I love a good mail day. Tony knows how giddy I get over handwritten letters and cards, so when he brought in the mail the other day, he made sure the red envelope addressed to Mr. Tony and Mrs. Michelle Peterson was right on top. I love opening an envelope. I love the feel of textured cardstock in my hands. I thought it might be an early someone-is-super-on-top-of-it Christmas card. Even better, it was a Save the Date for a wedding next summer! YES! I LOVE weddings!
The gown. The music. The venue. The cake. I love all of the ideas. Planning a wedding is dreamy. There are plenty of magazines to help you out, plenty of shows about the perfect dress or the most luxurious destination. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest to keep your mind in day-of-perfection-land for weeks. I love it and at the same time I’m a little bit afraid of it. I get excited for my engaged friends, and I worry for them, too. I wonder, in all of the details of planning their wedding, have they made room for planning their marriage?
We didn’t. Well, we did, but not really. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in our Finding a Mentor post, we sought out premarital counseling and then dropped it like a hot potato. We were way too busy planning our wedding to listen to this guy with his monotone wisdom give us any warnings about the future. Plus, the wedding magazines had pretty covers on them and tasting wedding cakes was much more fun than seeking out a book to read together or even talking to each other very much about our plans for life AFTER the wedding.
Fortunately, we started a mentoring relationship within our first year of marriage. But, as I’ve come to find out, that’s not very common. Couples spend months, sometimes years, planning for their special day, without much thought of the day they get home from the honeymoon. And I am certain that when two people stand in front of each other wearing the nicest clothes they’ve ever worn, being stared at by everyone they know, cheeks hurting from too much smiling – I am certain that they do not imagine what it could look like to get a divorce. Statistics tell us that 86% of people who get married imagine they will be together for the rest of their lives. Statistics also tell us that only half of them will be.
So, is it not enough in the beginning to want to be together forever? No, apparently it isn’t. Forever, it turns out, is a really long time. During forever, we go through car accidents, lose jobs, have babies, lose babies, buy a home, get foreclosed on, get older, get less attractive, cut carbs, binge on alcohol, burn dinner, and yell at each other. Forever is a long time. I usually think, as we make our vows and watch other people make theirs, that we really are not capable of keeping them at the moment they are uttered. We might have every intention, but we have a road of life ahead of us that we cannot see. As overwhelming as wedding planning can be, getting married is not so difficult. Staying married is more difficult than anyone can imagine. But, as I’ve witnessed time and time again, divorce is MUCH more difficult.
So, in a culture determined to sell you on the wedding, and with little care for helping you protect your marriage, I wonder what planning your marriage could look like. There is a surplus of wedding checklists available to brides. If I could dream up the Marriage Planning Checklist, here’s what it might look like:
CLICK HERE to download a printable version of this list.
I can safely say that a lot of the ideas you spend time and money on for your wedding day will ultimately get overlooked by you and by your guests. They are not going to have a great impact on your marriage one way or the other. Tony and I have been guests at a 500-person wedding full of lavish touches and then watched the relationship end in divorce. We have also not been invited to elopements and known couples that are still together decades later. Whether you are having a backyard potluck wedding or a grand ballroom soiree, what matters in the end is the way you handle your relationship with your spouse.
Most of the items on the Marriage Planning Checklist involve talking to each other. It seems to me that wedding planning involves mostly shopping and very little talking. I love paper and ribbon and all of the creative and special details that go into a party, and I am certainly NOT saying that you shouldn’t have fun planning your wedding. Go as big or as small as you want and have a great time doing it! What I am saying is that after your one-time big event, there is a lifetime relationship that will need constant attention. More than any other factor, learning to have conversations with your spouse about absolutely everything will set you up for long term success. Your views on some things will probably change over time and with experience, but your ability to verbally work through your thoughts with one another will give you a solid foundation on your way to #staymarried.
P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have engaged or newly-married friends you think it would benefit, please consider sharing. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!