“Why are all of these websites geared towards brides?” My fiancé bemoans, throwing his hands up in the air. “Seriously — all of them.”
He’s right, for the most part. The titles or graphic layouts of most of the wedding websites seem to assume that the bride is doing all of this planning by herself, or maybe a bunch of her female friends or relatives. One checklist I found suggested that a great way to get the fiancé involved with the planning is to take him cake tasting — as if he wasn’t involved with any of the rest of it!
My fiancé and I decided to plan our wedding together. Our relationship has been a partnership, and we plan for our marriage to be a partnership; foisting the work on me for the wedding planning is out of sync with our relationship values.
As much as we try to make the planning process a partnership, though, it’s often been a struggle and feels like swimming uphill against our own and others’ expectations. When we went cake tasting, the wonderful woman who was working with us expressed her surprise that the groom was there. When we went to a venue, the coordinator spoke to me only and generally pretended my fiancé wasn’t there.
As we’ve been working through this whole process, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a couple. While the amount of talking can get exhausting, we’re committed to doing this together. As we continue the planning process, we’ll take some of the lessons we’ve learned so far and apply them forward:
1. Don’t assume things about each other’s expectations
Engaged couples tend to think they know their partner’s tastes and desires quite well, especially if they’ve been living together for a while. But my fiancé and I have found that we are continually being surprised. My fiancé was surprised by the fact that in spite of the fact I have a degree in writing, I really didn’t want to write my own vows (way too much pressure for me, thanks). I was surprised that my generally casual fiancé really wanted to wear a three-piece suit for the wedding. Talk through everything. Go through checklists, and express your general visions or thoughts on each of the topics before getting too attached to any one idea.
2. Talk about your emotions about planning
I think that wedding planning is kind of fun. But when I think about setting the date (which requires me to figure out when I’ll finish my dissertation), I get panicked. For my fiancé, talking about wedding planning brings up some family feelings that he’s working through. Knowing these kinds of things about each other changes how and when we talk about planning. Make sure you talk about your feelings about the wedding and wedding planning as separate than your feelings about getting married.
3. Understand your respective planning styles, and work around them
Planning a wedding is more like a work project than a personal one, and many couples have never worked on a big project together before. I’m a writer/anthropologist with a creative bent; my fiancé is an engineer with the Army. We approach things very differently. In the early stages of planning, I would just be spitballing ideas at random times, which would drive him nuts, since he wanted to proceed in a more logical, ordered way. We’ve come to fuse the styles, setting aside time to spitball, then making a logical plan from there. It’s made both of us happier.
4. If something doesn’t work for one of you, it doesn’t work for both of you
This will be an important day for both of us. If there is something that your partner really doesn’t like, then find an alternative. We looked at one venue that I found absolutely charming and perfect; my fiancé thought it was junky. I had to let that place go; it was more important to me that we both enjoy our day and that it was a day about both of us than it was for me to get married at that one venue.
5. Use pictures
“I’d like the tablecloths to, be like… um…” He waves his hands in the air.
“Like…” More hand gestures.
“Here,” I said, shoving my laptop at him. “Google it.”
After a few minutes, he came up with a picture that approximated what he was trying to say. It was charming, and not the weird thing I had been envisioning from his less-than-stellar description. While talking through your ideas is important, a picture is worth a thousand words. Having visual aids prevents one person’s ideas from being shot down before the other person actually understands them.
6. It won’t always be even all the time
I’m waiting for a research visa to come through, so my work time is pretty flexible. My fiancé, on the other hand, has an 8-5 job. Right now, I’m doing more of the wedding work. However, when I start my research, he’ll be the one calling all of the vendors. Trade-offs are going to be a part of the process. I just have to be careful that I don’t take on so much extra work that I get bitter, because society tells me that I should be doing more of the planning work.
Overall, planning a wedding together can be a fun and rewarding process. Try not to lose sight of that while arguing over the color of the cummerbunds.