Don’t get me wrong, I love planning our wedding. I happily spend lunch breaks reading Wedding Wire, Smashing The Glass and The Knot for vendor reviews (and searching for the perfect flower girl dress!), but I can’t help but realize there is a huge difference between being engaged to your significant other and being engaged WITH your significant other, which many people (and internet search engines) seem to ignore.
When searching “being engaged with your partner,” one of the first articles that popped up was a lengthy list of things to do after getting engaged featuring steps like “tell your parents,” “get a manicure,” and “perfect your proposal story.” While I admit to fulfilling most of the suggestions on the list, I wish it included topics like know each other’s love language or schedule pre-marital counseling. Maybe this thought process is influenced by my counseling education/background or my fear of divorce, but I think emotional engagement is something that needs to be fostered and protected at all stages of a relationship to avoid taking each other for granted and focusing on the unimportant.
All that being said, here is my advice for being engaged WITH your significant other while planning your wedding:
Continue date nights and non-wedding related activities.
When we first got engaged, all I could talk about was getting married and how great our wedding is going to be. While I still believe it’s going to be the best day ever, it can’t be the only thing Harley and I talk about for 16-month engagement period.
I think it’s extremely important to remember what you love about each other and your relationship by continuing to enjoy one another’s company through date nights and shared hobbies even when your wedding is not the topic. For Harley and I, this means we still cheer for our hockey team at least once a week, tease each other over our Fantasy Hockey League standings, and take advantage of our Disney Annual Passes as often as possible. Even if it’s a busy time and we’re just chatting about our day while cooking dinner, the time we spend together is always important and a nice break from work and wedding planning activities.
Show each other gratitude
My favorite class I ever took in college was Positive Psychology, “the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” All of the assignments in this class were focused on gratitude and taught students how to consciously appreciate what we have rather than fixate on what we lack. Although I was 20 years old at the time and the assignments were individualistic, gratitude is a practice that can have an incredibly positive impact on any relationship, and I can’t think of a person more deserving of gratitude than your (soon-to-be) spouse! This person will see you at your best and worst moments, they are promising to love you in sickness and in health, they have decided to spend every day for the rest of their life with you…I think this deserves a little bit of appreciation and celebration!
Now, don’t read this and tell your fiancà© they have to buy you presents to show their gratitude! Planning a wedding can be very expensive, so it’s understandable if you agree not to exchange birthday and/or holiday gifts during your year of planning, but never skip the card.
Take advantage of every chance you get to let your significant other know you appreciate them, whether it’s a quick text while you’re working, a random card to say “I love you,” or a “happy birthday” message on your favorite sports team’s Jumbotron, never miss a chance to show your gratitude. Can you tell we just celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States when I wrote this?
Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’ / Steins/ Cohens
If you’re anything like Harley and I, you’ve been to at least a dozen weddings in the last few years. Every one of them had something spectacular that you remember to this day, and you want your wedding to be just as exciting and memorable. When you find yourself comparing your own wedding plans to one of friends’ or families’, stop right away!
In my opinion, the easiest ways to cause conflict when wedding planning is to compare your situation with someone else’s and/or go over budget to try to impress your guests. With the average wedding budget at an all-time high of almost $30,000, it is important to remember what aspects of the day you and your fiancà© value most and what areas you can compromise in. At the end of the day, you are going to be married to the love of your life, so why cause trouble in paradise to keep up with the Jones’?
Go to pre-marital counseling. Seriously.
This might be the un-sexiest topic to write about in a wedding blog, but it is one that I find to be the most important. One of my counseling professors and I were once talking about weddings and marriage when she said, “People will spend hours and hours discussing wedding decorations and details with their wedding planner, but why will they not spend the time to discuss their actual relationships and marriage with a counselor?”
I was single when we had this conversation, but it is something that has always stuck with me. She’s absolutely right! As an engaged couple, we have spent hours making guest lists, researching venues and vendors, looking at center piece inspiration, etc. But when the perfect day has come and gone, we’ll go from an engaged couple to a family, and important conversations about our values and life’s realities must happen before that.
Many Rabbis offer this service as part of their Officiant Fees, and I truly believe it is something all couples should gift themselves.