The month of June unmistakably reigns as the most popular month for weddings. Wedding planners are at their busiest, helping harried brides, grooms and their families prepare for the big day.
Sure, the event planning part of the wedding is important, but it can be easy for the excited couple to overlook the importance of planning for a happy emotional life together. Let’s assume for a moment that, in addition to an event planner, you’ve also hired an expert we’ll call the ‘emotional wedding planner.’ Here might be his or her advice for the soon-to-wed couple:
1) Premarital counseling is critical, no matter how little or how short. One couple told me that all they had the time to do was to take an online compatibility quiz and talk through their differences, but even that helped. Ideally, two or three sessions with either a mental health professional or clergy of your particular choice and faith is the best. That way an objective person can help you acknowledge and bridge those inevitable gaps between what you want and what your beloved wants.
2) Make time for those really hard discussions about when the honeymoon is over…Who will pay the bills? If and when do you want to have children? What religion, if any, will you practice? How much time will you spend with each other’s families of origin? Will you both keep working outside the home, and if you do, who in the world will do the housework?
3) Commit to having not only the best wedding, but also the best marriage. Lost in the silver and crystal choices sometimes are heart-to-heart talks about how we want to make choices going forward. Is one in charge of the money and the other in charge of the relationship, or do you want to work towards unanimity in everything? Will there be spheres of influence in which you each are the more dominant? It really does not matter which decision-making you agree to, as long as you both adopt the same one! Without it, power struggles can ensue and real damage can be done when one or the other of you feels disregarded in the process.
4) Face the fact that just the wedding itself is stressful. Both of your emotions, and certainly those of all your relatives, will be heightened and dramatized. If you can address that reality together instead of getting into the ‘blame game’ of your crazy family versus my angelic parents, or your thoughtless friends versus my considerate ones, you will already be on the great road of compromise to a happy marriage.
5) Repeat the magic mantra of Communication, Compromise, and Compassion, applying it over decisions as seemingly trivial as the choice of printed invitations. Then you will be able to get through the bigger ones, like the number of guests, the dinner costs per person and the dreaded seating chart.
6) Accept the fact that you are not going to be able to alter each other in any meaningful way. (And, yes, I am resisting the pun on the word ‘altar.’) The fact is that none of us really changes fundamentally though we may slightly modify our behavior. There are no real makeovers in a marriage, so own that truth before walking down the aisle. If you cannot accept that, it is better to walk away; if you can accept it, you are closer to the holy grail of ‘happily ever after.’
If you think about it, wedding planning itself can be good practice for a good marriage, since so many realities of life are involved: relatives, friends, control, financial consequences and, of course, each of your own unique psyches. In all of that controlled chaos, if you can also make time to begin the emotional planning for the rest of your lives together, you are much more likely to live happily and blissfully.