I was at a Starbucks when, by chance, I met up with Clare (names changed), a bride whose wedding I officiated several years ago. Everything that could have gone wrong with her wedding did. And by “everything” I’m not exaggerating.
The florist had mixed-up the flowers for her bouquet. The tablecloths were the wrong color. The musicians were late. The shuttle van from the hotel broke down and guests were stranded for half an hour. Shortly before the ceremony, the zipper on her dress broke. The ceremony was delayed more than an hour.
Through it all she remained calm. Not once did she get angry. I was in awe of her and now, finally, I could ask how she did it. She said, “It was the happiest day of my life and Patrick (groom) and I had decided that we wouldn’t let anything ruin our happiness.”
She told me that the ceremony was beautiful (thank you!) and that she and Patrick and their guests had a blast at the reception, despite mixed-up flowers and linens.
The months leading up to the wedding had their own stress beginning with her dad pressuring them to get married in the Catholic Church. Since she and Patrick are not regular churchgoers, she thought it’d be hypocritical. Still, her father tried to do a guilt trip on her. Oh, and her father was divorced twice and married three times!
Her mother told her that she didn’t want anything to do with her ex-husband’s third wife and didn’t want the woman sitting in the front row even though Clare’s dad was paying for the wedding, The mother was friends with the second wife and wanted that woman to sit next to her in the front row even though Clare’s dad and this woman were no longer on speaking terms.
A few weeks before their wedding, at our last meeting, when I asked them how they were doing, I remember Patrick saying: “Well, we’re learning to say ‘I’m sorry’ to each other a lot faster than we used to.” We laughed, BUT he did speak to an important issue—communication.
Patrick recognized that the only way he and Clare could protect and keep each other sane was by making time to talk with each other while dreaming of and planning for their wedding.
Over the years I’ve seen the startling difference between couples who communicate with trust and confidence and those who are stuck in a rut of complaining and accusing. The former celebrate their wedding day with sparkling eyes while the later struggle just to survive the day.
I’m convinced that you’ll outwit the wackiness and inevitable frustrations of your wedding planning only if you and your partner talk with each other—in ways that are healthy and honest.
In the hope of helping you reach the end of your planning a little less dazed and confused, let me remind you of seven truths you mustn’t lose sight of.
1. You are a couple. Protect each other. Is your mother or some other family member or friend complaining about “that person” you’re marrying? The time to set boundaries is now—not after your wedding. We train people how to treat us. If you allow family or friends to insult your partner, your relationship is doomed.
2. You are a couple. You are not victims. Take responsibility for your wants, needs, wishes, feelings, and choices. All of these have consequences. If family or friends are upset, consider their input and then do what honors the reality of who you are as a couple. With courage, embrace the responsibilities and consequences or your choices.
3. You are a couple. Again I say—establish boundaries. You are not a pair of children playing house. People owe you respect. Do what is needed to receive that respect. Say “no” when needed. Understand you cannot please everyone. Respect your right to feelings. Recall that you cannot change anyone. Refuse to be taken advantage of.
4. You are a couple. You are each other’s home. And from that place of home, you may have to have conversations with family or friends that are “sticky.” Your family members are consistent. No one is going to change. Be prepared for all those old familiar buttons being pushed.
5. You are a couple. Whatever challenges one of you may encounter see them as being shared by the two of you. Do not keep things bottled up inside. Speak from a place of “I”—do not begin with “you this” and “you that.” Don’t accuse, don’t yell, and don’t be sarcastic. Resist becoming defensive--take responsibility for your share of the situation without assuming a posture of guilt.
6. You are a couple. Remind each other of your love.
7. You are a couple. Laugh your heads off. It’s all whack-a-doo!
Remember: while planning your wedding, your first responsibility is to be kind to each other and to protect each other from all forms of unkindness!