Ok, no, I haven’t. And I’m suppppper excited about being married soon!
It has struck me though that there is a crazy expectation that engaged couples spend all of their engagement wedding planning. There is SO much information out there about engagements, weddings, home-building. And that’s usually really good stuff. However, there is little about marriage planning and eh, carrying out. Today I was looking for some information about wedding planning (which, again, I clearly have no problem with) and came across a menu with two options: WEDDING and DIVORCE. OMWPleaseGiveMeMoreOptionsInLife.
Wedding planning is so fun. And there are definitely times during engagement when a lot of wedding stuff happens – initially, booking the ‘big things’ like venue and photos, and closer to the time, sorting the details. That’s totally fine. But we need to talk about marriage, too.
Because yes, we want our weddings to be fun and memorable. But as someone much wiser than I am told me last week – a wedding is just the door to something much more important. We want our marriage to work, to be fulfilling, to be good for us as people and for other people we encounter on our journey, to be an even better version of our relationship so far.
So we’ve been trying to spend more time investing in our relationship and in preparing for our marriage than we spend on wedding planning.
We haven’t got the balance right…and I am no marriage expert (duh), but here are a few things we are working on as we try to keep our existing relationship and our future marriage the focus in the midst of wedding planning. A lot of these come from hints whispered by friends who are a little further down the path. I’m planning on using this list as something for me to come back to when things get a little crazy in the next few months.
We attended Nicky and Sila Lee’s Marriage Prep course at a local church and have really benefited from it. It’s not the two hours of intense, awkward chat people imagine it to be: there were 7 or 8 other couples with us as we watched a DVD that each week (there were 5) brought up a different topic which we then discussed privately as couples with a little workbook to facilitate some discussion. Communication, conflict resolution, family, activity and time and money expectations, fun, romance…lots of really important things came up that aren’t necessarily awkward to talk about (indeed, most of these things you will have discussed as a part of building your committed relationship) but the space to do this in is great, especially when the expectation is for you to spend every engaged moment together discussing your wedding plans…and I’ve recommended it to non-engaged friends in relationships, too: it’s just really helpful! (Also, you really don’t need to be religious to do the course – so don’t be put off by it being hosted in churches. You’ll love it and find it helpful, whatever your beliefs are.)
Enjoying wedding prep and being able to talk about what the day will look like, what you’re looking forward to, what you like about that wedding photo and the ideas you’ve found on Pinterest is a lot of fun. But spend more time talking about other things than you do about the wedding. And actually, don’t make all that time marriage-prep time either. Do the things you enjoyed before being engaged, talk about work and relationships, continue to get to know each other, find new ways to spend time together, talk about how you’re feeling about life (not just about the wedding or even about your marriage), develop new memories and habits and inside jokes, romance each other (just because you’re getting married doesn’t mean this doesn’t need to happen…get those candles back out!) and remember to, above all, be each other’s friend.
A trend to be careful about getting sucked into is the whole countdown thing. I loooooove knowing today that it’s only 143 days until our wedding: but you can get so into counting down that you forget everything else – celebrate the days you’ve been together (593, if you’re wondering) and enjoy today, being engaged, and the fact that you are two alive people who love each other.
This ties into over-focusing on the wedding: counting down, spending all your time together planning the wedding, only focusing on that part of your future. I’ve read a lot about people who struggle once the wedding is over because they’ve either lost sight of each other or hit a wall when they realise their ‘project’ is finished.
Talk to each other about marriage
So in slight contradiction to my last point and at the risk of being far too obvious, in preparing for your marriage, talk about it. What are you looking forward to? What are you nervous about? Something helpful in the marriage course was talking about your experience of marriage so far – what have you learned from your parents’ relationship? Also…WHY are you actually getting married?
Talk to other people about marriage
Something that has been really fun and really useful has been talking to friends – single, in relationships/engaged, or married. We can all learn from each other. My mum organised a girly night in after we’d got engaged and invited my bridesmaids and female family members. We had lots of fun and they all brought some advice with them – I got so many nuggets of wisdom and some really helpful insights, both about being engaged and for our marriage, from friends who know me really well, from Dan’s sister who obviously knows him really well, from my married aunts and Dan’s mum, and my mum was even able to pass on wisdom she had gleaned from her own parents. I’d love to share some of it with you, so might do that in later posts. And as the wedding gets closer, I’m really grateful for my friends who have become my ‘Marriage Helplines’ – “Hey girl, what do you guys do about Christmas with both families?” type stuff. (They also double as ‘Wedding Helplines’…”HELP HOW IS A GUEST LIST EVEN POSSIBLE TO MAKE?!” type stuff.)
Remember though that your engagement/future marriage is a huge thing for you: it won’t be for everyone, and that’s OK. Just as you’re working in this season on maintaining and improving your relationship, regardless of your wedding, with your partner, don’t forget to maintain and improve your other friendships too! This seems to be a bit of an issue: people plan a wedding and become uninterested in their friends’ lives, or their friends don’t want to hear about their wedding, and so friendships are put on pause for months…and then, after it’s all said and done, are hard to build back up again. Do be careful with that.
I know it’s tempting to spend hours on Pinterest, read every wedding blog you come across, and google random wedding stuff. Do some of that because flippin’ heck, it’s fun. But devote some of your reading energy to reading about marriage, too. There are SO many books on marriage out there, and some of them are unhelpful. Every person, couple and marriage is different. However, there is such benefit in listening to people who have experienced things you have not yet experienced as a couple, or in soaking up findings and thoughts on marriage or personality or relationships or just humans, really.
The 5 Love Languages is the first we read and as I said when I reviewed it, it’s useful in considering all kinds of relationships – but it’s helped us in how we communicate love to each other, and even in how we talk about doing that.
The Meaning of Marriage is a book that is probably more honest than most. Tim and Kathy Keller write candidly about what has been tough in their own marriage and offer lots of practical advice about how to build a marriage that will last and that is nurturing of both people.
Daring Greatly is not specifically about marriage but I’m currently working out how I implement what I learned through it about vulnerability into how I am in our relationship.
Another book that is in the post at the minute after I saw it reviewed on Goodreads is Choosing to Cheat, which is about the tension between work and family.
So that’s what we’re up to, as well as trying to plan an ethical wedding and not become Beauty Bridezilla (me specifically). Anything I’ve missed? Any good book recommendations? How can we work on our relationships or marriages whatever stage of life we are in?
P.s.: I’ve really enjoyed the conversation that has sprung from writing about engagements/weddings/marriage. I especially enjoyed hearing YOUR beauty hacks when I wrote about how behind I am on my schedule for becoming The Most Beautiful Bride Ever. From now on, posts relating to these things will be posted on Wednesdays…Wedding Wednesdays, if you will (I couldn’t resist!) Won’t promise one every week, but I already have an interview with our videographer lined up for next Wednesday. See you then!!