Not all couples who become engaged are interested in the nitty-gritty of wedding planning. In fact, even the most committed partners sometimes seem more interested in watching Sunday football than planning the big day. In order to crack open the psyche of uninterested partners—and create a playbook that pleases both parties—we consulted with Jean G. Fitzpatrick, one of New York City’s best couples therapists, to chart a course around this tricky subject. Read on for her expert tips to keep your #weddingplanninggoals from ruining your relationship.
Pick a Date
Fitzpatrick encourages brides to treat the talk as a meeting by selecting a time and date for the discussion so that both parties can prepare. “Start at the beginning by comparing notes on the big picture,” Fitzpatrick recommends. “Sit down together and talk all about your visions—yours and his—for the wedding and reception.” Most importantly, she states, “Take his ideas seriously.” Whether your partner requests a fried food buffet in lieu of a sit-down dinner or a trampoline ceremony, listen carefully and consider all ideas instead of abruptly dismissing them.
Pull Inspiration From Your Partner’s Favorite Events
One surefire way to get your groom excited about the wedding? Cull ideas from past events that he has raved about. “He's probably not going to get into Pinterest, but the two of you can look at photos and a few short videos online, and compare notes on weddings you've attended,” Fitzpatrick suggests. “What stood out? What was touching and meaningful? What do you want to be sure to avoid?” Incorporate elements from events you’ve both enjoyed in the past to promote enthusiasm in your partner about the impending nuptials.
Split up Your Discussion to Minimize Stress
If the notion of one big, overarching conversation about wedding planning is causing your partner palpitations, try breaking the talk into smaller pieces. “Avoid talking about the wedding every waking moment," Fitzpatrick advises brides with squeamish partners. “Instead, schedule regular meetings to discuss specific aspects of the planning... Together you can assign certain tasks to each partner and report back to each other.” They say the longest journey begins with a single step, so why not treat your wedding the same way?
Keep Fighting Words off the Table
If your partner has adopted a blasé attitude about the wedding, chances are you’re already on the offensive to protect your vision. However, Fitzpatrick cautions, it’s crucial to maintain the attitude of a team player to avoid conflict with your groom. The therapist recommends a simple conflict resolution approach to counter negativity and prevent a verbal boxing match. “At your meeting, describe the situation in as neutral a way as possible,” says Fitzpatrick. “The observation-with-a-request-for-change model works well for many couples: ‘I've noticed that there's a difference between us in terms of how much time we want to spend on the wedding planning, and I'm concerned I'm going to be overwhelmed with work. I'd like us to make a list of tasks and choose assignments for each of us.’”
Give Your Groom an Assignment
An involved groom is a happy groom, Fitzpatrick wisely points out. During your meeting, discover what part of the wedding truly excites your partner, and give your groom the task of planning this particular component. “Even if your fiancé says he's happy with whatever you want for the wedding, encourage him to participate in decision-making,” Fitzpatrick counsels couples. “This is likely to be your first big project as a couple, and doing it as a team is a giant step in creating a partnership marriage, which all the research tells us is the most fulfilling arrangement for both partners.”
Bring Finances Into the Picture... Without Causing Conflict
Fitzpatrick implores couples to remember one underlying stressor that can put a damper on wedding plans when unaddressed: finances. “The cost of a wedding can put severe stress on couples. Shortly after the engagement, it's a good idea to sit down together and get clear on your financial resources—savings, earnings, contributions from family, and so on... Then decide together with your fiancé on a realistic and appropriate wedding budget,” Fitzpatrick urges couples. Furthermore, she explains, “If you decide to use a wedding planner, be sure she knows what it is and will work with it.” When money concerns are off the table, you may find that a significant wedding planning weight is lifted from your shoulders.
Fitzpatrick reminds brides that individuals process the transition from singledom to married life differently. “An engagement is an emotional time. Partners are excited and happy but they are also dealing with feelings about the end of single life, the addition of in-laws, future responsibilities to each other and possible children, and sometimes worries about whether they've chosen ‘The One,’" Fitzpatrick explains. Sometimes, enlisting the help of a mediator is the best solution for a couple with differing opinions on their engagement. “It's very important to take commitment seriously, but if commitment fears get really strong, couples therapy may be a good idea.”