All relationships go through stages: blissfully dating and falling in love. Growing closer and determining your rhythm as a duo. Moving in together—and dreaming of the future ahead. Popping (and answering) the question, and determining how you’ll celebrate this life-long commitment to one another. Though wedding planning definitely has a stereotype for being over-the-top stressful and causing fights between even the most aligned of couples, it can also be a bonding process. In fact, if newlyweds-to-be take the opportunity to strengthen their communication skills and have compassion and understanding for one another, this period can bring you closer.
As Lexa Bender, MA, a registered mental health counselor intern and registered marriage and family therapist intern says, the key is not getting caught up in the details that won’t matter in ten years—but in the big picture. “Partners can learn about one another through each other’s desires and choices for the wedding. They can see who, and what is important to their partner through their wedding party selections, guest list, and decorative choices,” she continues. “Although the weddings are highly anticipated and planned for, couples should remember that it is just the beginning. The wedding is a door opening to the rest of a couple’s future together.”
One way to see the forest beyond the trees—or the marriage beyond a wedding—is to pause and enjoy the moments of planning that unite you. Here, a few to look forward to:
The moment you define your boundaries together.
Historically, the parents of the bride and groom would front the cost of their children’s big day. While that still happens for some families, modern duos are deciding to pay for the celebration on their own dime—and thus taking back ownership. This choice in itself is a big one for couples to make, according to clinical author and psychologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D. By setting clear and appropriate boundaries with loved ones and deciding together how you would like to approach this time in your life, you present yourself as a unified force. Before you tell anyone of your happy news or decide on any aspect of the wedding, take time to think carefully and critically about what you want together to ensure no lines are blurred or crossed.
The moment when you work as a team.
Likely, you have already experienced how well you work as a team—whether navigating an airport, cleaning up the kitchen or simply getting through a hectic period of work. No relationship can be 50/50 all the time—and the best of couples understand how to give each other support and space when they need it. Even so, psychologist Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. says there is something special about the first time you operate cohesively together during wedding planning. This may be in getting creative to cut costs, being kind to one another as you pair down the guest list, and even attending dance classes to tango through the stress together. The point is, you’re starting a life together, so planning should be a joint effort, too. “As long as you can work together as a true team with respect and inclusion of each other's needs and values in a fair, emotionally-healthy manner, your relationship can deepen even more,” she adds.
The moment you set the date.
For many couples, a wedding doesn’t feel quite real until the date is set. Especially since some duos decided to have a long engagement or have trouble picking a venue, Bender shares there is an undeniable moment of joy when they have a countdown to look forward to, complete with a backdrop they can imagine. “In choosing a venue, the couple is picturing where the beginning of their lives together is going to start. The place that the couple chooses to exchange vows will forever be part of the memories they have saved from that significant day,” she explains. Instead of looking to what’s next on your to-do list, Bender suggests celebrating the big decision over dinner or perhaps an expensive bottle of bubbly.
The moment you figure out how to compromise.
If you have been with your partner for a hot second, you already know the fine art of compromise. Hopefully by now you’re skilled at it—but if you’re not, wedding planning will give you plenty of opportunities to hone your craft. As Dr. Borg explains, there may be conflicts in religious rituals, traditions, expectations and even personal dreams that couples must navigate. If you can look at these moments are an opportunity to bond you tightly together, rather than separate you, it will bode well for the many ebbs-and-flows ahead in your marriage. “There might be agreements, disagreements and even conflicts—but they provide a chance for you both to work to make sure that everything you dreamed and desired, will fitz. And the things that just won’t fit, can’t work, are too filled with conflict or controversy, you will work together to accept,” he explains.
The moment you decide on your registry or wedding gifts.
Romantic comedies are great at showcasing couples playing in department stores, scanning every last item they want for their new life together. Though that still happens for many, most registries have moved digitally, or are skipped if the duo already lives together and has what they need to build a home. This discussion around gifts is a bonding experience, since Bender shares it gives both parties the chance to dream about their future: what will their kitchen look like? What trip will they take? What do they actually need? No matter if you choose a honeymoon fund or decide to upgrade some of your goods, chatting about the future will make you both that much more excited for the adventures—and of course, love—to come.