Communication: Talking to Your Partner and Your Families

  

When planning a wedding, communication is key.  You’ll be communicating with one or more of the following: clergy or other officiant, a wedding planner, florist, caterer, DJ or band, relatives and many others.  But most importantly, you have to communicate with your partner.  One of the great things about working with your partner to plan your wedding is that many of the issues that will come up later in your marriage (such as handling finances, dealing with parents and in-laws, determining who gets to make which decisions, and of course religion) are sure to come up in wedding planning.  So working on  how you communicate with your partner while planning your wedding is great practice for how you will communicate when you’re married!

Pre-Marital Counseling

Some couples engage in pre-marital counseling as a way to prepare for their future life together. Sometimes couples will seek counsel from the rabbi who will be marrying them, from the institution of the religious tradition of the partner who isn’t Jewish (for example, if one partner is Catholic, they may do pre-cana) or from a therapist. Some couples participate in more than one form of counseling before their wedding. ).  If you are interested in pre-marital counseling, you can ask your officiant if this is something that they can do or else ask for recommendations for a good therapist or group for couples in your area. If you live in a community where the Love and Religion workshop for interfaith couples is offered we highly recommend participating in this four week workshop.

When talking about various issues before getting married (such as what lifecycle rituals you’ll include when you have children – e.g., if you have a son, will there be a bris? a baptism?; are you going to have a Christmas tree in your home?; what holidays will your family celebrate?) it’s important to be clear with your partner about what issues are non-negotiable for you, and then to consider what issues you can compromise on.  It’s also essential to recognize that your feelings and positions, as well as your partner’s, may evolve and change over time.  What’s truly essential is not what decisions you and your partner make about what you’ll do in the future, but how you communicate – learning to listen to each other and communicate in a healthy, productive way.

Preparing Family Members for the Wedding Ceremony

Shot of a married couple video calling their loved ones using their digital tabletAs far as the wedding ceremony itself, if you’re the Jewish partner and you’re being married solely by a rabbi, remember that this may not be entirely comfortable for your partner. Even if they’ve agreed to be married by a rabbi, they may have some concerns or conflicting feelings about not having a representative of their own religion taking part in the ceremony. Be sure to be sensitive to this, and to give your partner space to share their concerns with you.

Wedding couples are adults and most of the decisions about the wedding are theirs to make – though if parents are helping to pay for the wedding, it may be appropriate for them to be involved in aspects of the decision-making. And it’s important in making decisions, though it may not ultimately affect the outcome, to consider how they may affect your parents and close family members.  If you’re going to be including something in your wedding that may be surprising or difficult for your relatives – like having clergy members of different faiths officiate – it’s best to inform your parents as early as possible.  This applies to aspects of the wedding that may not seem like such a “big deal” to you – such as including a reading from the New Testament (something most Jewish parents wouldn’t expect, even if it doesn’t include Jesus’ name) or breaking the glass (something parents from a different religious tradition may not expect) – as well. Similarly, if you are not planning to include rituals from your own religious tradition that your parents might hope or expect to be part of the ceremony, it is best to share this information with them ahead time. The more your parents can be prepared for what to expect, the more comfortable the wedding is likely to be for them.

If you’re going to be married by a rabbi and you weren’t raised Jewish, then you may want to ask the rabbi if they’d be willing to meet with your parents before the wedding, especially if your parents haven’t attended a Jewish wedding before.  This way they can ask the rabbi any questions they may have and they can get to know them a little bit as a person, rather than just meeting the rabbi minutes before the ceremony.

Setting priorities

There will be many decisions you need to make when planning for your wedding ceremony and reception. It is possible you will have different opinions than your partner and family members and it will likely be necessary to compromise. One way to help ease conflict is for each person involved to identify what is most important to them and focus on that rather than on every single decision that needs to be made. Hopefully then you won’t get caught up trying to satisfy everyone with every decision.

One way to do this is for each person to pick the three things that are most important to them. For example, your top priorities may be writing your own vows, having kippot for the guests, and choosing the cake. Your partner on the other hand may prioritize choosing the officiant, selecting the venue and picking the music. Then you each get to make the decisions about your three things.  For a blog about this, click here.

FINALLY…when you’re feeling stressed about your wedding, just remember that what’s most important isn’t the wedding, but the marriage…and the fact that you’ll be spending the rest of your life with the person you love.

More Tips:

Gender Equality in Wedding Planning

  
Fish tacos

We didn't take a photo at the florist, but our pescaterian tasting was very photogenic!

Last weekend, entering the meeting with our florist, my fiancé, my mother and father and I had the distinct impression it may have been the first time a groom entered this sacred bridal territory, as though he were alien to this particular planet.

We’re five weeks out from our wedding. Life is truly insane. If InterfaithFamily did not have a mindfulness expert and three masseuses visit our staff retreat last week, I might have lost it by now. That, and having a fiancé who is actually planning our wedding with me. Shut the… I know, right? Let me repeat that: My fiancé, who is a dude, is planning our wedding alongside me. Times are a changing.

Marrying a person who cares about gender equality and feminism was important to me and now, seeing how my fiancĂ© takes on the same roles in our relationship that I do (OK, he definitely does more heavy lifting, but most other things we share!), I’m thankful that I fell in love with someone who doesn’t treat marriage as a divvying up of “man stuff” and “woman stuff.” No matter how society might try to box us in–yes, even in 2014–we believe in a partnership where we seamlessly pitch in wherever needed.

Of course we’re in the honeymoon stage of our lives right now. I know neither of us are perfect and there may come a time when one or the other of us gets frustrated beyond belief. We’re human. But people say if you can get through wedding planning, you can get through whatever other challenges arise. Clearly, with the divorce rate in this country, that’s not true.

But how many couples planning their weddings are actually doing it together? I have yet to speak to any other couple I know where the groom planned the wedding equally with the bride.

Ceviche

Ceviche. This one got everyone's vote!

However, on this Wedding Blog, I’ve seen a lot more involvement from grooms than I see anywhere else. One of our wedding bloggers is male and it’s obvious he’s involved in every wedding detail, one of our other couples often includes a guest post by the groom, and the couple’s blog that just wrapped up was co-written. Perhaps interfaith couples realize early on how much their wedding day is a reflection of their union and that it’s important for both parties to be represented.

I’m not advocating that my fiancĂ© get a medal for helping to plan his own wedding (though I am a bit biased and were there a medal to give, I would certainly give it to him). I think men should always help out with wedding planning—after all, it’s YOUR wedding, and if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, it’s not your bride’s wedding alone and it’s certainly not her mother’s. I realize that not everyone enjoys wedding planning, and after seeing how much work goes into it, I can fully understand that. Many women will disagree with my point of view. But unless you’ve hired a wedding planner, someone’s got to do it and I say–it may as well be you.

If flowers or the venue are not your thing, find something that is: the rituals you will perform during your ceremony, the food you’ll eat, song requests for the band or DJ, finding your officiant, your photographer, the list is long!

But the fact is, wedding planning has a long history of being the bride’s domain. The old saying is, step out of the way and let her do what she wants. If the bride has big ideas and the groom is easy going, this may make sense. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be in the loop, help make some of the tougher decisions, and be there for whatever little tasks and errands and phone calls need to get done. And if the groom does have opinions, shouldn’t he be allowed to voice them? Shouldn’t he feel like the wedding represents him, too? Should he be silenced by an outdated idea that he doesn’t get a say in his own wedding? I love that my fiancé is involved, but what if I wanted to just have it my way? Should I be shutting him out of one of the biggest days of our lives that represents our future partnership?

While I don’t think my fiancé is doing anything that any other man couldn’t or shouldn’t also be doing, I happen to love planning our wedding together. I could NEVER do this myself, and taking for granted that he is going to make sure we pay all our bills on time, communicate with our vendors as needed, join me at all the meetings, make decisions together and keep track of our daily to-do list, is the kind of dependability I know he will have for the rest of our marriage. What a great experience to learn this before we get married!

We’re going to be tackling challenges good and bad for the rest of our lives. We’re a team, and we each want the other to succeed, to thrive, to be happy. This is why figuring out how to bring our friends and families together to celebrate with us as we express our love and commitment is such an important thing to do as a couple. We’re learning that we don’t always agree and how to compromise, how to prioritize what’s important to us, how to handle finances and family members, religion and many other things. Maybe I just got lucky with my man, or maybe, given the chance, many other grooms would gladly lend their fiancé a hand and play an active part in their wedding planning.

Are you a groom helping to plan your wedding? Brides, is your groom helping you out, or would you rather he butt out? Sound off in the comments.