Growing up, the idea of a wedding sounded nice, but I had very few concrete ideas about what I wanted, how I was going to get it, and how many tiny details I was going to have to think about while planning. I also didn’t consider how stressful the whole process would be and how navigating that stress would be the last real test of my relationship before I made it permanent. Here’s what I’ve learned while putting the big day together.
- Our listening skills could use some work. I always thought that we were very good at talking to each other about our problems and solving them together. When we added in the many moving parts of wedding planning, however, I realized that there was a serious disconnect. We spent so much time arguing about things like who to invite that we didn’t stop to listen to what the other person was saying and try to find a compromise. This resulted in some seriously draining arguments. Once we realized that listening to each other could help us find a “third option” — not my choice, not his, but a compromise between the two — things have been easier.
- Loyalty is more than being faithful. Staying loyal is often interpreted as not cheating or otherwise breaking the rules of your relationship. That’s very important to us in our marriage, but I also realized that loyalty extends beyond intimacy. Loyalty meant standing by my husband and the decisions we had made together even when other people tried to convince me that those decisions were somehow wrong. People have a lot of opinions about weddings that aren’t theirs, but finding ways to shut those comments down and stick to our plan showed my husband that I valued him and his opinions more highly than theirs. We were a team that had decided something together.
- There were some chronic issues. My husband had a hard time following through with things, like calling our officiant to schedule a meeting or helping me narrow down the guest list. I had a terrible habit of making a decision with him and then changing plans entirely when my mom convinced me that that decision would ruin everything. The more often we lapsed into these destructive habits, the more frustrated we got with each other. We didn’t fight fair because we became so angry, and we eventually realized that we needed some solid strategies for dealing with these issues in the future. He set aside some time each day to help out with the planning and cross things off of his to-do list, and I made myself a script for how to handle difficult conversations about our choices.
- We make a great team when we’re on the same page. When things were good, they were excellent. We got so much done and actually started to enjoy the planning process. Knowing that he had my back and I had his, and being able to hustle together to make this wedding happen, showed me that we really are well-suited to each other. It’s part of the reason why I never got cold feet before the big day.
- I learned what we need when we’re stressed. There were too many stressful moments to count in the two years we gave ourselves to plan the wedding, even with — and sometimes because of — the help we got from our families. The good thing was that we had to figure out a way to deal with all of that stress if we were going to get through it, so we talked about it frequently. Now, we know how to give each other what’s needed to work through stressful moments in our everyday lives, which helps diffuse the stress more quickly and get us back on track.
- It’s truly the thought that counts. I always knew my husband was thoughtful, but I was surprised at the depth of his thoughtfulness over the course of planning. He had some profound reasons for his decisions on everything from the design of my engagement ring to the vows and music we ended up using, and I was seriously touched by the depth of that thoughtfulness. It showed me that the little things, and the thought behind them, are so important to our relationship.
- I figured out what’s important to us. In the end, decisions need to be made about everything, from the color of the flowers to the order of the processions, even if you don’t particularly care about those things. We made a list of things we truly cared about and spent most of our time on those things, which were mostly related to making our friends and family comfortable and creating a festive, fun, and elegant mood. Understanding what we valued as a couple has helped me make decisions about my career and plan for our future in a more informed way.
- There’s a way to handle our disagreements. One of the most important things I learned was how to handle arguments. It differs for everyone, but for us, what ended up working was taking the time to take turns airing out our problems without being interrupted, then working together to figure out solutions in a calm way. Things that could have been bad fights are now far less severe thanks to figuring out a strategy.
- Nothing has to be catastrophic. We’re still together, still in love, and still planning to stay that way despite some seriously tumultuous weeks during the wedding planning process. But we knew we wanted to work through them, so we did, and now I’m confident that we can resolve anything as long as we’re willing to put in the work. It makes big arguments less frequent and, when they do happen, they’re less scary, because I’m confident that they aren’t going to be the end of us.