Wedding planning reveals values – couples can aim to synch, not clash

Courtesy of Heather McLaughlin
A Vegas wedding with Elvis as officiant? You never know what you’ll learn about your partner’s longheld fantasies once wedding planning gets underway in earnest.

It happens: The soul mate who shares your love for the environment, informality and celebrating al fresco suddenly reveals a lifelong dream of a traditional wedding in the family’s place of worship, followed by a lavish reception at a posh hotel with a top-rated dance band and bacon bar.

Planning a wedding may or may not be a crash course in really getting to know your affianced partner. Hopefully, you’ve had more than one conversation about children, finances, gender roles, spiritual values and long-term goals, to name a few, as you plan your future together. Ideally, this is an ongoing dialogue. But how do your individual values play out as you plan your wedding?

While initially you may be appalled by your partner’s vision, as it doesn’t seem to fit with the person you know, now is the time to get curious about this apparent contradiction. Finding out what makes this particular scenario meaningful to your partner may change your perspective. For example, one partner may have dreamed about the big day since childhood, down to the details of venue, guests, menu and attire. Others may favor a bare-bones event, to fund either a new home or a dream honeymoon. Still others may decide to embrace family traditions when it comes to a wedding, even if they normally keep most customs at arm’s-length. Some might find a Vegas ceremony presided over by Elvis more their style.

Establishing core values

So how can a couple manage their differing values and expectations, as well as their respective family expectations and values, which may loom large? How can engaged couples plan a wedding that reflects who they are and what they value?

Consider what Ben and Amy did. This couple wanted to avoid the conflict so many of their friends experienced while planning their nuptials. They wanted the look and feel of their wedding day to reflect core values they mutually prize.

For this couple, all plans had to reflect the three values they identified together: to honor their guests, keep it simple and express who they are. Using these values as guidelines helped the pair make tough decisions – especially when all choices were good ones.

Ben and Amy found that their advance work of priority/value setting brought peace to the planning process instead of conflict. When it came to the big picture, they felt confident of their alignment so that the inevitable differences were taken in stride. Mutually agreed upon values also made it easier to explain their choices to family and friends.

Following their values may lead to surprising choices. For example, Sharon did not want young children or babies at her wedding. She worried about a kid crying in the middle of her video-recorded vows. However, Sharon’s preference conflicted with her desire to share the day with her sister and cousins, all of whom had recently given birth and were unable to attend the wedding without their babies. After much thought, Sharon and her fiance decided that being surrounded by family – even noisy ones – outweighed all opposing concerns.

When faced with a difficult decision, consider it a chance to learn more about yourself, your partner and your relationship. Getting to know what matters most to you individually and as couple is part of the planning process. Your values serve as your North Star: know them, follow them and let them shine on the day you start your married life together.

If you need some help with the process, consider premarital counseling. This valuable preparation walks a couple through the myriad issues and challenges couples typically face and asks them to consider their beliefs, views and expectations. Most clergy require and provide this counseling for couples seeking to be married in their sanctuary. Some couples schedule a few sessions with couples counselors “to make sure we’ve covered all our bases” as they get ready to say “I do.”

Nancy Andersen, licensed marriage and family therapist, provides counseling for couples and individuals in her Loyola Corners office.

For more information, call 833-9574 or visit

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