This post is based on an original research study and paper presented by Bailey M. Oliver at the International Organization of Social Sciences and Behavioral Research Conference in the fall of 2013.
So your partner went to Jared/Tiffany/whoever, got down on one knee, and asked you those four little words: “Will you marry me?”
Your relationship just took a HUGE step- you’re engaged! You are now a feyoncé and your time is likely consumed with bridal magazines, dress fittings, and an ever-expanding guest list. Your recent Google history probably includes searches like “how to loose 50 lbs in 2 months”, “where to buy coozies in bulk”, or “non-cliché Save the Date poses”.
Unfortunately, this blissful time is filled with as much tension as it is excitement. TRR is here to let you know the conflict you’re most likely to encounter during your engagement and what to do once a fight breaks out.
Planning OUR wedding: Sharing the wedding planning duties.
“I want whatever you want baby… unless it’s carnations- I refuse to have those tacky things at my wedding”.
A recent study of both heterosexual and same-sex engaged couples revealed partners frequently argue over sharing equal wedding planning responsibilities. Couples mention they want joint cooperation where both partners have input and participation. Conflict surrounding this issue usually relates to participants claiming wedding planning is a ‘woman’s job’ where men assume they are free from contributing to planning details.
Fearing the Future: Changes to the Relationship
“It’s weird that she will be my wife. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited! But there’s a lot of new things we have to get used to.”
Couples were excited about their relationship progressing to the next stage, but they also feared the unknown or ‘newness’ of this change. This conflict usually occurs amongst important conversations about future decisions as newlyweds: moving in together, altering future ritual events such as holidays, and how their identity as a couple will eventually change once children enter the picture.
The In-law Conundrum: Negotiating Two Families
“There’s some things I don’t like about my future mother-in-law and I want to tell him about it, but I can’t really. It’s just so awkward because we don’t know how to handle it because it’s our families, ya know?”
It’s no surprise that bringing two different families together can be cause for conflict. Many couples felt drama with their future in-laws was affecting their relationship. Partners fear being honest with their fiancé about issues with their parents will lead to negative outcomes for them as a couple. These arguments usually include in-laws dedicating too little or too much time and opinion towards wedding details or the couple’s future.
Here Comes the Bill: Discussing Finances
“I can’t just blurt out ‘your side is supposed to pay for this and my parents are supposed to pay for that’ without offending him”
Many couples argue over financing the wedding itself. This conflict usually involves wedding budgets, honeymoon expenses, and allocating who is to pay for what. Couples also mention tension over future expectations for sharing and maintaining a budget as a married couple.
Better than the Rest: Planning the Wedding of the Year
“I want our wedding day to be special, I really want it to feel reverent. But there’s [also] this pressure that we have to live up to being fabulous”
This conflict explains couples’ desire to plan a wedding that both upholds traditional values, while at the same time creating an event that is unique and specific to the couple. Partners want to stick to certain western marriage ideals (think: reciting vows, wearing white, throwing the bouquet), but also want their big day to be different (or better!) than other weddings they have attended.
FIANCÉ FIGHT! – SO WHAT DO WE DO?
Laugh about it.
Many couples use humor to minimize or deal with conflict during the wedding planning process. Making jokes, using sarcasm, or engaging in laughter can ‘lighten the mood’ after a serious conversation. In many cases, humor serves as a natural stress reliever and lowers tension. Caution: Make sure the topic is appropriate for the use of humor. Responding to sensitive subjects with sarcasm or jokes may actually create more tension.
Share wedding duties.
Realize this is as much their wedding as yours. And contrary to what you may believe: wedding planning is a COUPLE’s job, not a woman’s. At the start, each partner should make a list of their wants and needs for the wedding day. Be honest with your desires for the big day and be open and prepared for an opposing opinion on wedding colors.
Realize you are not a snowflake.
In the present research study, each couple identified that the conflict in their relationship was in part due to the “uniqueness” of their situation (think: being a military couple; being a same-sex couple; being a long-distance couple; having opposing religious views; living together, etc.) However, the tensions experienced (as listed above) were mostly due to transitioning between relational stages and planning a wedding rather than the “uniqueness” of their relationship. Yes, we all are different and have unique circumstances; however, fighting or arguing with your partner during this stressful time is completely normal. Be cognizant of your true feelings, but also aware that these tensions are common to all in this stage and will likely pass.
Be RESPECTFULLY open and honest.
Can’t stand your in-laws’ influence over the wedding? Hate the wedding band you hired? Want to push back the wedding date? If it is truly important to you, it is important to discuss with your partner. Be open and honest with your desires and emotions towards your big day, but approach the sensitive conversations with caution. If an argument breaks out, avoid kitchensinking (think: using a fight about centerpieces as an opportunity to bring up every past grievances you have with your partner- bringing up things unrelated to the current topic and throwing in ‘everything except the kitchen sink’). Allow time for both partners to speak their mind and avoid closed listening (think: not hearing what your partner says because you are too busy forming your next rebuttal). You knew the word was coming: Communicate.
Lastly, realize you are merging two different people into one dyad. It is important you start thinking like a couple and begin having the important conversations about your future. Use the wedding planning process as a chance to begin making decisions together. Maintain your individuality, but realize the decisions you make are likely to affect your partner as well.
Oliver, B. M. (2013). Fiancés, Flowers, Families & Fights: Engaged Couples and the Dialectical Tensions Most Perceived During the Wedding Planning Process. Paper presented to the International Organization of Social Sciences and Behavioral Research Conference. New Orleans, LA.