It wasn't long ago that I was planning my wedding and was experiencing major anxiety for our upcoming nuptials. Looking back at it, it wasn't the thought of getting married that was stressful; it was the expectation of the wedding itself that was provoking anxiety. The uneasiness was obviously making me cranky and irritable towards my soon to be husband. As I learned from other brides, this is a common experience during wedding planning.
One wouldn't think that planning your future together could ultimately end up being its demise, but it can happen. That doesn't necessarily have to happen...if anything, planning a wedding can be a step towards creating a stronger bond and a looking glass into making big decisions in the future. If you think about it, planning a wedding mirrors A LOT of what will happen as a couple
You may not see it now, but it may soon be very clear to you once you say "I Do."
So lets start breaking it down:
1. Financial planning and budgeting… lets face it, MONEY will always been a sour point in relationships. Whether it is an imbalance between incomes or how much we want to spend on “reasonable” items, there are a number of things that can become an issue. Planning a wedding is one of them. Your budget for the wedding is an important aspect of planning your life together. Knowing how much you want to spend, how much your partner wants to spend versus how much you can ACTUALLY spend, is a lot to juggle. NOW lets be real, I am not a financial person, by any means, and this post isn’t about how to budget for your wedding.
The main point of this whole section is to show you how budgeting and planning is similar to many crossroads in your upcoming marriage (for example, when you are looking to buy a house). You will reach the same crossroads of what you want to spend, how much your partner wants to spend versus how much you can ACTUALLY spend (sound familiar?) Once it comes, it best to know how to speak reasonably with your partner about your wants and needs (because there is a difference between what you WANT and what you ). So my advice to you is to find this time during your wedding planning process to build a foundation on how to talk about money with your partner, because that conversation will come up MANY TIMES! Learn from it.
If you both are "numbers people", then create an excel spreadsheet.
If you are a “here and now” type of couple then go through your accounts and see how much you have in the bank.
If you are the type to seek help from people then talk to your partner about how much “help” you are willing to take from others.
You want to express your wants and needs in a reasonable way that also allows for open dialogue. Now, when I say a REASONABLE conversation about money, I mean talking about what you can afford. There really is no point in getting into an argument about money that you don’t have. And I get it…wanting a Martha Stewart wedding is great, but we all can’t be Martha Stewart. You want to make sure that you are conveying what things cost in an honest way.
2. Decorations…now you may be thinking “my partner doesn’t care about décor!,” Yes while he or she may not care about the wedding décor there is something to be said about working together so make sure to involve them in decisions about the theme so they are represented. After all, this is a merging of TWO people! But, décor can be a tricky thing. They may not want to be involved or may be overly involved for your liking. This process will reoccur when you both begin to decorate your living space. Now if you already live with your partner you may have already gone through this process but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will NEVER move for the rest of your life or that your partner’s taste won’t change. Things happen…so why not be prepared. You want to know what your partner likes and if that will conflict or compliment your own style.
I remember one account from a couple, in which their taste was somewhat similar with the exception of her husband’s interest in comic book heroes. She wanted to create an adult living space, but Spider-Man hanging over it sort of clashed with that vision. So this is where compromise comes into play by finding a happy medium between each other’s preferences. They were able to find artwork that displayed his love of comic books, but in an adult way that complemented the décor of the house.
Nowadays, you can pretty much find anything to match everyone’s style, but you have to make an effort to include what your partner likes. It may sound difficult, but when you become married, it is more about the interest of the couple rather than the individual.
3. The GUEST LIST…the dreaded guest list is where issues come into play with those around you. You have family members, friends, co-workers, and what feels like strangers on the street (not literally) coming up to you for that golden ticket to your wedding. Even when you meet your magical number, more and more get added & removed then when the seating chart comes, you have to consider those who are “besties”, “frienemies”, “archrivals”, etc. It can become a nightmare! What makes it worse, is those who RSVP’d don’t show up, or those who weren’t invited somehow manage to make it to the reception.
Regardless, these are the people that you chose to share the beginning phase of your life as a married couple. It should include those individuals that have great significance in your life. It should be the people who you will fight to have at your baby-shower, birth of your child, housewarming, vacations, etc. So here you want to make sure that your partner understands what they mean to you in your life and you also want to make sure you listen! Make a list of those who NEED to be there versus those who you would LIKE to be present AND make sure to include those that are important to your love one.
Now this may not necessarily be wedding planning related, but it is something that I would like to share. Those that we invite to our wedding are sharing a precious moment in your relationship with your future spouse. Just because they have the opportunity to share this moment, doesn't necessarily mean that they have the priviledge of knowing everything that happens within your marriage from that point forward. It is important to know what your partner is comfortable discussing with others and what may offend them. If you are having problems within your marriage and want to discuss it with someone, you run the risk of it coming back to you and potentially creating more damage. Hence why counseling is the best bet...it is a neutral party and allows both of you to discuss what is on your mind in a safe space. Just something to consider and keep in mind.
4. Your parents/in-laws… Now, I can’t discuss a wedding without mentioning those that raised you. There are certainly a lot of engaged couples who have the help of their parents and friends to pay for their wedding. In most cases, it will be the parents/in-laws that want to contribute. Something to consider is this help can come at a price, (not to say that you shouldn’t take it) discuss it with your partner!!! The last thing you want to do is get into a discussion with your future in-laws over flower decorations and then place your partner in between that argument. It’s not a pretty picture on all fronts. So be aware of what you both want and put that on the table if you are going to accept help. Your interactions with your in-laws and/or parents during this process can cause stress but learn from this experience. Find out what approach works best for you. If you find that compromise works well…keep that in the bank. If a “give and take” approach is your style, then use it..
Your interaction with your parents and in-laws will most likely be VERY similar to how it will be when a child comes into your relationship. Raising a child with multiple opinions is 10x more difficult then planning a wedding with everyone yelling about what they want (think about it…one day versus 18 years is a BIG difference). Ultimately, it’s YOUR wedding and it will be YOUR child but you want to make sure that you aren’t damaging relationships. If you are concerned about how it is going to work out, then have an honest conversation with your parents and/or in-laws about what you want and how their help will go a long way to make that possible. You want to let them know that if they want to have a say, you will do your best to compromise, but the decisions will be left to you and your partner. If they don’t understand, make the decision of taking the help is worth the risk (I don’t understand this sentence).If they don’t understand, decide with your partner whether taking their help is worth the risk. The most important thing is to keep yourself and your partner sane. Do not ruin relationships, because you couldn’t afford 15 pink doves at your wedding.
5. Expectations…. This is the last point on my list because it is an EXTREMELY important and one that we all take for granted. After all is said and done, we have big expectations for the day of our wedding. For the most part, it will most likely meet or exceed those expectations. However, that may not always be the case. Things can go wrong and that’s ok…. We shouldn’t let that one minor imperfection degrade the meaning behind this whole day. As repetitive as that statement may be for you, it’s going to be the most important thing you take from this whole process.
So how do expectations fall into this whole posting? Well let’s face it, we all have expectations of our relationship and of our partner. They can sometimes meet or exceed those standards, but we will most likely focus on those times when they aren’t. But why focus on the negative? Why not celebrate the positive? We are all going to have downfalls in our relationships but it is how we bounce back and learn from them that makes the difference.
Also, knowing that our expectations are going to change is as equally important. This is why we need to maintain an open dialogue about our needs and wants. Don’t be afraid if they change, and don’t expect your partner to be a mind-reader. If something has changed or is not working for you, talk about it. Talk to your partner…not your friends, family or to strangers on the street because they aren’t going to fix it for you. Open dialogue is key and if you don’t have that, then seek professional help. Its better to make an effort to work on something than to completely give up and wonder where it went wrong.
So there you have it…the 5 most stressful parts of wedding planning that can be used to your advantage in the future. Whether or not this applies to you, the most important thing message is to work with your partner and talk to him or her. If you are really feeling stressed about your upcoming nuptials, talk about it. Open lines of communication are key and if that isn’t working for you then seek help. Pre-marital counseling is one of the best things you can put on your wedding budget, because it will help you during and after your wedding.
Written by: Jessica Jefferson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Perinatal Mental Health Counselor and Owner of Cloud Nine Therapeutic Services. My passion is working with couples who need assistance in navigating life's transitions such as: newly engaged couples, divorcing couples, and couples becoming new parents. I help them utilize strengths within themselves and their relationship to overcome challenges and find peace. I am here when you are ready to start the process to improve your relationship.