As many started 2021 digging out from a half of a foot of January snow, somehow the thought of summer weddings felt like the farthest thing from reality. In the same way that we have all shuffled through the COVID-19 pandemic like trudging through the snow, waiting for the journey to get easier, many couples are looking to this year to make their marriage happen.
I have known several people that postponed their nuptials because of the pandemic, hoping that by doing so, they will have the capability of a more “normal” wedding. Obviously, this time spent in limbo has given people the chance to draw out the planning process. For some, that might mean re-thinking the color scheme, size, food and guest list over and over again. For others, it may have resulted in greater anticipation or even just going to the Justice of the Peace. There may be some folks that have had a little too much togetherness with virtual schooling, virtual work and minimal social time for whom the delay has resulted in questions as to the solidity of their relationship. But if couples are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that was 2020 and are moving forward with marital plans, there are some pertinent prenuptial considerations.
Scanning the web, you can quickly find checklists of things to do before the wedding. Certainly, the obvious include what you and everyone else will wear, the décor and feel of the wedding, the food, the invitations, the size and location. However, somehow that work (which is the specialty of wedding planners) is not the most important precursor to the big day that joins two people and their families. Rather, I think there are emotional prenuptial tasks that are just as important to work out prior to the big day with your partner.
Many couples do pursue spiritual counseling with a minister or someone else within their faith community. Depending on the person providing premarital counseling, this preparation can help identify differences in how each individual views the institution of marriage and within which religious and/or spiritual context they see themselves. In addition, it can help two people explore and hopefully articulate life views on social values, gender roles, expectations and the role of spirituality in their personal and joint life with one another.
Another important conversation is that of family. For most couples pursuing a long-term relationship and ultimately marriage, the subject of whether or not they will have children and when is a critical deal breaker if views are sharply different. Occasionally, one person may be swayed to re-consider their thoughts but no one should enter a marriage hoping for the other person to change their mind on pursuing a family or not. Doing so is a recipe for regret, resentment and potentially missed opportunities.
Determining how finances will be approached and managed is another critical, albeit potentially heated, conversation. Certainly formal prenuptial agreements can be relevant if the two people have substantial assets or the desire to do so, but on a much more basic level, it is important to talk through exactly what the bank accounts, daily bill-paying and financial philosophy will look like. I have learned over the years how varied couples' financial arrangements can be from the concept of “it all goes into one big pot” to splitting out specific bills, to one person having complete financial control.
In my opinion, inequity in access to finances should have no role in today's society. Such an approach can become abusive and give undue control to one partner over the other. Whatever your perspective, figure it out beforehand, and ensure that it is fair and reasonable in both partners' eyes.
Lastly, I think an important emotional precursor is that of conflict resolution. Inevitably, there will be challenges when you combine households or make a relationship formally permanent through marriage (with acknowledgment that, according to census data, 39 percent of marriages end in divorce).
Eventually, the honeymoon period ends, life becomes routine, jobs can get better and worse, physical and mental health can fluctuate and you have to learn to ride out these waves in life with your life partner in ways that are healthy for them and for you. You can love someone but still not understand how best to work through their idiosyncrasies, trauma and biases.
We all have some coping skills but also some dysfunction. The challenge is to recognize your partners' strengths and weaknesses as they try to help you when you are struggling and what your strengths and weaknesses are when they are struggling. Embracing this reality and committing to figuring out how each of you needs to navigate tough times is critical in any long-term relationship. Thankfully, we don't have to be our partner's “everything” all the time. It is healthy to have strong friendships so that when our person doesn't “get” us, we have an ear from a good friend. Ultimately, we all hope for that type of love and connection that allows for honesty, vulnerability and each person helping the other person to be the best version of themselves.
So if you are planning a wedding as the world tries to bring this pandemic to a close, figure out all those usual logistics but make an intentional effort and take adequate time to set the stage for an emotionally healthy, equal and supportive relationship that stands the test of time, trials and tribulations. Making it through a pandemic together certainly should count for something.