Wedding planning is all fun and games until your first big conflict with your partner. Maybe it’s from the stress and pressure, or maybe it’s simply over a disagreement on who should be invited. Whatever the source of the conflict may be, wedding planning can bring up issues in a relationship, and that’s normal! With all of the decision-making and compromise that goes on in wedding planning, it’s no wonder that conflicts and disagreements tend to occur a little more frequently than usual. Below we will discuss some effective ways to handle conflicts and disagreements during the wedding planning process.
Understanding the Root Cause of Conflicts
Understanding the root cause of conflicts is essential in preventing and resolving conflicts. Conflicts during wedding planning can arise due to a few reasons, such as differences in opinions, values, interests, and expectations, or simply from elevated stress levels leading to arguments.
To identify the root cause of conflicts, you and your partner must demonstrate self-awareness, active listening, and empathy. By understanding the other person’s perspective, feelings, values, and motivations, you can address conflicts more effectively and prevent them from happening in the future.
An example of what may be considered the root cause of conflict between a couple (stemming from wedding planning) could be a difference in opinion. The couple might disagree as to who to invite and/or the size of the guest list. One person may want to keep the list small and invite only a select few (this, in turn, keeps the budget in check), while the other person wants to invite a large number of people (making the budget stretch). This difference in opinion can lead to arguments, stress, and overall strain on the relationship.
Understanding that the difference in guest list opinions is causing this strain is the best place to launch into resolution.
Effective communication is crucial in resolving conflicts during the wedding planning process. What is effective communication? Well, it involves expressing yourself clearly and listening actively to your partner’s perspective.
When you are expressing yourself clearly, it is important to use “I” statements, which focus on one’s own feelings and experiences rather than placing blame on the other person. For example, saying, “I feel overwhelmed by the wedding planning process,” is more effective than saying, “You’re not helping me enough with the wedding planning.”
Active listening involves paying attention to the other person’s words, tone, and body language and seeking to understand their side of things. It is important to avoid interrupting or judging the other person and, instead, focus on truly listening to what they are saying.
By communicating effectively, misunderstandings can be avoided, and conflicts can be prevented or resolved in a constructive manner.
For example, if the couple is at a stalemate with how many guests to invite, both spouses should take turns expressing their opinions, using “I” statements” and without putting the blame on the other person. While one person is talking, the other should be actively listening to try to really understand why their partner wants what they want. Perhaps they will discover that one party has always dreamt of a small wedding while the other person only wants a big wedding to receive more wedding gifts. They can now make an easier decision, and find it easier to compromise, once they see the true meaning behind their partner’s opinions.
Establishing Priorities and Boundaries
Establishing priorities and boundaries is another key element in preventing and resolving conflicts during wedding planning. Couples should set their priorities and boundaries early on in the planning process or as soon as they realize there are some conflicts.
Here are some boundaries and priorities to consider:
- Setting a budget
- Choosing a venue
- Selecting vendors
- Planning responsibilities
- Determining the wedding day timeline
- Deciding on the guest list
- Family involvement
- And more.
So, how do you align priorities and boundaries? First, be clear about what is negotiable and what your non-negotiables are. This can help prevent conflicts from arising later in the planning process. For example, maybe you’re totally lenient on everything except for family involvement. You want to make sure the process is totally private and intimate between you and your partner, and you don’t want input from either family. On the flip side, your partner is totally okay with compromising on everything except the venue. They are dead set on having the venue at their favorite childhood restaurant growing up.
Remember, the way to succeed at establishing priorities and boundaries involves both spouses being willing to compromise. While it is important to have priorities and boundaries, it is also important to be flexible and open to change according to your partner’s priorities and boundaries, too (and they should do the same for you). Couples can often find a middle ground by discussing their priorities and boundaries openly and looking for creative solutions that work for both parties.
Involving a Third Party
Involving a third party, such as a wedding planner, mediator, counselor/therapist, or friend/family member, can be an excellent method to prevent and resolve issues during the wedding planning process. How? Well, a third party can provide an unbiased perspective and help you and your partner find a solution that works for you both.
A professional wedding planner can provide guidance and support throughout the planning process and offer best practices, advice, and suggestions based on their extensive experience. This may help clarify things and resolve issues of differences in opinion on certain wedding planning topics.
If conflicts arise between the couple and their families (e.g., too much or too little family involvement in the process), a family mediator can help mediate discussions and find a solution that works for everyone involved. This may be through facilitating effective communication, setting boundaries, and other techniques.
Counselor or therapist
Sometimes, couples therapy is needed, especially if conflicts are popping up because of differences in values or expectations in the relationship. A therapist or counselor can assist in exploring emotions and motivations. On top of that, they can provide tools and strategies to facilitate effective communication, set boundaries, and manage stress.
Trusted friend or family member
A trusted friend or family member can provide a listening ear and offer support and guidance throughout the wedding planning process to one or both parties. While you may want to tread lightly when it comes to involving friends and family, when done right, it can be a major weight off both of your chests to just simply talk it out with someone else.
Taking a Break
Wedding planning can be overwhelming, and conflicts can arise due to stress and fatigue. Taking a break from wedding planning can help alleviate stress and prevent conflicts. Couples should make time for themselves and each other and engage in activities that they enjoy.
Here are some ways you and your partner can take a break during this stressful time:
- Deep breathing exercises: Youtube has a plethora of breathing/meditation exercises that you can try out.
- Factoring in time in your planning process to NOT do anything wedding related. This can help clear your mind and recenter yourself.
- Plan a date night to unwind: if your absolute favorite thing to do together is going to a Michelin-star restaurant or hiking, then give yourself the space to do that and reset!
Don’t forget to set a time limit on the breaks and communicate your intentions to each other. You don’t want to take a break from wedding planning unbeknownst to your honey and have them wondering what the heck is going on! And you also want to avoid taking too much time off; otherwise, your planning may be thrown off track.
Compromise and Flexibility
Compromise and flexibility are essential to a successful wedding planning process. Couples should be willing to compromise on certain aspects of the wedding to accommodate each other’s preferences. Being flexible and open to change can also prevent conflicts from arising.
How do you make sure you’re staying flexible? Here are some tips:
- Identify shared interests: finding common ground can help you compromise on other areas that may not be as important to you both as a team.
- Brainstorm for creative solutions: If Spouse A loves the color pink for the wedding and Spouse B hates it, maybe put your heads together to think of how you can still include pink without offending Spouse B. Or leaving pink out and Spouse B can compromise on another area of the wedding to even it out.
- Focus on the big picture: When it boils down to it, whether it’s the color scheme, the chairs, the venue, or the food, what is the most important part of the wedding? Your love and commitment to each other, of course!
- Actively listen: Pay attention to your partner’s tone, body language, and words when they are telling you their perspective. This can help parse out what’s really important to them and what’s less important so you can prioritize flexibility on the important stuff.
At the end of the day, some level of conflict is inevitable during any relationship, especially during the wedding planning process. But don’t worry; it can be managed effectively with effective communication, establishing priorities and boundaries, possibly involving a third party, taking a break, and being willing to compromise and be flexible. By understanding the root cause of conflicts and working together, you are sure to get through this phase and make it out on the other side: your special wedding day and a lifetime full of happiness!
David F Khalili is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, board-certified sexologist, author of Mental Health Workbook for Men, founder of Rouse Relational Wellness, a boutique sex and relationship therapy center serving San Francisco and all of California, and recently started Rouse Academy, an online learning platform to address sex and anxiety. You can learn more about David’s practice at rousetherapy.com.