Okay, a lot of you just said, “No way. Impossible.” Or you just laughed. I know I did. And then I thought back to my wedding in 2005, and I thought: some of our best memories are of how we cooperated, and pulled it off. Here are some tips about how planning a wedding together as a couple can strengthen your relationship.
What is there to fight about?
Two people, once engaged, don’t often argue about getting married. They argue about how to get married, which covers everything else. Not only is there a range of skill sets required in order to pull off an event this important, but even more crucially, the clash of values placed on these seven things starts almost all pre-wedding arguments:
1. The value of the Institution of Marriage itself.
2. What is the point of celebrating? (fun, ritual, somber)
3. The value of families, past, current and future.
4. The value of friends.
5. Your creative vision of the event.
6. The value of traditions (rehearsal dinner, gifts, walk down the aisle)
7. The value of money.
One thing I know is true: everyone does and will care very much about some things. But sometimes, we don’t know what we’d prefer until someone disagrees with us.
Know what is a deal-breaker, and what you can give up on. If your list is all a “must have” and non-negotiable, you’ll need to do some self-adjustment or there will be clashes. No matter which partner you are, you are not alone in this. You are going to commit to caring for one another forever, so…ready, set, go. For me, sports themed weddings were a laughable “No way!” and for my fiancé, he asked that I not put him in a tux!
The first picture that comes to mind when we think “wedding fight” is usually a stereotype: inflexible brides that grip onto their vision. The groom says, “you handle it; I don’t care.” The sad old assumption is that a wedding is a woman’s dream and men are dragged reluctantly along through the planning stages. Expecting this old story is the first mistake. It blinds you to how your fiancé may really feel. Several men I know have eagerly planned their wedding long before their intended has even appeared!
Even if your fella is reluctant to chime in, it’s usually because he’s either truly pleased to have you get anything you want, or he’s been trained to be afraid of the “Bridezilla” you may become and who we culturally vilify.
Sometimes, if it means THAT much to you, fight it out.
You will find out how hard your partner will fight for certain things that he wants or doesn’t want to happen when he feels passionately about it. You KNOW what’s important to you. And now you can see how that differs from what’s important to him. Sometimes, something is so important to that particular person, that you may see another and surprising side to them, their stubbornness to move and determination to have, needs listening to!
This is a singular opportunity to discover what boundaries lie within your relationship. Can’t relegate his mother to the back of the room? Didn’t know he despised speaking in front of a crowd unless drinking? He hates the colour pink! Knowing this is not half-bad, and may surface only when you’re both under pressure. You have to acquire the skills to avoid a fight, but prepare yourself to learn how to resolve them when it counts.
Since most people fight over money anyway, how you fight over wedding money is an indicator of learning curves you’re about to ride like a roller coaster throughout your lives. Regardless of how good each of you are with money, you’ll each be slightly different with the way in which you want to spend it. You, as a unit, got this far. Being united when the plan gets out of control tests your ability to focus on what’s financially important. Even I, who hadn’t seen my extended family in decades, was torn when it came to cutting my own guest list because of the costs involved. You’re there to remind each other that the budget is the budget you BOTH agreed on and you will now have to handle how to manage it – together! Practice your teamwork. You will be the first-stringers all the time from now on.
Plan the war before the battle.
For men, there are some battles that are not worth fighting, some things that a less-interested fianceé can compromise on. Hopefully, pink invitations are not on either list as “mandatory”. But, have you discussed thoroughly your partners deeply-held spiritual belief in tradition, which you may not necessarily hold yourself? If you have not discussed and come to an understanding on these pivotal points yet, get off the calendar, and sequester immediately!
Bonus: If you spend less time fighting about the ceremony, you can have way more time getting excited about the honeymoon trip! Decide what is most important to you both, then do that!
Step one of wedding planning could clear up the other steps enormously. That is to listen, of course. We all want to feel that we are heard and respected. Conceptualizing a wedding should not just be telling the other person what you want to a ‘T’ and then standing your ground.
Dreaming up the wedding should be a listening game. When each person feels heard and considered, then flexibility and compromise has a fighting chance. Even if your fiancés’ proposal is never gonna fly, listen and let him have the validation that his dream is not crazy. He may be more likely to hold the ceremony in a church if you can bend on having the reception on the rooftop bar deck. (There’s also a rehearsal dinner, where he can have more sway).
Nitty Gritty Committee.
Like a well-run committee, divide duties based on the interests and talents of each person. If you have fun with colors, imagination and family relations, you need to understand that your other half , may not.
If researching bakers, making phone calls to hotels is tedious to you, delegate! Divide the chores more or less equally, and share those that are simply chores to you both. Set out one day a week (if you have a few months) to execute tasks for the wedding, and stick to the schedule. Find family members and give them an opportunity to help and do what suits them best.
Micro-Tip: Enter the timeline into a mutually-accessible calendar system. Set alarms that both of you see, so you know your partner was reminded of his or her task without you having to nag.
Let it Evolve.
The relationship? Yes, and the Wedding Plan. Your life will give you challenges, and falling apart with each less-than-ideal situation will exhaust you and your love. See how you can be in concert with your plan, as if it were a choose-your-own-adventure. Hold hands and shift gears.
Once in motion, let it go.
There is a level of “letting go” that some couples find hard to do. In almost all interviews on marriage, long-term couples will tell you that letting go of the small stuff is the most crucial survival skill to being married. Start practicing now. My fiancé asked me to leave my hair down on the big day and not wear heels, because they made him shorter than me and he wasn’t wild about that idea! So instead of putting my hair up I used curlers overnight, but my hair didn’t dry, plus I had to go buy flats for the big day. Oh, well! I may never be happy with what I see in the picture, but was I happy we got married? Of course! Our big day was a true expression of who we were as a couple, and our individual personalities shone through. Our carefully-edited selection of guests had a grand time, sharing our celebration with us.
Uma J Campbell is a freelance writer who lives in Southern California. She loves to be outside and stay active. She is a yoga instructor and in her free time likes to paint.