Melissa and Tom (whose names have been changed to protect their privacy) argued as they drove to meet their vocal coach.
“Why do you want to sing The Wind Beneath My Wings?” she asked. “It’s such a cliché, and I’ll never hear the end of it from my Dad.”
“You’re not doing much better with that Shania Twain song,” Tom rebutted, “Everyone’s going to hear it and remember that Shania Twain’s husband left her for the assistant. Doesn’t bode well, does it?”
Melissa and Tom were determined to make their June wedding an entertaining event, complete with readings by Melissa’s sisters, both of whom are actresses, and additional music by Tom’s brother, who is a singer/songwriter. Melissa wanted to wear a green dress to symbolize her commitment to environmental issues, but Tom worried that people would think it was strange.
So many details! Should they select chairs by price or comfort? Should they go with freesia or flowers that are more showy? Which kind of champagne should they choose for the toast? Chocolate fountain or Viennese table? And then there are the seating charts.
Tom and Melissa spend their non-working hours fighting about, well, everything wedding-related. Tom is beginning to question whether he really wants to marry Melissa, and Melissa wonders why she never noticed how conventional Tom is. Does he really value his uptight relatives’ opinions about the color of her dress more than he cares about her only opportunity to don her dream dress?
Does their situation sound familiar to you? We’ve all known a Bridezilla or two — women who are so over-the-top about the wedding that they forget about the groom. But what happens to couples that get so lost in wedding planning that they forget to focus on the bigger issue — namely, the marriage that lies ahead?
With that question in mind, here are my “lucky seven” suggestions for getting the focus where it belongs, so that you and your fiancé can get your marriage off to a good start:
1. Relax about the appearances, starting with yourself and your fiance.
This is not the time to drop twenty pounds, become a marathon runner or turn him into a gym rat. My client Emma got engaged to Kurt (both names have been changed), booked a personal trainer for three sessions a week, and began a crash diet. Eight months after the wedding, she came to see me because she wasn’t enjoying her life — just as she hadn’t enjoyed her engagement or her wedding.
Thinking back about her wedding, she said, “I have beautiful wedding pictures, but I wish I’d bagged the trainer and the diet and had fun instead! I was a size zero on my wedding day, and Kurt jokingly referred to me as his incredible shrinking bride. He likes curves, but I was stuck on this idea that if I was the thinnest, blondest bride, I’d be the happiest bride.” She laughs ruefully. “So there I was: the most uptight bride. And poor Kurt! I had him biking thirty miles five days a week to get in shape. Not fun!”
2. The devil is in the details.
Usually that phrase means to pay attention to the details, but if you get stuck in all the wedding details, you’re missing the fun. Is anyone really going to remember whether you had the lavender napkins or the deep purple ones? If they do, that’s their problem! I assure you that beveled edges on the cakestand can’t guarantee a good marriage.
3. Stick to your budget.
Your relationship isn’t going to fail if you get married in a garden or a church instead of a Spanish castle, but regardless of the venue, there are choices all along the way that can either break your budget or respect it. Why start your marriage with the stress of unnecessary debt? The wedding is about your commitment to each other; it’s not proof of your magnificence.
4. Don’t stress over the wedding vows.
Approach your wedding vows as something you want to say to your partner, rather than a proclamation to the world of your love or proof of your brilliance. Steve and Betsy (names changed) spent several weekends camped out at opposite ends of their apartment with writer’s block, trying to compose the perfect wedding vows. Would people think the vows were silly? Were they too emotional? Too unconventional? Too sexist?
I suggested that they talk to each other about what they especially love about each other, something they struggle to accept about each other, and take their vows from that. After all, It’s not for Bartlett’s Quotations; it’s for you and your partner. And since you and your partner are not Tom Hanks winning an Academy Award and using the acceptance speech as a love letter to your partner, take the pressure off and remember that the traditional vows are there for a reason. Alternatively, you can look online for some that fit your style.
5. Think of the reception as a fun party for you to enjoy with your friends and family.
One bride’s father had the idea that the reception should be a cabaret show, and it was his responsibility to keep all the guests entertained. The bride and groom wanted something fun and low-key, not a spectacle that demanded everyone’s attention. They put together a playlist of songs that had meaning for them, ones they knew their older relatives enjoyed, and ones they knew would get people out on the dance floor. They looked at the reception as a fun party, not a place to prove their talent, hipness or anything else.
6. If possible, outsource the planning.
Jane’s mother loves planning parties and was thrilled that Jane and Philip (names changed) gave her the basic idea of what they wanted before turning her loose to be creative. Meanwhile, Eliza and Mark (names changed) couldn’t afford a wedding planner and didn’t have relatives who could pitch in, but they had a group of very talented friends who volunteered to manage the various parts. They gave each friend a budget and free rein.
One friend was a sous chef at a fancy restaurant who volunteered to prepare the food, another one did the flowers, Eliza’s brother sang at the ceremony and had musician friends join him to provide music for the party, and Mark’s sister shot video. If you don’t have a close relative with those talents who’s enthusiastic about taking on the plans, hire a wedding planner.
7. Remember that you and your partner are on the same side!
Your partner may not be as interested in all of the “stuff” as you are, whether it’s registry “stuff” or what type of wedding you have. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong or doesn’t care about you. It just means that he’s not you.
Not everyone has an opinion about everything connected with the wedding. He may be more focused on planning a fun trip and enjoying being together when the whole thing’s done. He may be more interested in marrying you than in being your groom. When you have a difference of opinion or approach, stop and say — aloud, or to yourself — “I think we’ve forgotten we’re on the same team, which is the whole point! Let me do something warm to connect with you.”
These “lucky seven” tips are variations on a theme: It’s the marriage that’s important. If you and your partner can stay on the same side, relax about appearances, compromise and have fun with each other along the way, you’ve learned some of the basics of a happy marriage!