Preparing for marriage while planning a wedding

Preparation can help strengthen future relationship

Published: Sunday, March 25 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

Even when the disagreements are over things like invitations, Peterson said, it's not bad to disagree if it's over something important to you.

But it's important to choose your battles carefully.

"Stand up for what you want! You should!" Peterson said. "It is a big deal; weddings are a big deal. You're supposed to only have one in your life and you want it to be perfect, right? So, yeah, you should talk about what you want and be willing to disagree. But should you fight to the death? Well, I don't know, is that the hill you want to die on?"

Keene agreed that it's important to know when to let go.

"Keep in mind that it's just a party, and it's just once," she said. "You're going to spend the rest of your life with this person, and you're going to spend the rest of your life with these new family members, and you're with your own family, and so is it worth really damaging the relationship over napkin colors? No, it's probably not."

However, she added, it's easier and may be preferable to have a "practice" fight between the bride and mother or mother-in-law about the dress code or the invitations rather than to have the first fight between them be over something bigger later on, like a baby.

Arguments over minor wedding plan details can do a lot to help the newly forming family separate from the main families and become a new entity, according to author and bridal counselor Allison Moir-Smith.

"Fighting with the families is not necessarily bad," Moir-Smith said. "It's a way for the couple to establish their 'coupleness' — their independence from their families. It's just very difficult to do, because … if the parents are paying, (it's an) incredible act of generosity. For people to complain about what's being offered looks, on the surface, ungrateful. If you can take it to that other level, what's going on emotionally, it's a healthy, developmental stage to move out of being primarily identified as being a daughter or a son and becoming a spouse. And that's the emotional work of the engagement … to change your family identity roles."

Family matters

It's not just the new family being formed, but also the existing families that the couples are adopted into that may require some navigating. Wedding planning can make this difficult, especially when many people feel invested and want things to be done a certain way.

"So many times brides and grooms will say, "You know what? It's our day, it should be our way.' Well, yes, it is your day, but it's not just your day," Hale said.

As you plan your wedding, she said, "you really start to get to know yourself as well as what your partner wants. Talk to your parents about what their expectations are. You know, we're not the only ones that have been dreaming about our wedding. Sometimes our parents have been dreaming as much, if not more, than we have."

That doesn't mean that the families should have control of everything, though, and the planning can help define everyone's new roles and expectations.

"To withdraw a bit and to form a bond with someone else outside of your family, who's going to become your family, is a huge task, so patience with each other as you are starting to create new boundaries with your family is really, really important," Moir-Smith said. "Because you're all re-negotiating relationships."

"You start to learn to set boundaries with your family, and you're starting to learn to say no to people," Keene said. "You're forming your own family, so I think that it's a balance between learning to say no to family members, sometimes for the first time, and also learning to accept their help and sort of let them love you the way they want to love you."

Financial issues

While not the most romantic topic, money is often cited as a leading cause of divorce.

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