Preparing for marriage while planning a wedding
Preparation can help strengthen future relationship
"It's really important that you have forthright talks about things like your wedding budget, and you really talk about why you're making the decisions that you're making, because they're setting up sort of the value system for you as a couple going forward … how you're going to approach financial decisions in the future," Keene said.
Because a lot of people have been eagerly waiting all their lives to get married, Peterson said, they may want everything to be a certain way, which is oftentimes more costly than anticipated or what the couple or their families have the means for.
"I've seen bride after bride just really run her family and her groom through the wringer because she had to have exactly what she wanted," Keene said. "And as times are changing and grooms are becoming more and more involved, I've seen grooms do the same thing to their brides. 'It has to be this way, it has to be that way,' and is it going to be that way always in your marriage?"
The same principle applies to finances in a marriage, she said. "There's always a reason to spend more money; there's always a reason the budget is going to be something that you're going to butt heads over. So if you can find a way to work that out in wedding planning, you're going to be so far ahead of the game in your marriage."
Learning to balance time is as important as learning to balance the checkbook. During the engagement period, Keene said, couples are trying to plan a wedding, strengthen their relationship and spend more time with the family they'll soon be leaving.
"I think it's important to use the engagement period to practice splitting your time between things that matter to you, and not letting one thing take over," Keene said. "Your wedding planning has the ability to sort of take over the time you would otherwise spend on your relationship, and I think that can happen later … so remembering to take time and focus on each other is really important during wedding planning and really sets the stage for the rest of your lives together."
Chances are, the process of planning the wedding — and the wedding itself — will not be perfect.
"Wedding planning is practice … you're probably going to make mistakes," Keene said. "Your partner is going to not check with you about a financial decision, or you're going to make a big decision that you think they don't care about and you don't check with them."
But then, once something like that has happened, she said, "you have the opportunity to come back to the table and sort of say, 'What mistake did we make that we don't want to make in the future?' (It's) not the end of the world as long as you're able to communicate about it after it happens."
And often, the problems and difficulties that need to be faced won't be anybody's fault. The best response to this, which will strengthen any marriage, Peterson said, is to learn to be adaptable.
"Things are going to go wrong, no matter how well-planned they are; they're going to go wrong. Something will. Your brother-in-law will show up in shorts instead of a tux, or somebody will bring their child who wasn't invited, or you'll run out of napkins or whatever. Something will happen. It will rain. Be adaptable. And that will strengthen your marriage."
Even when the wedding is over, the lessons learned will follow a couple into their marriage. Memories of the day can also be important in sustaining the marriage.
"Marriage isn't always easy, and life isn't easy, so having this moment to look back to where, you know, everyone you love was there and you made really important promises, can really be sort of helpful in sustaining the marriage," Keene said. "How you decorate or what it looks like isn't the most important thing. … The most important thing is creating a day that you can look back to in happiness, and that it was a day of support and love."
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