Turning Wedding Planning into Relationship Building

My partner and I have been engaged for a while (read: over a year now). A lot of people our age are trending towards longer engagements, as many of us are paying for our own weddings, going back to school, or focusing on the early stages of our career before taking any other steps towards adulthood. But no matter how long your engagement, if you aren’t careful, there is a real threat of wedding planning burnout, which can include a total lack of focus on why you’re getting married in the first place!

The wedding planning process can apply stress to your relationship, whether you love throwing parties or avoid it like the plague. The Catholic Church requires that you go through pre-marital counseling, called “pre cana”, specifically to help you focus on your relationship. If, like us, you are not getting married in the church, there is nothing requiring that you do this – but it’s certainly recommended.

Here are some measures we have taken to keep the focus on our relationship as we prepare for our wedding:

Communicate!

One basic step that makes wedding planning easier and more enjoyable is communication. We were about halfway through our registry when I realized I hated a lot of the things on our list. I had a major breakdown and a screaming fit about the shape of our forks before I realized that the forks themselves certainly were not what upset me. In an effort to avoid arguing, I’d given the reins over to my fiancé while picking out a lot of our items. The result? I felt completely left out of the process. When he argued with me about one item I actually liked enough to argue back, I exploded. He didn’t realize the concessions I’d been making, and I hadn’t really noticed the resentment building up. We moved away from the registry for the night and had a discussion about why I was so upset. Sure – this created more work for us short-term, but it was an important lesson on compromise and communication that we’ve applied countless times since. It also opened up discussions about responsibility as a married couple, what our expectations are of each other as far as cooking and cleaning and housekeeping in general. Now we not only have a registry that makes up both happy, but a better picture of what life will be like as a married couple in general.

Share the load.

The registry story is a good example of relinquishing too much control. However, wedding planning has also taught us a lesson in the other direction, as well–agreeing to delegate when it just doesn’t matter. Since the registry debacle, my fiancé and I have had discussions on other planning topics regarding how much we’re invested in the decisions being made. For example, flowers and photography are a huge deal to me, while he is very focused on what the guys wear and what’s on the menu. Therefore, I’ve kept up conversations with our florist and photographer while he is in contact with our caterer. We share all the information by attending meetings together or CCing each other on emails, but we know who takes point for different subjects. This has translated to everyday conversations, such as what we do for major holidays, how we make sure bills are paid on time, and even what to make for dinner most nights.

Develop your individual support systems.

Wedding planning has a strange effect on people, and not just the people getting married. For all the time you’re spending with your significant other, it’s also important not to neglect the rest of your support system. Otherwise, you risk casualties as friends fade away without you even noticing. Yes, getting married is about launching a new phase in your relationship with your partner, but when the confetti settles, you’ll definitely want the support system you’ve had your whole life still willing to take your calls.

Maintaining your support system helps your relationship in two distinct ways. First, having other people you trust gives you an outlet to work through arguments where you and your partner are both holding firm. Talking to someone else can offer a different perspective from your own, or help reinforce that you’re really sticking to your guns on this one. The second way your support system helps your relationship is by filling in those tiny gaps where you and your fiancé have a difference in interest. My sister lights up when I describe the same floral ideas that do absolutely nothing for my fiancé, and that’s totally okay. Talking to her helps me get the reactions I’m looking for instead of getting upset that my partner isn’t responding the way I want him to.

This translates well into our everyday lives. My fiancé relies on his brother and best friend from childhood for video game partnership. I swap Broadway soundtracks with my sisters and go see old movie with a friend from college. This way we still have our individual lives apart from one another as well as our lives together, without giving up anything we love.

Keep other stressors to a minimum.

Alright this one is almost never possible. However, it’s always a good idea to be realistic about your time management. Sometimes a full plate is unavoidable – you’re in the middle of changing jobs when your landlord sells the building and you’ve got two weeks to find somewhere new to live, for example. But there are certainly things to avoid when wedding planning, like agreeing to host a major holiday or adding a new pet to the family. Make sure you and your partner are clear on how much time planning is taking up. We use Google calendar to make sure our obligations are written down somewhere we will both see it. This includes everything from out-of-town travel to days when we’ve invited friends over for dinner. I’m better about putting events into the calendar, so I make sure I send my partner an email when I add something new. I also put our wedding payment deadlines in the calendar a week before they are due, so that we always pay on time and don’t go over budget.

Take a trip.

In an episode of “My Fair Wedding”, David Tutera took his bride on an adventure unrelated to the wedding. He explained the reasoning behind this was decompression and refocusing. Very often while wedding planning we throw up our hands from stress and outside pressure. Friends and family will only talk to you about the wedding and your everyday interests go by the wayside. This is especially troubling when it comes to your relationship with your partner. Remember to keep traditions, spend time doing things that have nothing to do with your wedding day, and enjoy each other’s’ company. My partner and I scheduled a trip for the six-month mark in our countdown. We took a long weekend in Orlando, visited my Grammy, and spent time in the Disney parks where we got engaged. We stayed unplugged except to play Pokemon Go – a game we both really enjoy, and talked about Harry Potter, the latest Disney films, what kind of cars we’d love to own…anything but table linens and stationery. If you don’t have time to leave town, schedule a “staycation” instead. Turn off your phones entirely if you can, and binge that show you’ve been meaning to get around to or put together a puzzle. If you decide to share this time with friends or family, let them know that wedding talk is entirely off-limits. They might enjoy the break as much as you do!

Planning a wedding is exhausting and the last thing you need is to make it worse by arguing with your future spouse. But taking a few extra steps to make sure you’re on the same page not only makes the process more pleasant, but it can strengthen your relationship in the long run. Make sure to refocus whenever you’re getting frustrated. Think about all the reasons you decided to get married, and all the exciting ways your lives are about to change. Sometimes just a little mindfulness and gratitude can turn an argument into a learning moment.

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