Getting engaged is one of the most wonderful moments of anybody’s life. Bursting with romance and often surprise, it can create spontaneous joy and a huge rush of excitement that can last for days. The phone runs hot, your social media feed is bubbling over with happy emojis and you are floating on a cloud.
Just like the first flush of romance, getting engaged can cause an uprush of ‘feel good’ hormones that can have your pulse racing and your heart fluttering. It also brings with it a whole suitcase of wishes and desires, many of which stem from childhood fairy tales and fantasies mingled with our own cultural values and family/societal expectations and influences.
Little wonder then that for many, getting engaged in itself becomes the first test of your future life together and how you negotiate your way through can even make or break you before you say ‘I do’.
Here are my top tips to make sure planning your wedding becomes a ‘win win’ situation for both of you:
1. The ring – full of hope and promise, your engagement ring represents so much more than your joint decision to get married. Rings make a statement in their own right and are often loaded with life-long expectations. The size of the stone, the type of metal, the design, the store it was bought, the price …. One thing is for sure, if you are going to wear it, then you should love it and here, honesty is the best policy because you will be wearing it every day for the rest of your life. If your beloved chooses a ring for you that you don’t love, then let him know. Be kind, be gentle, but speak your truth. It’s best to start as you mean to go on and then go and choose it together. Trust me, he will thank you for it in the end.
2. Size and style of wedding – spend time sitting down with your partner and agree what style of wedding you both want. Perhaps your partner comes from a big family where the tradition is to have a large number of guests and you’re just happy for a ‘fuss free’ wedding with a few close friends and family. The key here is compromise. Decide on the style and theme of your wedding and what you each can (and can’t compromise) on and stick to it. The most common cause of arguments I see is when the plan keeps changing – it can cause confusion and irritation on both sides and also can slow up the planning process which adds fuel to the fire.
3. Budget – another major cause of engagement rows is money. Decide on the budget and itemise it. Perhaps your partner would rather spend up on the wedding car but you would rather invest in your dress. Again, compromise is the key here. Maybe there are also some things you can both agree to let go of or do differently, eg email the invites rather than print and post, buy the cake, rather than have it specially made. Once the budget is set, it’s up to both of you to make it work and that way, the guidelines are laid clear from the outset. It’s also important to decide where the money is coming from too. Having a frank, open conversation about money and working towards a common goal by saving and budgeting together is a great test of your future marriage because financial health and open disclosure (or lack of) can be the great undoing of many marriages. Get it right from the outset and you’re onto a winner before you walk down the aisle.
4. Honeymoon - many people start off with a great wedding plan and a clear budget but forget to factor in the honeymoon. Consider this from the outset to avoid having to plan it later as an afterthought. For some, the honeymoon can be set aside for later, for others, the honeymoon is the icing on the cake. It’s really important to agree on the type of honeymoon you want too. I have seen so many couples argue over this – you want to kick back in a fancy resort while he wants to sail around the Mediterranean. Plan your honeymoon well so you each get what you want and ultimately make the most of this romantic time away together.
5. Speeches, vows and best men – agree who is to make a speech and also provide guidelines to speakers. I have heard so many horror stories from brides and grooms whose best man made the speech to end all speeches – ie it left everybody (yes grandma, grandad, mum dad), literally speechless. If you (and your special guests) are unsure what subjects are appropriate, then Google speech etiquette and take some notes. Remind your speakers of their target audience and provide them with some basic rules of politeness, eg. thanking the bridesmaids, acknowledging the bride etc…Briefing speakers can prevent any conflict or discomfort on the day and ensure many happy memories in the years to come.
6. Create safety and security early - Begin the practice early of being able to form mutual agreements based on fairness, justice and sensitivity. Become a married couple that people enjoy being around by knowing each other well, particularly around vulnerabilities and difficult spots with your partner that could bring some conflict. I recommend attending a group, seminar or a Couple Retreat that teaches you both how to understand your partner before getting married. Knowing each other is key and will go far to creating win/win in your relationship with all the elements required for safety and security. Taking care of each other and creating a marriage where you are both conscious of supporting each others mental health is very important so I highly recommend some guidance in this area before the actual wedding day.
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