How Planning a Wedding Prepares You for Marriage

newlyweds dancing at their wedding

It’s never too late or too early to view wedding planning as a marriage-building activity and not merely an end in itself.

It was mere months until our wedding, and my fiancé, Ted, and I had yet to agree on a ceremony location. The problem was our differing ideas on where we should exchange “I do’s.”

His vote was for the new building on which our church had recently completed construction. Ted had grown up in this congregation — not literally but spiritually. Within its community he had matured and grown in his faith. After almost a decade of meeting in school theaters and gyms, he was ecstatic that our local church finally had a permanent home.

I’d only attended the church for a year. So while I understood the significance this new building held for him, I struggled to concede to his strongly held preference. It came down to what I considered two cringe-worthy words: multipurpose sanctuary.

After all, what bride dreams of making a lifelong covenant in a room that doubles as a gym and sometimes triples as a banquet hall or youth group hangout? Not this one. Instead I envisioned some place with a little more, well, charm. Maybe a historic church or quaint chapel.

So we found ourselves at a standstill with neither of us ready or willing to give in.

Unity is in the details

The location where we got married wasn’t the only detail Ted cared about though.

He wasn’t content with minimal involvement, and his interest went beyond what many bridal magazines and websites list as traditional responsibilities for the groom — tasks such as choosing groomsmen, practicing vows, buying the bride’s wedding band and planning the honeymoon.

Instead Ted fully invested himself in most of the details.

He had opinions about the time and lighting of the ceremony, what music we should choose and who should sing it, and how the event would be photographed. He designed our invitations, helped select and purchase decorations, and even took the lead on the menu for our dessert reception.

And the truth was I was thrilled that we were working on this together. Well, except for that pesky location stalemate. As we planned and I listened to Ted’s ideas and opinions, it was clear to me how excited he was about our upcoming union. What bride doesn’t want that, right?

Now as I look back 16 years later, something else is even more clear to me: how wedding planning together helped prepare us for marriage.

Ted’s desire to be involved in every detail allowed us to approach our wedding as equally engaged team members. There was no room for a bride-centered, princess-for-a-day ceremony or reception. Instead our wedding was about both of us and our relationship long term. Because of this Ted and I found ourselves practicing skills back then that we’ve learned are essential for living out day-to-day married life in unity.

Three marital skills I discovered in wedding planning

You may be in the midst of wedding planning right now. Or perhaps getting married is a desire of your heart that you’re waiting on God to fulfill. Whatever the case may be, it’s never too late or too early to view wedding planning as a marriage-building activity and not merely an end in itself.

Here are three must-have marital skills you can practice when you approach wedding planning as a united team.

1. The art of compromise

Choosing a location for our rehearsal dinner brought with it a dilemma. Our top pick was a local, hole-in-the-wall German restaurant. Ted and I shared a mutual love for sauerkraut, bratwurst and all foods Bavarian, and this spot had become a shared favorite of ours.

But as with most German restaurants, it also boasted an extensive beer selection. I didn’t drink alcohol. Neither did some of my family members. So while I had no problem eating at a place that served it, I suddenly found myself uncomfortable with the possibility of people ordering alcohol at our pre-wedding celebration.

Ted, on the other hand, didn’t think the beer was a huge issue, yet he also wanted me to feel confident and comfortable with our choice.

After some careful discussion, we said yes to goulash, soft pretzels and sauerbraten, and we kindly requested of our guests that this particular dinner be alcohol free. Our wedding party and both sides of the family were happy to oblige.

Marriage will offer lots of opportunities to work together to find middle ground. Sometimes it’s as small as where to place the surround-sound speakers in the living room or as big as how to name your future child.

The thing is that compromise doesn’t come naturally, especially in the beginning. It’s hard to go from being independent to being interdependent. It takes practice and a lot of dying to yourself to be willing to give and take.

As you plan your wedding, start learning the art of compromise. One way to do this is to be aware of those details where you and your fiancé may not immediately agree. It might be about what the main dish will be at the reception or what type of vows you’ll use in the ceremony. Instead of immediately pushing for what you want, consider options that will help you meet in the middle.

2. The finesse of cooperation

When Ted proposed I had just started my second year of grad school. My full course load made picking a wedding date challenging. We soon realized we were limited to the months I had a school break.

This narrowed our choices down to either December or a summer month. If we picked December, it only gave us four months to pull off a wedding. We went back and forth on pros and cons until we finally determined we’d rather get married sooner than later. (For all of you cringing, let me just assure you that four months was doable.)

Having to cooperate when it came to picking the date or deciding the colors we wanted for the wedding set a tone for our marriage. We realized early on that working together to accomplish a common purpose made our relationship stronger. It can do the same for you.

Cooperating as you plan will help you enter marriage with an “us” mentality rather than a “me” and “you” philosophy.

How can you start cooperating now?

Think about a problem you’re currently facing. Maybe the caterer you wanted is already booked and you need to find another one. Determine to work together to find another great fit. Or perhaps you want a specific type of flower that’s not readily available in your area. Brainstorm ways you could still have it (or something similar) at your wedding.

3. The joy of collaboration

After our wedding I remember my cousin being astounded that we hadn’t used the traditional wedding march in our ceremony. “I didn’t know you could do that!” he’d exclaimed.

Out of everything at our wedding, the music we chose best reflected our collaboration. There was the Rachmaninoff “Vespers” Ted introduced me to. We also had a Bebo Norman song I’d played for him. Finally we chose two songs we’d both listened to independently of each other over the years.

When it came to planning our wedding, each of us allowed the other person to bring individual personality and strengths to the process. For example I didn’t know much classical music, but Ted did. I trusted his expertise and opinion when it came to “Vespers.”

Think about how you can do the same. Is there an area in which your fiancé is especially knowledgeable or gifted? Encourage him or her to take the lead in details that relate to it.

Getting to the church

So where did we end up getting married?

Much to Ted’s disappointment our church decided not to open the new building to any outside events during the first six months after construction. That means I got my charm and character. We exchanged vows in a small 170-year-old church in a historic district. And even though Ted lost our stalemate, I don’t think he minded at all. It turns out that as long as I was there, he was happy.

Copyright 2019 Ashleigh Slater. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Ashleigh Slater

Ashleigh Slater is the author of the books “Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard” and “Team Us: The Unifying Power of Grace, Commitment, and Cooperation in Marriage.” With over twenty years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication, she loves to combine the power of a good story with practical application to encourage and inspire readers. Learn more at AshleighSlater.com or follow Ashleigh on Facebook. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband, Ted, and four daughters.