I go to weddings these days and see a little more than the pomp and colour. I look at the bride and groom and wonder what is going on in their minds. Apart from the smiles they have to put up for their guests, what other feelings and thoughts run in the back of their minds. Are they relieved the planning process is finally coming to end and now they can just be together or are they worried because the process has brought up issues they haven’t had time to deal with? Did family issues come up that one of them is uncomfortable with but has had to be silent because they did not want to ‘jeopardize the wedding’. Did she notice new habits in him that she is uncomfortable with?
Not to be a bearer of bad news but the process of planning for a wedding always has a positive or negative impact on the couples’ relationship. Since it is their first official project together, one always discovers a lot about their partner that they did not know before. From small issues like time management and reaction to disappointment to big issues like family acceptance and financial management, the planning process will surely open their eyes.
My wife and I would like to share a few lessons we learnt from our own wedding planning process, from the time we began family introductions up to the wedding day. Looking at the big picture now from this side of the wedding day, I believe these lessons will be vital to anyone in the process and also it can help you assist a friend who is heading there.
Submit the process to God
This may sound cliché. Of course I prayed about it and God knows that am getting married and what I face, many will say. What I mean here is intentionally submit the process to God together with your fiancée. Ask Him to lead you in every step, invite Him to take charge and allow Him to lead. In our planning process God corrected our mistakes more than once. He somehow exposed people and service providers, so we could see that they were not right for us, at the same time bringing people in the picture that we actually needed. Even though some difficult situations may not change, He will be there to walk with you. That is only possible if He is the leader in it.
Our God is good and He wishes the best for us but He cannot work in an environment where He is not welcome. This has to be a very conscious decision on your part throughout the process.
Do not ‘carry’ people
I have honestly thought of many ways to call this but I just end up with ‘carrying people’. By ‘not carrying people’ I mean not holding grudges against people who hurt you during the planning process. It is almost a guarantee that people will hurt you. Okay, maybe hurt is a scary word, whatever the case people will let you down. It hurts most when it comes from a close friend or a family member. Purpose in your heart not to take things to heart, that sounds like circular reasoning but it means have shock absorbers, don’t take things too personal.
My dowry process was pretty difficult by most African standards; there were very high expectations on the side of my fiancée in terms of what they will receive. My side was not in a position to meet that and it made the negotiations very long and sour. I heard and saw things that hurt me and it felt like I was being targeted in a way. I could have developed an attitude towards my in-laws but thankfully I had people to help me but most importantly I had made a decision earlier on that I will have a good relationship with my in-laws as much as I could. I had prayed about it too. When things got tough, I reminded myself of that.
You see, love truly declared will sooner or later be truly tested. My test came just on time. Love may be the engine in relationships but I believe that intention is the key. You have to get to the point where you say ‘I want this, I want that’ for it to start manifesting.
Understand that people are different
About a year before our wedding I was heavily involved in planning my brother’s wedding and I am really glad that I learnt this lesson then. This is so important because friendships break because sometimes you expect too much from friends who may just be incapable of delivering. Let me explain this: there are friends who are time keepers and can be depended on with timeline issues, others are articulate with details and can help in planning an event, others don’t care about minor details of anything and they just want to avail their resources and show up on the material day, others are just spectators. Family members fall in these categories too.
With this knowledge you can know who to approach for what. Do not over expect from people and always count it a blessing when you have friends and family who can stand by and with you.
If there is one thing that is in unlimited supply in our world today, it is advice. So much so that a prostitute can advise you on how to be faithful, a failure can advise you on how to pass an exam, a drunkard can advise on how to stay sober. Sadly most people are genuine in their advice which just goes on to show us how far apart it is from knowing something to actually applying it. During the planning process you get to hear a lot of advice from all sources, some right, some based on the adviser’s situation, some laughable and some outright crazy. I remember being told to make sure I sign a prenuptial agreement. This was by someone really respectable and a fellow believer.
The weird thing about marriage advice is that it may come from someone you actually know and whose marriage is failing and you wonder why they don’t just apply that advice in their own marriage. With 700 wives and 300 concubines did King Solomon follow his relationship advice he very well lays in proverbs, I wonder. It is sad. So pick what is good for you, the rest you will learn by practice, which may be different from what you are told.
Never walk alone
I don’t know who they are but they said that if you want to go fast walk alone but if you want to go far walk with people. When I was about to join university I asked my friends in the university about their experience and advice, but sadly some of us want to join God’s first and most important institution without consulting those who are there. Please have people to walk with you. You may have a best couple or best man and best lady for the wedding but you could also find an older couple whose marriage is good and in whom you can confide. We can safely say that today we are a product of what our best and mentor couple and others have so intentionally invested in us through their example, time and wise words.
For real, take it easy
You know when you are so outraged by something and then someone tells you to ‘just relax’. You may actually feel like punching them because they have no idea how you feel. Preparing for a wedding can be emotionally and physically draining. You run around a lot and have to deal with too many people because failure is not an option. The wedding day can actually be an anti-climax, so much work put in over a couple of months and suddenly within a few hours the ceremony is over. Not everything has to be perfect, it never is actually. Our biggest prayer was that our day will be joyful no matter what. People remember more how they felt at your wedding and not how the flowers weren’t fresh enough. Focus more on people and not things and just enjoy your day.
Budget for more than just the wedding
It goes without saying that you should only plan for a wedding that is within your financial capabilities minding your financial resources. You also need to plan as well for the other things that come with having a wedding: family visits, honeymoon, rent (moving houses), household items etc. Simply put, have extra money apart from the wedding budget.
Visit a gynecologist
My wife insists on this, understandably, but we men have to take more interest in family planning and make sure we accompany our ladies to the gynecologist. This is important and it should be early enough (at least several months) so that you understand the options that you have and take the necessary precautions. Stories are told of couples whose honeymoon is ruined because of the lady reacting to a particular method the couple chose.
This will apply if you have a wedding committee planning the wedding. Make sure that the people in charge of particular departments (food, transport, decor, cake, etc.) are people that you know are capable and responsible enough to do that. You can approach them and ask for their help. This goes in hand with understanding people but it’s more particular. Some people in your committee may be willing to help in certain areas but you very well know that they are incapable; either they lack experience or discipline. Let them assist but not be in charge. The best resource in wedding planning is people. A lot of things get handled behind the scenes that you only get to know of much later, it only takes responsible people to do that.
Questions, additional lessons and experiences are welcomed in the comment section below. Otherwise, feel free to share, if you learnt a thing or two, your friends will too.