Updated: Feb 24, 2021
You said “yes”. Congratulations!
The next chapter of your life is opening up before your eyes. But before you jump right into choosing a date or even a color scheme, take a look at some of the most common mistakes engaged couples make. You both can learn a bit more about what to expect and hopefully avoid some potential pitfalls.
Here are the seven most common mistakes engaged couples make:
1. Underestimating the cost of a wedding
No matter how big or small you plan your big day to be, weddings have a lot of moving parts. Making sure that all parts work in harmony can be quite a demanding task.
You don’t need the planning of your wedding to be a source of even more stress because you got into the practice of underestimating important elements. If you just guestimate something like your final guest count, for instance, you could fall short on food and beverage, two of the most important elements present in any celebration. Be mindful of what things cost. A dollar here, a hundred there, all add up. Prioritize so you can make decisions as to what your ‘must haves’ are and what you can do without. Having a realistic estimate will prevent your worrying, on your wedding day of all days, whether there will be enough food for your guests to enjoy or not.
2. Not devising a budget
You may feel so ready to start planning your wedding, yet reluctant to discuss the key player that makes most of it happen - money. While budgeting is the least romantic part of the wedding planning process, having a budget will give you a sense of direction.
Your mindset is important. Avoid thinking of your budget as something that limits you, but rather see it as what helps you narrow your focus. What is limiting, is finding out that later on you spent too much money initially on just a couple of components, like a venue and a dress, and as a result, not being able to fulfill what you had originally envisioned your wedding to be. Planning a wedding together is an opportune time to learn about each other; devising a budget, will allow you, to both see and understand what you value and wish to prioritize for your big day. Not only that, it will also give you an opportunity to practice tracking and managing finances; two skills every married couple will benefit from mastering.
3. Not sticking to a budget
Overspending, finding out you run out of money, starting a married life in the amount of debt you had not anticipated to have, are but some of the painful consequences of not being mindful of a budget. Sticking to a budget means staying on course so that you can have everything you had envisioned, without having to cut out things as the big day approaches. Sitting down with your fiancé to develop a clear budget before engaging in any spending, will help you know where to start and will prevent your feeling stressed out and pressed for money in the end. So, devise a realistic budget and stick to it.
4. Overlooking the effects of pre-wedding stress
Stress is defined as the demands placed on individuals as they adapt to change.
Based on this, even good change can be stressful. Change that we embark on by choice, like getting married. Does it surprise you? You are not alone. Many people don’t associate positive, joyful and exciting life events with stress. Think about it, you are about to embark on the most exciting journey, and there are so many pieces to manage, so many demands, including adapting to a new life. Don’t get me wrong. We are one of the most adaptable creatures on earth. We eventually adapt, most of us do.
The key lies in finding effects to cope and manage stress, rather than devaluing its impact by ignoring it.
So much stress can be prevented if you just stopped worrying about what people think. Of course, you want your wedding to be beautiful. Chances are, it will. You are opening a great space for stress, especially, if you expect things to be perfect. Do not fall into the trap of believing that everything HAS TO BE PERFECT. Demanding perfection can take away from your enjoying the process of preparing for your new life together. Perfectionism brings about UNREALISTIC expectations and places undue pressure on the both of you.
Learn to cope with stress before it begins to get out of control. Whenever you feel stress starting to creep its uncomfortable head, (headaches? Irritability? Impatience? low threshold of tolerance?) start practicing the most effective way to relax that works for you. Chances are you have heard of meditation, deep muscle relaxation, yoga breathing among others. They all will work when done right. Just remember preparation and coping skills will do the trick.
5. Underestimating the demands of marriage
The term "honeymoon phase" exists for a reason, and it is because long-term relationships and marriages are demanding and, at times, challenging. The transition from living a life of "me" to "we” involves a period of adjustment for the both of you. Attention, patience, understanding and commitment are but some of the elements that can serve you well, because a happy, healthy and rewarding relationship involves connecting with your partner in a deep emotional way.
If you are ready for the wedding but not prepared to dive into the marriage experience, fully understanding of what it entails, you are opening yourselves to experience pain and disappointment down the road. So, take the time to share your values, wants and needs with each other, and be prepared to compromise.
6. Having idealistic expectations
Expectations are not bad. It is healthy and appropriate to have some expectations about marriage, such as to be loved, valued, be treated with respect. Expectations can serve as guidelines and give you things to look forward to about your partner or marriage. The issue is not having expectations, it is having unrealistic ones. The problem is when you expect your partner to fill you in on their thoughts, needs, and feelings, rather than setting aside the time to deepen your bond. Sometimes partners hope that marriage will change things, such as a trait they don't love about their partner and make everything "perfect." A partner who thinks that everything has to be perfect is only setting themself up for unmet expectations and disappointment. Discuss your shared goals as a couple and what a successful marriage means to you, before expectations lead to resentment.
As a couple planning for your wedding, it is easy to overlook the relationship itself. Before you commit to each other, commit to what marriage means to you. Commit to a budget, communication, and boundaries. Commit to learning from mistakes so you can set yourself up for a successful, healthy marriage and a long, fulfilling life together.
7. Spending more time planning the wedding than preparing for marriage
Once the two of you decide to get married, it can feel like every spare moment should be dedicated to the planning of your wedding. I get it, it is a once in a lifetime event. Your wedding marks the day of the beginning of your journey together. You want it to be as memorable as possible, and it will be. I can see how its easy, very easy, to lose sight of the relevancy of the journey itself: marriage.
For starters, don't forget to apply for your marriage license. Depending on what state you are in, it could take some time to receive yours during the Covid-19 era. Some states will not accept walk-in but request that you make an appointment way in advance. My office has lost track of how many times we were contacted by a distraught bride or groom, who had just found out that the only way they would be able to receive their marriage license on the day they applied for it, was if they showed an official certificate of premarital course completion. Everyone needs a marriage license to get married, and believe me, you don't want to end up not being able to become legally married on your wedding day!
So, back to preparing for marriage. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for marriage is to take advantage of premarital preparation courses. A misconception regarding premarital preparation is that it’s intended for those engaged couples having doubts about getting married. Nothing can be further from the truth. A good premarital course goes beyond teaching you helpful marriage skills; it presents you with an evidence-based blueprint for remaining emotionally connected with each other. Effective premarital preparation is meant to show couples already deeply bonded and in love, how to extend, maintain and enhance the joy, acceptance, and understanding for the rest of their lives.
Given that it has been established that preparing for marriage cuts divorce rates by 50%, several states offer incentives to couples taking a state-approved premarital course. Some even waive the marriage license fee altogether while allowing couples to skip any state mandated waiting period as well.
So, make sure you plan your wedding while you also prepare for marriage. Your relationship, your family and your community benefit from your doing so.
Dr. Liliana Wolf, psychotherapist, former professor of psychology and international relationship expert, has been preparing couples for marriage at her Coral Gables office for over 20 years. She is an approved and certified provider of online premarital courses in all states extending incentives. Favored by couples about to be married, her courses have achieved a consistent 5-star rating, positioning her in the top 1% in sales of online courses by the Teachable platform worldwide. Ranked at the top 1% in the specialty of marriage and family nationwide by HealthGrades, Dr. Wolf is at the top of her game both as a clinician and professor.