rights” friends who are against the mangagement ring. They say that it is weird. I just have to pinch the bridge of my nose with a head shake. There is no pleasing those people. Look, no matter where you stand on mangagment/engagement rings, if she gets/has to wear a ring, I get/have to too!


Reason 4: I want to get used to a ring. It is super weird to go from never wearing rings to wearing a ring. A very thin mangagement ring is a perfect preparation.


Reason 5: I am committed. Not like, ‘I’ll give this a try,’ sort of thing, but like I’m in it to win it. I’m as good as married (a few MINOR details pending…like actually getting married. But like I said, details). I understand that women typically wear an engagement ring because in our culture, men pursue and this signals to them that they are off the market. But things are changing and women are getting more aggressive and while I’m not saying that I have women beating down my door, it is just a safety to make sure that we are all on the same page.


So there it is. That’s why I’m wearing a mangagement ring.


It isn’t flashy, but it is meaningful. I don’t know if I’m going to get a thicker band when I get married, but until then, manGAMEgent on!


For more fancy MANgagement rings, check out the people who TM’ed the term: https://www.brilliance.com/mangagement


If I were Rich, I would be Married…but Not for the Reason You Think


dating rich people

A few years ago I had a startup. It got some good publicity, I was working with some huge companies and it was a lot of fun.


Then I found out that my main competitor sold for $80million to Facebook.




While things turned out fine with my company, it never was sold for that many commas.


I have, from time to time, imagined what my life would have been like had my company been the one to sell for $80M.


One thing is almost for sure: I’d be married already.


…but not for the reason you think.


I wouldn’t be married because I would have found some gold digger, but rather because more girls would have given me a chance.


See, I know that there are people whom I could have married (granted, I’m SO GRATEFUL I didn’t so that I could meet someone as incredible as my fiancee), but they just never gave things a shot when I was in the right place.


While money wouldn’t have bought them, it might have helped them to go on one more date, keep their mind open a little bit more, ignore some of the stories and preconceived notions of what a small-time dating blogger might be like. We might have fallen in love and gotten married. But it wasn’t until Annie that the right girl gave it the right shot at the right time…and I still don’t have $80M.


Now here is where it comes down to what is important: YOU!


All I’m saying is this: there are people, whom you probably already know, that you can marry, if you just give it a shot. Pretend as if they do have all the money you could ever want and ask yourself if you would honestly try just one more time.


So look over to your friend list, overlook your initial impressions and really look it over. Keep your heart open to the possibility and just give it one more honest chance to find love. I’m not saying find some tatted up crazy person and try to fall in love, but don’t be so scared because someone isn’t as attractive, isn’t as funny, isn’t as dynamic or isn’t as rich. You may just be seeing things wrong.


Because they might not be a millionaire…but, I think it was in the Bible or Gandhi or something who penned the ever-true words, “Money can’t buy me love.”




Stop NOT Being You in Dating

fake happy dating


I have a friend who liked the rock climbing type of guys. She loved their look and demeanor and so she always went rock climbing and told everyone it was one of her favorite things.


Well one day she met a rock climber who liked her back. They went rock climbing a ton together. It was like, “their thing.”


And guess what? They fell in love and got married.


Turns out though, rock climbing wasn’t exactly her favorite thing.  In fact, she didn’t like to rock climb at all and after they got married, she refused to go. She misascribed her love of men to a love of the wall.


They stayed married, but it was a rocky start (*tehehe*).


Now…it is okay to have a type and to do things that your type would be at. Actually, I think that is a fantastic idea, BUUUUUUT, stay true.


It is critical to find someone who loves you for being you.

Not who you think you are.

Not who you hope you could be.

Not who you think someone else wants you to be.


Why trick someone into marrying NOT you?


Take inventory of your life and ask yourself this question, “If I completely started over with friends, town and even family, what would I do for fun?”


I have too many friends who are waiting to really be themselves until they get married. They hide porn addictions, Netflix binges, crappy eating habits, messy bedrooms, cursing issues and are generally falsely accommodating to get to where they think they need to be.


No one thinks you’re perfect and no one has interests that match up perfectly.


That is okay.


No, that is good!


But, please, let’s all just drop the act and (as I’ve said before) stop lying in dating. This isn’t a race to cross some fictional finish line of marriage, it is a journey to find someone who can take you…just as you are…and grow with you into something more than you might ever be alone.
Because sometimes, falling in love can be hard…especially when you find out you don’t have a belayer to help catch you.



Five Realizations after Getting Engaged

Zack and Annie Oates
Our very first photo together the day after we met.


Two months ago, I was a single guy who just got back from an adventure lasting seven weeks–now I’m an engaged guy who is about to jump into another one lasting forever.




You read that right.


I’m engaged.


In analyzing the past two months from meeting Annie to proposing, I have often wondered, ‘Why, after 1,000+ dates, did I finally meet someone I with whom wanted to spend the rest of my life?’


I came to five realizations that may help you on your quest to either find what you’re looking for or to greater appreciate what you’ve found.


First: Choose Your Love

I blogged about this right when I got back from my globetrotting and truly mean it. The more you open your heart to love and serve, the more you fall in love. It is much more of a choice than I ever imagined. But even after you’re doing everything you can, a lot is just about timing. #MostFrustratingThingToTellASinglePerson #SorryButTrue


Second: Love Your Choice

Now there are things that I appreciate about previous people I’ve dated, but before, I was constantly looking for someone who bested the best at everything…a couple months ago, I started looking for someone with whom I got along really well and could love and work through whatever we were lacking, as a team.


Third: There isn’t Just One

This realization came only after understanding the first two a little more. I am so grateful that Annie said “Yes!” and I am so glad that previous relationships where I considered marriage didn’t work out…but if both parties in those previous relationships were both were committed, I could be in the place with someone else, and so could Annie. As a wonderful grandma taught me recently, you make your choice and then spend the rest of your life making it the right one.


Fourth: The List Matters

A few months ago, I created a list of must have’s and nice to have’s. I even wrote about that experience. From making a list I learned that everything that I want, Annie has! Previously I had always looked for “something better,” regardless of how good things were, because I was scared. I was scared that there would be something else that would come up on the imaginary list that I hadn’t anticipated and everything would be ruined. With an actual list, it made things much more clear in my mind.


Fifth: I have No Clue

First of all, I know no more about dating or relationships than I did a few months ago, and quite frankly, I think I might know less. See, I spent years writing this dating blog, supposedly about how to get married. But, when it came to the steps leading up to the proposal, I did everything wrong. I mean I didn’t follow any of my advice.

  • I kissed her the first day we met
  • I hung out with her every single day after that
  • I invited her to a family reunion 4 days after we met
  • I didn’t date other people when she left to Thailand and China
  • I made my intentions clear on dating her before she got back
  • I even proposed without talking to her about marriage


Basically, what I learned from all of this is something my mother has told me for years: follow your heart, but don’t leave your head behind.


Do what you know is right, when you feel it is right, but if you feel to make a positive deviation, get over your pride and do it. Because while there is wisdom in experience, your heart full of love is always better than than a head full of yourself.


Oh, and what is to become of this here blog?


Well, it is going to stay around.


After all, I’ve just proven that everything I’ve thought about the dating “rules” might be wrong. I have some correcting I need to do.