Congratulations, you’re engaged! Are you and your partner interested in pre-marital therapy? It can provide a great outlet for you and your partner to discuss how your values and upbringings will impact your future together. In addition to using pre-marital counseling to plan out your future, it can also be used to discuss the logistics of wedding planning and your engagement period, a time that may be more stressful and emotional than you have anticipated. Think about starting it as soon as you get engaged to help process these aspects of wedding planning:
1. Meaning. Consider the meaning you and your partner each ascribe to a wedding. Do you believe it marks a significant point in your relationship, or is it just a party or formality? Have you been envisioning your wedding for a long time? Is a wedding for just you and your partner – or is it a family or community reunion? The answers to all of these questions can help you decide the scope of your wedding, anchor you as you make out your guest list, and help you prepare for discussions with loved ones and with each other about wedding planning.
2. Money. Planning a wedding may be the first time you and your partner have had to make major decisions about money together, and finances can be a loaded topic for couples. You will want to consider how much money you have available to put in the wedding without any outside help and how much of that you are willing to contribute to the wedding. You will then want to consider any offers of financial help from family members and evaluate if accepting the help will work for you and your partner. Finally, if there are differences in socioeconomic status between your families of origin, you most likely will want to discuss how this impacts you and your partner during wedding planning.
3. Family & Culture. You and your partner each come from different families, so there will always be some amount of cultural difference – no matter how small – between each of your families. You may each have different ideas of what the default for a wedding is. For example, someone from a communal culture may highly value a wedding as an event entire families and communities are invited to, while someone from a more individualistic culture may view weddings as more intimate events. Talking to a therapist can help you figure out how to set boundaries with your family members – especially if money from them is involved – and respect your backgrounds while making decisions that are best for you and your partner.
4. Surnames. Today, you have multiple options available to you when it comes to deciding if either or both partners will change their last name after getting married. Do you value having the same last name to show your union, or do you value keeping your names as representations of your individual identities? It can be useful to talk this out with your pre-marital therapist as partners will sometimes discover emotions tied to taking or keeping a name that they did not expect to arise.
5. Planning. Planning a wedding can take a lot of time, money, and mental energy! Consider discussing with your therapist how you and your partner will split the duties of planning that plays to each partner’s strengths and feels fair to each of you. If you and your partner are a heterosexual couple and consider yourselves egalitarian, keep in mind that in the U.S., weddings are still traditionally thought of as events in the bride’s realm – and if you and your partner are not heterosexual, keep in mind that the wedding industry is catered toward heterosexual couples. Decide with your therapist how you will interact with family members, friends, or professionals in the wedding industry around respecting your needs and way of approaching planning.