Wedding planning is basically a part-time job, even if you’re working with an experienced planner.
Given how high-stress planning can be, it’s no surprise that couples tend to butt heads in the weeks and months leading up to the big day. Below, marriage therapists share the six most common arguments couples have before walking down the aisle and how to address each.
1. HIS PARENTS WON’T STOP MEDDLING IN OUR WEDDING PLANS.
You and your partner have already chosen the flowers, cake flavor and wedding band. Unfortunately, your soon-to-be mother-in-law has some very strong opinions on those subjects, and her preferences clash with yours. If your partner caves to his or her parents’ wishes, that could easily cause strife in your relationship, said Margaret Rutherford, a psychologist in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“This isn’t about the cake. It’s about how strongly a couple holds on to their fairly new commitment to one another when in a strong ― maybe even controlling ― family member’s presence.”
If you’re a people pleaser ― or just an incorrigible parent pleaser ― use this pre-wedding period to show your S.O. that ultimately your allegiance lies with him or her.
“This is an opportunity to build trust and a sense of respected partnership,” Rutherford said. “You and your partner need to talk about how you envision your relationships with both sets of parents. Discuss what kinds of information needs to stay between the two of you and what can be shared. You’re likely to have different ideas and need to create a compromise.”
2. THIS WEDDING IS COSTING AN ARM AND A LEG — AND WE’RE ALREADY ON UNSURE FINANCIAL FOOTING.
Weddings are ungodly expensive, which is why flare-ups about finances often occur during the planning process. One minute you’re bickering about the price tag on catering packages, and the next you’re hounding each other about when you’ll each pay off your student debt.
If issues do crop up, lean into the moment and talk about how you feel about your shared financial future, said Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.
“The sooner you identify and discuss your values, the sooner you can see where there are differences,” she said. “No one values all the same things. The key is to protect those financial values you care about most and smooth as many differences as possible. Understanding your collective values, and translating it into a financial plan, can help you build a life and future you can trust.”
3. I’M STILL NOT OVER THAT THING WE FOUGHT ABOUT YEARS AGO, AND OUR WEDDING IS WEEKS AWAY.
Tensions over unresolved issues ― an affair, for instance, or any other slip in judgment ― often come to a head prior to a wedding, even if it happened years ago, said Rosemary Lichtman, a psychologist and the co-author of Whose Couch Is It Anyway? Moving Your Millennial.
“Even if they have worked through the long process of healing, the offended party may again experience feelings of vulnerability, anger and distrust,” she said. “Responding to this challenge by reopening paths to open and honest communication can bring a new acceptance, resiliency and commitment to the relationship.”
The good news, according to Licthman? “Just as a broken bone is never the same but sometimes heals stronger, the new marriage can endure the severe break in trust caused by a past [transgression].”
4. SHE WON’T LET ME INVITE WHOM I WANT.
You’re really pushing for your frat buddies to make the guest list. Your bride-to-be couldn’t be less enthusiastic about them getting an invite. Cue the argument.
More than likely you end up feeling as if your voice doesn’t count or that your judgment calls are less important than your partner’s, said Carolina Castaños, a marriage and family therapist in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the creator of the breakup program MovingOn.
“It’s not really about the guest list or the number of people you want to invite. The underlying issue is that one of you feels like you don’t have a voice,” she said. “Fighting about guests, or the tablecloth or anything that creates intense emotions is not really the issue. On a deeper level, you’re asking your partner, ‘Do you love me? Am I important to you? Are my decisions important to you?’”
5. SHE’S NOT HELPING ENOUGH WITH OUR WEDDING PLANS OR AROUND THE HOUSE.
You can’t work on the seating arrangements, take last-minute calls with the caterer and do all the work and chores around the house. If the load is getting too heavy, it’s essential to call a time-out and discuss divisions of labor, Clark said.
“Divide things up based on what you are each good at and don’t mind doing. And for the chores you both hate, divide them evenly,” she said. “You are laying down habits for your life together; taking time to get it right is time well spent.”
6. HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THIS WEDDING IS TO ME.
Blame it on Pinterest. Blame it on all the stalking you’ve done of wedding hashtags on Instagram, but somewhere along the line, you started to envision your dream wedding and now you’re super invested in it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but tension could arise if your partner seems disinterested by comparison.
“Not discussing expectations about the wedding and roles ahead of time can lead to conflict and stress,” said Phyllis Goldberg, a marriage and family therapist and the co-author of Whose Couch Is It Anyway? Moving Your Millennial.
If you ducked out of an earlier conversation, now is the time to broach the subject: Talk about how you envision your wedding, but also remind each other that your relationship is about so much more than a wedding and getting the twinkly lights right at your reception.
“Try to support each other,” Goldberg said. “Ask for what you need and share responsibilities. Recognize that this is just a wedding, not a marriage. Focus on the marriage. Putting your relationship first is an emotional investment in the future.”