Wedding planning has the potential to be one of the most exciting things you will ever do. It also has the potential to be one of the most stressful and frustrating tests that you will ever experience up to this point in your relationship…if you allow it to.
Many people don’t give enough acknowledgement to the fact that wedding planning (whether it lasts a few months or over a year) is a period of heightened stress and anxiety. I could probably replace the word “heightened” with insurmountable or completely overwhelming. I have met with couples who were questioning their very relationship compatibility, all due to the amount of pressure and unresolved stress that they were feeling from external sources while planning their wedding. There is no reason for stress to take your relationship to that point, and I would like to help you recognize how. It actually all comes down to one single word: BOUNDARIES.
Ahh, boundaries. A term that is music to every therapists ears. But what does that really mean? And what do boundaries in wedding planning actually look like?
Basically, boundaries are the invisible fence wrapped around you as an individual and also around you and your partner as a couple. This fence teaches people how to treat you. You have personal/individual boundaries (such as: I don’t smoke or I don’t hug people the first time I meet them) and you have relationship/couple boundaries (such as: We want a spiritual service in a church or we want an adult only reception).
There is a lot of writing out there on “how to have boundaries once you’re married”, or “how to begin having boundaries with your parents and in-laws after the wedding is over”. Once you became engaged, you committed to a life with each other. NOW is the time to begin talking about, and implementing, boundaries with the world around you…including family.
The message in boundaries is: This is okay for me/us, or this is not okay for me/us.
Here are 5 boundaries for you to consider as you embark on wedding planning:
Speak highly of one another to your family, friends, and even strangers.
There is no doubt that you will have moments where you give your partner crazy eyes (or want to) because you have no idea why they want to splurge 2k on a cake or choreograph a dance for you and the wedding party to perform. BUT…keep it between the two of you. Talk about it! Don’t triangulate a third party- be it a friend, family member, coworker, or the person at the check-out lane in the grocery store- by complaining about your betrothed. I’m not saying don’t express your frustrations…but I am saying learn the healthiest avenues for expressing your frustrations about your partner. Typically, speaking ill of him/her to the people closest in your life only create a bias that is difficult to undo. This is a boundary that protects the respect and mutual support within your relationship.
Determine who gets the final say.
This may seem like a no-brainer here, but in many cultures and religious practices, the bride and groom actually don’t get the last say on things. If a set (or both sets) of parents are paying for the wedding reception and/or ceremony, they may feel more adamant about calling the shots on certain decisions. The main point is this: Talk to your partner and have a clear understanding of how this may look between your two families. Assumptions and expectations have little benefit for you when it comes to gaining clarity and open communication about the wedding planning roles.
Share your personal boundaries with your partner.
It’s not fair to assume that your partner knows (or should know) certain boundaries you may have. For example, your partner may know that you don’t drink, but not that you expect or want a no-alcohol reception. If there are certain expectations you have about what will or won’t happen at your wedding ceremony, reception, or any event in between, now is the time to dialogue about it. There may be touchy subjects involved in this process for either of you. If so, I strongly recommend premarital counseling, where you are encouraged and facilitated to dialogue with your partner in a non-defensive way about the things most important to you.
Don’t say “whatever you want, honey”.
Bridezillas, Groom Kongs, demanding partners…whatever you wish to call them, do exist. Stress takes a toll on us all in different ways. Try your best not to be the partner that succumbs to every wish and decision your partner makes because you don’t want to have to deal with them otherwise. This may seem like the easy way out at the time (truth), but it poses the potential for underlying resentments and frustrations to build that will remain unexpressed and unaddressed. Again, learn to communicate. If your partner is in their bridezilla or groom kong zone, recognize that as NOT the best time to make set decisions, and set a time frame to return for a final say. This is the practice of healthy boundaries.
Work on healthy boundaries, even when your partner doesn’t.
The hardest part about boundaries is following through on them, especially when you have set a boundary together and then one of you has a hard time sticking to it (this can be especially difficult when boundaries are set around in-laws and parents). Doing your part to stay strong and firm with boundaries, even if you’re doing it on your own, just might inspire your partner to get on track. The most important thing to remember is to always be flexible with one another- boundaries need not be so rigid that there is no room left for communication or understanding.
The process of identifying, expressing, and following through on boundaries is a process you will continue to do (together and apart) for life. Wedding planning is one season of your life, but it provides you with tons of opportunities to come together as a couple and identify what you will and will not allow/accept. If you’re a Dallas couple interested in working more on boundaries with one another, contact me today for a free phone consult!