June marks the beginning of wedding season. According to the wedding website The Knot, 80 percent of weddings take place between May and October each year. In 2021 there were a total of 1,934,982 weddings in the U.S. After postponing and re-postponing their nuptials because of COVID, 2.5 million people are expected to be married this year–a 15 percent increase from 2021.
COVID-19 has shaken up the so-called traditional wedding “rules” and partners are now celebrating their nuptials in increasingly non-traditional ways. After waiting for two years to get married, couples feel less pressure to participate in religious or conventional wedding traditions that aren’t meaningful to them and are less likely to have a wedding party, walk down the aisle with their parents, throw their bouquets, or have the ceremony conducted by a religious figure.
The millions of people getting married this wedding season are planning these celebrations–whatever they might look like–in the context of inflation, continuing supply chain issues, rumors of a recession, and the uncertainty that comes with new COVID-19 variants. It is vital that, despite these stressors, couples keep the desire to make a deeper commitment to their relationship at the center of the celebration. Here is a list of essential conversations couples who are getting ready to walk down the aisle should have:
Create boundaries with each of your families of origin
Leading up to the wedding, couples may feel a lot of pressure from their family of origin to center certain beliefs, rituals, and values in their wedding ceremony. However, a wedding marks the creation of a new family. You and your partner need to decide on what is important to the family you are building–whether that family will involve children or not–and set up boundaries with family members to protect those values.
Discuss having children
Many of my clients were ambivalent about having children at the time of their wedding. They were enjoying their time as a couple and thought that they would make decisions about children down the road. However, I’ve found it vital to the longevity of a relationship for couples to enter into marriage having discussed their long-term desires to be a parent. Critical questions include, “Do you want to be a parent in your lifetime?”, “How do you imagine us parenting together?”, and “Why would we decide to bring children into the world at this time?”.
It takes a village
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to support a couple. Modern marriages tend to come with an expectation that a person’s partner will provide them with everything they need. But one person cannot realistically meet all of the emotional, psychological, practical, sexual, and social needs of another person. Building community outside of your marriage–particularly of people who support that marriage–is so important to the long-term success of the relationship.
Tell your partner you appreciate them
When a couple first starts to date they often tell each other what they find special, beautiful, and enthralling about their partner. After some time, couples tend to stop verbalizing what they appreciate about their partner. People have a deep need to be seen, witnessed, and celebrated. Verbalizing what you appreciate about your partner, whether they are the same reasons you fell in love with them or ways they have grown or adapted over time, is vital to the success of a relationship.
Define what monogamy means to each partner
When getting married, couples often express their commitment to monogamy and fidelity. But what those concepts specifically mean to each person is often only discussed after one person feels the agreement has been broken. One partner may think that a drunken kiss or online video chat with someone outside of the relationship does not break their commitment while the other person feels betrayed. Once one person feels the agreement has been broken, the couple is in crisis mode and discussing how monogamy and fidelity are defined is extremely difficult to do. It is vital they happen at the start of a marriage.
Be your partner’s emissary to your family of origin
Wedding planning is notoriously stressful and can be a source of conflict for partners and their families. If your partner is in conflict with someone in your family, it is important that you step in, represent your partner’s interests, and work to resolve the conflict on their behalf. You have a history of resolving differences and conflicts with your family members that your partner does not. They may need help representing their views and good intentions. Showing support for your partner and representing their wishes is critical to family integration and will benefit your marriage in the long run.
Discuss religious and spiritual beliefs and practices
Engaging in deep conversations about your current and historical religious and spiritual beliefs is vital to any new marriage. While your partner may not be following any religious practices or rituals now, they may have an emotional relationship to those traditions that may crop up later on in their lifetime–particularly in the context of raising children. For example, the idea of having a Christmas tree or going to temple for high holidays may not have deep religious meaning for one partner, and strike the other as counter to the spiritual upbringing they want for their children. Understanding how both you and your partner would want to raise children in relation to religion and spirituality is key.
While these conversations are critical before a couple walks down the aisle, they are also conversations that would benefit any couple at any stage in their relationship. Particularly because people change! How a person feels about having children, monogamy, or spirituality might shift several times over the course of a marriage. Having these conversations ahead of the wedding will lay the groundwork for an open line of communication over a lifetime about your individual needs and desires and your marriage as a whole.