Ah, wedding planning. Few events manage to bring such joy while simultaneously raining down a relentless torrent of stress and anxiety.
If you’re reading this and are either engaged or planning to be soon (fingers crossed!), you might be feeling mixed emotions right now. On one hand, you’re blissfully excited about your special day, and can’t wait to experience the wedding of your dreams with your best friend. On the other hand, you’re wondering how much of your emotional and mental energy should be put into said planning before it becomes overly disruptive to your life.
To be sure, planning your wedding is an exciting endeavor. However, you don’t want to lose sight of what’s more important: the type of marriage you are building.
Check out these common mistakes couples make during their engagement, and see if any of them resonate with your engagement experiences to date. If you’re just getting started, great! Hopefully you’ll be able to get ahead of it a bit and avoid some pitfalls. If you’re already married, take a look back on your engagement and see what lessons you can learn about how you and your spouse approach life and your priorities.
1) Planning your wedding instead of building your marriage
The most important advice anyone gave me while my wife and I were engaged was to start looking beyond the wedding day right from the get-go. We had some great friends during our engagement who shared a lot of their successes and failures, and it helped our perspective a lot.
This notion that our engagement should be a time where we really prepare for marriage seemed obvious at first, but it became pretty clear once the intensity and rigor of the wedding planning schedule kicked in that we had to make it a priority to build our marriage first and foremost.
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
In this passage, both people experience storms. But they handle the storms differently. In marriage, we will all experience storms of some kind – health challenges, financial challenges, or just the challenge of remaining faithful to one another. The question is, how strong will your foundation be when those storms of life come?
Think of your engagement as a time where you and your future spouse are building the foundation of your marriage. What you choose to prioritize, the level of depth in your conversations, the questions you ask each other, the understanding of the dynamic and interplay of your complementary weaknesses and strengths – all of these should be higher on the priority list for you than picking your wedding colors and planning your dream honeymoon.
Find a few married couples you respect and plan regular times to meet up with them in the months before your wedding. Use these times to talk about how to build a strong foundation for your marriage. What do you need to work on when it comes to communicating honestly? How do you handle conflicts? What physical or emotional health challenges do you and/or your future spouse struggle with, and how will those challenges affect your marriage?
Taking time to ask yourselves these questions and more will help you build a relationship that is strong enough to handle the storms life will bring you.
2) Sinking too much money into your wedding
A big issue engaged couples face is how much exactly to put into the event itself. The more we daydream about our wedding, the more elaborate (see: expensive) it can become. Another great piece of advice I got from a friend during my engagement: “your wedding is just one day, but your debt will last much longer.” It was a point I took to heart, but not until I battled with the greedy and selfish desires within me that wanted an event so lavish, so opulent that it would make Phyllis Vance blush:
15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)
Weddings have a way of bringing out worldly desires we didn’t even know we had. Before you were engaged, you may have thought you would be happy with just a ring and your future spouse. But as you begin looking at venues, dresses, and catering choices you may find yourself thinking “Well, if we just spent a little more it would look so nice…” and suddenly you really care whether or not your Aunt Martha thinks your invitations look cheap. It’s important to keep your worldly desires in check because they may lead you to make decisions that will hurt your faith and your future marriage.
I would strongly encourage any engaged person reading this to dig deep and be honest with yourself about what you really need for your wedding. When my then-fiancée and I sat down and looked at our wedding budget, we each made a personal priority list of what we really wanted for our wedding. The wedding dress and location (with plenty of parking for friends and family) were important to her, and photography was important to me.
After that, we set a budget goal, and then worked our hardest to keep ourselves within that limit while considering what was most important to us. Sacrifices were made, but we were resolved not to put ourselves in a position where we would come out of our wedding having blown a ton of cash that we would have needed for savings or expenses. It wasn’t going to be worth hurting ourselves financially because we had a materialistic desire for frills.
All that being said, if you are really well off and a $50,000 bill is a drop in the bucket for you, then hey, go for it. Just remember to keep your heart in check, and consider the next point…
3) Making your wedding only about you
Calling this one a mistake may be a bit harsh. Missed opportunity, perhaps? I’m talking about weddings that are planned with the sole purpose of creating a magical experience for yourself at the expense of accessibility for friends and family. I don’t mean to be controversial here – there’s nothing inherently wrong with planning an epic celebration for your union. It’ll be one of the most important days of your life! But, it’s worth considering that there’s a way to plan your wedding in a way that is both encouraging to you and impactful for others.
21 In the same way, I’ve made a life outside the law to gather those who live outside the law (although I personally abide by and live under the Anointed One’s law). 22 I’ve been broken, lost, depressed, oppressed, and weak that I might find favor and gain the weak. I’m flexible, adaptable, and able to do and be whatever is needed for all kinds of people so that in the end I can use every means at my disposal to offer them salvation.
1 Corinthians 9:21-22 (Voice)
In this scripture, we see Paul’s heart to always think of ways to encouage and impact others. I get that this may feel counterintuitive, since your wedding is, by definition, all about you. It’s your special day! And you should definitely live it up. However, your wedding is also an incredible opportunity to make a strong impact on the people you care about. It’s a rare chance to bring together in one place your family, your dearest friends, and your acquaintances (coworkers, neighbors, etc) that you may wish to strengthen your bonds with.
When you are planning your wedding, think about what your goals are – beyond just planning a beautiful or impressive event. Consider the date and location of your wedding; will your friends and family be able to be there?
Engagement can be a lot of fun and a memorable time for you and your future spouse. Take time to consider how to build a strong foundation, figure out your financial priorities, and consider how your wedding can encourage your family and friends and you’ll be on your way to a happier marriage!