The Most Important Piece Of Wedding Advice I Will Ever Give You
With a title like that, this better be good right? I promise you it will be the most valuable piece of advice that I ever tell you, from a wedding planner's perspective. (The most important piece of advice I can tell you from a non-wedding planner's perspective is to never do the cinnamon challenge - it's not worth it. Not even for a fiver). I like to think that I'm a fairly level-headed person who keeps everyone realistic in terms of wedding planning - so, what do you think it is? What am I suggesting is so fundamental to do pre-wedding that it will be detrimental if you don't?
Well it's not to prepare a list of questions in advance to ask each of your suppliers so that you're certain of what you're getting. It's not to make sure that your budget has accounted for the things that lots of couples tend to forget about, like the marriage licence fee or the wedding rings (if you have to get them from Argos á la 'Don't Tell The Bride' you might find your marriage getting annulled). And it's not to ensure that you build in time to focus on other things during your engagement - like your actual lives - than just the wedding details (although if you regularly read this blog then you know that that tip is a personal favourite of mine). Don't get me wrong, all of these things are important, but just not as important as what I'm about to recommend you do...
The Most Important Piece Of Wedding Planning Advice Is...
Focus more on preparing for your marriage than for your wedding. Don't groan and hit the 'x' button like you would if you'd just scrolled all the way down a Buzzfeed article to discover you already knew "the one thing you didn't know about pepperoni pizza that will shock you". This isn't a ploy or a disappointment. And if you think that it is then you need to be reading this more than anybody else.
Think about it - You spend an average of 200 hours planning your wedding day, and 'average' means the mid-point between the highest and lowest value, which means that some people spend far longer than 200 hours planning their wedding day. 'Day' meaning 24 hours. Although, if you actually think about it, your wedding doesn't even span 24 hours. You probably start getting ready at 11am for a 2pm ceremony, which is swiftly followed by the reception, which due to venue rules may have to end by 11pm. So really your wedding day lasts on average 12 hours. On average, meaning that some weddings don't even last this long.
So 12 hours for 200 hours worth of planning, preparing and stressing. And ask any bride and they'll tell you that those 12 hours feels more like 12 minutes on the day itself. Putting things into perspective like this, and part of the point of this blog is to keep things honest and realistic, can you see how it all seems fairly excessive and unnecessary?
I know, perhaps more than anyone, how important a wedding day is. I wouldn't have made wedding planning and styling my career if I didn't believe in the importance of weddings. But I also feel like it's my duty to keep everyone grounded having seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to weddings, and the effect they can have on your mindset. Post-wedding depression being the ultimate side-effect of too much focus on wedding preparations.
Why Is Marriage Preparation So Important?
How many hours do you expect to be married to your partner? Bit of a stupid question right?! but I'm going to hazard a guess that it's likely to be a lot more than 12. It tends to only be people like Britney who tie the knot for a mere number of hours. In fact, even if everything did go west after the wedding (we've all seen people come clean about cheating minutes into the wedding breakfast on Corrie and 'stenders) legally you have to be married for longer than 12 hours. And yet, despite this, very few people actually prepare for marriage. Which is caa-razy given that a wedding is simply a means to an end. Sure, it's also a great excuse for a big-ass expensive party but the only reason you have a wedding is because you want to get married. As unromantic as it sounds, that's the truth. And we don't shy away from the truth here - we embrace it.
A wedding is a drop in the ocean compared to the lifetime (hopefully) you will spend with your partner. But here we all are acting like a wedding day is the pinnacle point of a relationship, with no eye to what is beyond that. Knowing what I do about weddings and marriage (I read a lot of relationship books in addition to my day job because I'm an absolute self-help addict and not afraid to admit it) I tend to ask most couples how they're feeling about life after the wedding. The number one response I'm usually met with - "Oh, we don't really think anything will change. We've lived together for a couple of years and so it's probably just going to be the same." Oh my.
Living together is very different from living together when you are married. Just because your living situation may be the same - you might still do the washing, and them the ironing - but your legal status has changed and with that comes other differences. For one, your responsibility to your partner changes; you're their next of kin, what's theirs is yours (or 50% of it at the very least) and you're going to raise children together. Marriage changes everything, even if it doesn't feel like that at first.
Marriage is a hugely important part of life, and yet the importance often gets overshadowed by the big ol' wedding part that happens first. Marriage is a covenant; a promise to the person you love to stand by them in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, through good times and bad. A wedding is a party. A bloody fantastic party, but a party nonetheless. And parties don't fundamentally change you. You're the same person after a party as you were before. Very rarely do you go to a house party and return as an individual with a new name and new responsibilities to the person you are living with. Although if this has happened to you then I think the parties you're attending sound ever-so-slightly cultish and you should get out whilst you still can. Marriage is a major life change, bigger than starting Uni or getting a new job. And yet how much preparation do you do for those things?
You do your research, you prepare yourself thoroughly so you know you can perform to the best of your ability and you don't leave anything to chance. And yet these types of things can be far less permanent than the constitution of marriage. But hardly anyone thinks about preparing for that. Hundreds of hours go into getting ready for A Levels, and absolutely none for the greatest relationship test you can face. Have you heard the phrase "preparation prevents piss-poor performance"? Well it's really true. And you're not going to care about the colour of your macaroons perfectly matching the bridesmaid dresses if it all ends in divorce anyway, because you didn't put enough effort into being marriage-ready.
How To Prepare For Marriage
So I've harped on about why preparing for marriage is so important, and here comes the how. You need to make a note of any things that could really be make-or-break in your relationship, and then discuss these with your partner. Hopefully, you've already managed to do this before your engagement in one way or another. But in case you haven't, do it before you get down the aisle! In case you're stuck for the type of things I'm talking about, I've made some suggestions:
- Do you both want kids?
- What's your political stance and does it matter to you if your partner doesn't share it?
- Do you get on well with each other's families, and is this a big deal if not?
- Is religion more important to one of you than the other, and does this cause tension?
- Attitudes to money and saving / spending
- The fun 'what would happen if..." questions. E.g. "What would happen if I my job wanted to transfer me to another country for work, and I wanted to go? Would you come with me?" There's not an objective right or wrong answer to this but there will be a right / wrong answer for you.
Talk to each other about these things in any way that you see fit. You can even make it fun with little quizzes if it helps make the conversation easier. At the end of the day, it should be fun to picture the future! And if anything crops up that does make you feel like getting married would be the wrong decision based on your preferences then it's better to find out now before you legally commit to someone. For anyone who thinks marriage is 'just a piece of paper', no it ain't. Marriage frames the rest of your life, and your happiness in it will affect the happiness of your children and your future. You need to take it seriously, and prepare accordingly.
Booking an appointment with a couples' therapist is also a really great idea. You don't need to wait until you're basically so unhappy in a relationship that you're hardly communicating before you seek help. That makes sorting out problems much harder because you've actually lost sight of why you are in the relationship in the first place when things reach that point. Every single couple has issues - that's just what happens when two human beings with their own unique set of characteristics bond together - and so there will always be things to better in a relationship. Go and see a counsellor or a therapist when the problems are just little niggles and you're far more likely to live happily ever after.
If you're reading this and think I seem far too intense about this whole wedding v marriage prep thing then it just confirms to me that the problem really is as big as I think it is. It's not weird / odd / wrong for you to prepare for a marriage. A lot of people don't do it but the divorce rate in this country is 50% and this blog post is a huge nod to the reason why. Don't become a statistic just because marriage prep isn't currently the done thing. Post-wedding depression wasn't a 'thing' until end of last year and now everyone's catching on. I can promise you in a couple of years time everyone will be on the marriage prep bandwagon - so why not do the best thing you can for your relationship and start preparing now.
Finally, do you want to do a very basic test to check whether you're getting married for the right reasons? Picture yourself being told that you absolutely have to get married in a registry office with just your family and closest friends there. If the idea makes you horrified and you can't imagine anything worse than I'm afraid it sounds like you're in it for the wedding. You don't have to find the idea thrilling or even particularly great, but you should be prepared to do it and find the positives if it would be the only way to get married to the person you love. Boom, I think i just broke the internet.