The cake is ordered. The caterer is booked. The bridesmaids have bought their plane tickets. And you’re crying in the bathroom because you’re stuck in one of the most common wedding fights with your fiancé. I’m describing an extreme situation, sure – but it’s worth anticipating. You know that little voice in your head that says “is this the end?” every time you’re fighting with your fiancé? (Other people have that voice, too, right?) Well, the voice is likely to get louder once you’re in the thick of wedding planning. And furthermore, you’re very likely to have some differing expectations over at least one of these three common issues. No, knowing how many couples get into verbal fisticuffs over the same things is probably not going to help you feel any better. But maybe re-defining how you approach the issue will.
Pre-Wedding Conflict Can Be a Good Sign
Fighting with your fiancé over wedding planning is not going to feel good, no matter what. In fact, it’s probably going to be agonizing. But psychology experts suggest that pre-wedding fights can be a sign of better things to come. The idea is that once you’re past the giddy phase of a new relationship, a little conflict is inevitable as you both change and grow to become your best selves together. If you’re handling some of that conflict before the honeymoon, you might be in for a better marriage overall! Not coincidentally, the most common wedding fights are great examples of this principle. Of course, there is a caveat. If you feel unsafe during an argument with your intended, or if you’re starting to doubt whether your partner respects you, that’s cause for more concern. And if your pre-wedding fights end with flowers and promises, but not with resolution, that’s not healthy conflict. That’s a sign that you and your partner have some thinking and talking to do about how you relate to each other before the wedding bells ring. But almost every couple clashes at least a little over these three wedding-planning topics – and knowing that, you can think of these pre-wedding fights as ways to bring your values together, instead of times of inevitable frustration.
The 3 Most Common Wedding Fights (and Ways to Resolve Them)
Wedding-Planning Argument #1: Money.
This is the number-one cause of wedding-planning fights. That’s not very surprising; it’s also the number-one cause of marital fights. (And in both cases, it will probably be worse if one or both of you already has kids.) Any wedding budget is going to go in an unexpected direction at some point – whether he finds the most fabulous suit as an alternative to his rental tux, or she realizes she’s got to shell out for extra accommodations for an ill grandparent. To avoid this argument: Obviously, you’ll want to plan your wedding budget together from the start. Talk real numbers. What can you spend? What do you want to spend? When things change (and they will), remember that not wanting to spend money on something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not important. If he balks at helping the bridesmaids buy their dresses, it doesn’t mean her friends aren’t important to him. But it might mean he’s surprised by the price tag on women’s formalwear, or that he doesn’t think a unified look for the ‘maids is as important as the perfect dancing shoes for his wife-to-be. If she’s reluctant to spend money on honeymoon experiences, it doesn’t mean she’s more interested in the Big Day than in intimate celebrations. It might mean she’s sure you can have more fun just being together than scheduling something (or that she’s already splurged on pricey lingerie she’s afraid she won’t get to wear). A lot of your feelings about “how much is too much” (and about how you pay for objects versus experiences) are totally subjective (and mostly come from your parents). This is a great chance to figure out what those feelings are.
Wedding-Planning Argument #2: Planning duties.
You feel like you’re doing all the work of wedding planning. Your fiancé feels like you’ve thrown every catering curveball into his court. One or both of you has said “I don’t care” one time too many. No matter where the imbalance might be happening, it’s horrible to feel like your wedding-planning work is going unappreciated. And it’s even worse to have stereotypes thrown in your face: “Women care too much about this! You’re being a Bridezilla!” “Men are clueless about color palettes! Of course I didn’t ask you!” “If you hadn’t grown up with a country-club membership, you’d realize how trivial that is!” (Protip: Don’t say any of those things.) Whatever the specific subject, this common wedding fight often brings deep insecurities to light at less-than-convenient times. To avoid this argument: Start strong by making (separate) lists of what’s most important to you. Compare notes, and remember that the unwritten top item on both of your lists is “be married at the end of the day.” Remember you might express similar priorities differently. When my brother got married, he was quick to express that he couldn’t care less what the color palette was. But he kept repeating three words: Sturdy, elegant, and homemade. He was very clear on the aesthetic he wanted, but he didn’t feel qualified to pick the specific shades to illustrate it. (The right question there: “Which of these colors is ‘elegant’ to you?”) If possible, divvy up tasks and decisions in a way that gives both of you some “hooray” and some “ugh” moments. Consider what each of you have emotional energy and actual time to do. If that doesn’t completely clear the air for future discussions, you haven’t failed! Things have just shifted during the wedding-planning process. Go back to your priority lists and update them (it’s okay if you’ve changed your mind). Pay special attention to how other people are making you feel about planning. How involved you feel and how supportive you are can change when a vendor insists on addressing all questions to the bride alone, or when someone’s mom is unexpectedly obstinate about the corsages (see the next section for that one, too). You’ll need to process those feelings together. This wedding-planning fight can be a chance to get comfortable asking each other for help and expressing your needs if you’re feeling underappreciated or burdened – and if you’ve accidentally undercut or excluded your partner, hearing that with grace and making amends. That’s practice you’ll be glad of down the line.
Wedding Planning Argument #3: In-laws.
Your parents. His parents. Your second cousin’s best friend’s brother’s parents, who really want to bring a plus-one apiece even though you didn’t even know they were separating. All the wonderful weirdnesses (and the not-so-wonderful ones) of both of your families are going to be on display during wedding planning – which can spark an awful lot of pre-wedding arguments. The good news? This common wedding fight is an excellent opportunity to find out each other’s unspoken assumptions about family boundaries. It’s a chance to iron out exactly how much of your time, attention, and decision-making you feel family members have a right to influence. The stereotype is that the groom is a mama’s boy and mama has trouble letting go – but stereotypes don’t always hold true. (And sometimes they do when you don’t expect it.) You might find that one of you assumes grandparents have a stronger claim to determine the guest list, while one of you can’t imagine dismissing Aunt Christie’s opinion about the recessional music. You might realize you have a tendency to cave to whatever your dad wants. You might find that one of you expected a totally solo honeymoon, while one is anticipating hosting parents in your shared home until the post-wedding brunch.
To avoid this argument: Here are the key questions: If (whichever family member) didn’t care about (whatever), what would be your own choice? And what are you afraid will happen if you say no? Hear each other out on what you each want. Only then discuss what you feel you should do. Your ultimate goal: finding a realistic, livable compromise that sets a standard for how you’ll handle family expectations in your marriage, not just during your wedding. Yes, that’s likely to be a long, multi-part conversation … but trust a woman whose mother-in-law really, really cares about how she addresses envelopes: It is so, so worth it to have that talk with your future spouse early. Have you had any relationship conflicts that you wish you’d handled better – or that you feel made you stronger as a couple? Where do you anticipate butting heads with a partner in the event-planning process? Start a constructive discussion in the comments!