Dr. Liz Hale
Today’s Segment taken from experts from “The First Dance” by Dr. William Doherty
Nothing in a couple’s life demands more decisions, large and small, than a wedding! The check-list is endless…photographer, flowers, food, favors, family fights…..oops, did I say that? Most brides and grooms will tell you that it’s not dealing with the details of the event that are the most difficult; it’s dealing with the people. So, when tying the knot how do you avoid tying the knot around the necks of the people whom you love the most?
Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale some ideas.
A wedding is the grandest family act on the big stage of life. Sometimes they are like Greek tragedies: you end of bringing about exactly what you were trying to avoid. Weddings involve money, religion, dreams, tastes, and values….and it feels like all of it is on display for the whole world to see. Sadly, there are also social expectations, family competition, and endless wedding comparisons.
Some people say that a couple really shouldn’t worry about the wedding because it’s the marriage that counts. But I don’t necessarily agree. Marriage is indeed a life-long project but the wedding itself is part of that foundation. Couples begin building their marriage by planning their wedding. How you communicate during your planning stays with you. How you deal with your differences, how you support each other, and how you negotiate with each other’s families lays a template for your future.
When you marry someone, you truly do marry their family. As soon as you announce your engagement, you become an in-law. You now not only have your own loveable (sometimes difficult) family to work with, but another family system with their own demanding (but loving) cast of characters. What makes in-laws unique is that they are both family and non-family. We usually have to work at bonding, accepting, and understanding our in-laws; it’s usually not love at first-sight. Even if you are crazy about your sweethearts’ family and they are crazy about you, know that there will be challenges ahead as you form a new family together. There will be days when it feels crazy-making, believe me, so don’t let that surprise you and throw you off course!
It seems that brides and grooms approach weddings so differently. As women, we have a lot of thoughts and ideas about it; we’ve been planning this day for most of our lives! while men haven’t really considered it much. That’s why this first tip makes a lot of sense:
Team-Up, Talk It Over
Especially before you involve others in the planning process.) A man often defers the decision-making to his bride. But let’s not let him off the hook! Everyone has opinions and hopes for their wedding….but some of us just have a more difficult time articulating it. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do. Brides can help their grooms by saying, “tell me more,” or “give me an example.”
Also, while the temptation for the groom is to say nothing is a big deal, the temptation for the bride is to say that everything’s a big deal – from the ceremony to the centerpiece. This does not make for a good partnership or open negotiations. Order your priorities; know what’s major from what’s not nearly as important! Utilize your individual talents; divide some of the responsibility; but share the decision-making on the major aspects of the wedding.
This next tip I view to be the most important one of all…but it’s also a big, painful lesson:
It’s Not Just Your Day
Weddings are as much about the community as they are about the couple. On your wedding day, you will be the lead actors in the drama, playing center stage, but there will be lots of others on-stage with you and behind the scenes. Again, think about the foundation you are establishing not just as a couple but as an entire family system.
Here’s a suggested planning motto: “It’s our wedding and you’re an important part of it so let’s figure it out together!”
Have Early, Planned Conversations
Before you start making any arrangements, find out your parents’ expectations and hopes for the wedding, and what they want to contribute and have happen. Set up a formal time to meet with them by saying, “Mom and Dad, Alan and I would like to sit down for an hour or two in the next week or so and get your thoughts about the wedding. We just want to get everyone’s ideas out on the table before we get ahead of ourselves.” Hold a meeting with each set of parents, and hold separate meetings for those who are divorced. Uncover as many expectations as possible: thoughts about the wedding size and guest list, location, style, food, financial concerns, clergy, etc.
When you run into the speed bumps, I love the idea that:
Blood Talks to Blood
Each partner should carry the main responsibility for difficult family conversations. Best advice when it comes to non-blood family: “Thou shalt not mock the ways of your in-laws; strange though they may be.” And that advice is good for a lifetime not just during the wedding season. The # 1 reason to work on being a good in-law? It’s important for your marriage. Nothing is harder on a marriage than listening to a barrage of complaints about your family, even if you agree with them! (Remember: during the wedding planning stage, your marriage has already begun!)
There are some other great ideas in a new book written by a colleague of mine, Dr. Bill Doherty called “The First Dance.” Actually, he and his daughter wrote the book together following her wedding. I highly recommend it! Of course, pre-marriage counseling is also greatly suggested and is a passion of mine!
If you have a question for Dr. Liz about her Wednesday segments or her private practice, you may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dr. Liz Hale
Studio 5 Contributor