If you are in the midst of planning your wedding, you are probably already facing some issues that test your commitment and communication as a couple, even before you say “I do.” Wedding planning can be your first important effort to work with your partner as a true team. You will have to find out what’s important to each of you in the ceremony and celebration, and do the same for each of your families. Of course you want to give your marriage a strong and harmonious start. And, wow, can the feelings run high!
Who’s In Charge?
And whose dreams will be played out? Weddings touch on so many parts of our lives: finishing the move from childhood to adulthood, bringing our families together, and providing a sense of where we belong. And, do you want a wedding and a big party, or a marriage? What are you expressing in the way you wed? Can you articulate your dreams and expectations to each other, before talking with your families?
Often the first challenge you face as a team is the influence and expectations of each person’s parents. Since parents typically pay for a portion of the wedding and reception, and help with logistics, they feel as though they should have some control. Ideally, you and your partner will let everyone know you are taking the lead in resolving issues and guiding decisions, with thought and consideration for all. Being a grown-up in a grown-up role, with a mate, may be new, and it may also set the tone for family relationships for years to come.
You can do a lot to help everyone feel fairly treated if you listen to their requests and make good compromises with the goal of honoring what is important to your family members. You want to foster good will all around, not necessarily have every detail go your way. Yet conflicts arise when both sets of parents have different ideas about specific details. What can you do then?
Openness and Listening Skills are Your Most Important Planning Tools
Say the bride’s mother wants the groomsmen to wear a certain type of suit. Say the groom’s mother has a different idea. Sit down with each set of parents separately. Recognize that each party has their own vision for the wedding. Then work together to acknowledge the value of each person’s interest. Your ultimate decision may appear to favor one side over the other. The key is to acknowledge what’s important to the people who didn’t win out on this decision.
“I wish we could have it both ways. But the guys really worked hard to make a choice with the bride’s mother. I think your idea was great too – and I appreciate that you care so much and offered to help out.”
Even if you have to disappoint family members, find a way to address each family’s most important requests so that everyone feels as though they’ve added to the wedding in a way that’s meaningful and important to them.
If you sense lingering discontent, you can set the tone, reminding people that how much it means to you that they help you make a positive start to your new life. Let them know that they aren’t losing you, even as you launch your married life.
Addressing Religious Differences
More and more weddings are between couples from different religious traditions. When two people of different faiths plan a wedding, they need to be open to the other’s unique religious customs. The diversity of faiths at the wedding can be a source of worry, but they do not need to be. While traditions, hopes and expectations may conflict, this is an opportunity for family members to listen and create a solution together that has special, unique meaning for everyone.
Respect and adaptability are key. If your partner is Jewish and wants to incorporate wedding traditions like “the breaking of the glass”, you can include it, and talk with non-Jewish relatives about what this means to your partner. Let differences be a way to know each other more deeply.
Some family members may express worry if your wedding breaks with a longstanding tradition of marrying within the same religion. Many people believe that a strong union depends on having a common faith. But conflict in marriage is inevitable, even when people share the same religious faith. What’s important is how you as a couple value your friendship. Can you stop an argument before either of you say things you’ll regret? Can you support each other and respect — even admire — the different way your partner looks at the world through faith?
Reassure family members that though you may not have been brought up the same way, you like, support, and respect your partner’s faith.
What Makes for Good Marriage Teamwork?
Opening yourselves to the well-meant influence of your partner – and your partner’s family – during wedding planning is key to your happiness over time. If you and your future spouse can turn toward your each other and work through wedding issues together, embrace diverse views, and share decision-making with respect and friendship, you are doing much to give your married life a strong start.