Wedding Planning is NOT Marriage Planning
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Wedding planning is not a substitute for marriage planning — the two are not synonymous. Summer is when most weddings happen; no doubt you’ve either been to one, will go to one or have heard of one happening. It’s the time for people to live out their fairytale, the time when women and their mothers intend to collaborate on (or fight for) their preferences from wedding locations to invitations to seating charts. It’s also the time when bridesmaids yield to the bride, paying to wear and agreeing to do things they never would under any other circumstance, so that she can have her perfect wedding.
People put an exorbitant amount of time, energy and money into planning their perfect wedding: The perfect flowers, the perfect dress, the perfect location(s), the perfect rings, the perfect hairdo, the perfect honeymoon, even the perfect people in terms of imagery (looks, size, hair and sadly, even skin tone) in order to capture what they might consider the perfect wedding picture. Unfortunately, not nearly as much time and effort is put into planning the marriage. This is why many marriages are unhappy and unhealthy — and more than half end in divorce.
All of this effort is doing one thing: Feeding into a racket called the wedding industry designed to sell the illusion of happy marriages. And to the less-than-grown consumers, a perfect wedding is the precursor to a perfect marriage. Somehow, some people believe that’s how it works. Well, allow the Grown Zone to burst your fairytale – your financially irresponsible and emotionally gullible bubble, that is: If your marriage (your commitment to self love, honor, esteem and respect and genuine support of each other) isn’t established before you say “I do,” a piece of paper and your vows before God and loved ones won’t make it so. In fact, you’re only consummating – sealing – everything that it is up to that point, not ensuring that your vows will bound you to make it better.
Many do indeed get their fairytale wedding, but don’t get to live out their dream marriage; that takes more than effort – that is, intentional personal growth and diligence in choosing a suitable mate – it takes skill!
So before you consider saying “I do”, start planning your marriage by making these things a part of your observation and conversation during the courting process rather than getting caught up in “love,” planning a wedding and then finding out that your marriage is unsustainable.
Finances. Love and money often mixes as well as oil and water. Whether you have money or not, it becomes an issue in relationships. Before you marry, watch how a potential mate handles money, because you’ll have to deal with that once you marry. Will that be an asset for you or a liability? Who’s the most responsible with money? Are each of you committed to the same financial goal(s)? Do you have any financial goals and taking actual steps toward them? Each of you should or it’s a red flag!
You need to be able to discuss money and be willing to produce credit reports, bank statements, and concrete financial plans for your marriage, because once you marry, your money becomes one — even if the two of you never do. Ideally, both of you should be earning, as well as saving and spending smart. If you’re not that good at it, own that and surrender money matters to your partner. This sounds basic, but it rarely happens. Somebody needs to ensure that your money is growing and watching your progress. There needs to be a plan for how and when money is spent. What things do both of you need to agree on? Are there minimums that each can spend freely?
Understanding each other’s spending habits and realistic earning potential is huge. For instance: If you’re marrying someone recently released from prison with limited job skills, he or she is likely to be (at least temporarily) dependent on your income to meet their needs unless they have entrepreneurial drive and/or specialized skills for earning potential because having a criminal record tends to work against job seekers in our America. So, expecting them to contribute financially is unrealistic — unreliable at best. Are you really prepared for a marriage with a dependent, as opposed to a true partner? You have to ask yourself these questions because love won’t feed your babies and won’t pay the rent.
Children. This is another biggie with so many blended families and baby mama/daddy dramas. You’ve got to be clear about wanting kids (or any more), or wanting to deal with anybody else’s. If either of you already have them, what will the “step-parenting” role be? What are the limitations? Unless you and the new spouse are granted sole custody and the other parent isn’t involved at all, the step-parent needs to know his or her role because neither of you has the right to usurp authority over the biological parent. Both should understand and willingly abide by this; if not, turbulence is pending. If you don’t like the way the your intended parents their current children, you won’t like the way he or she parents yours. Parenting is such a huge responsibility and should be a conscious, calculated decision.
Conflict Resolution. When people have ignored personal growth, there tends to be a winner and a loser in relationships; the more combative and dominant personality usually wins. If emotional games are being played, the more manipulative one wins. Unless you build a relationship on respect, one party will always win — and the other will always lose. Until both of you learn better skills, marriage will be an uphill, constant battle that will defeat you; in that case, you’ll both lose.
And let’s be clear: If violence has been the way a partner handles conflict, an “I do” will not change that, it seals it! Even if it changes momentarily, it will eventually resume because nothing tests your tolerance and limitations like a spouse. Whatever is in you — and you are conditioned for — will show up. Again, there is no substitute for a relationship that is built on honor, esteem and respect, because even in discourse and arguments, respect for each other creates boundaries that each of you will not cross. This means that each of you have grown enough as individuals to have productive ways of handling disagreements that won’t jeopardize your relationship. If this has not been established, you‘re so not ready for marriage.
Family Interactions/Expectations. You’ve heard people say that you don’t marry a family, you marry an individual. Well, unless both of you are Grown – have done a lot of personal growth work – or have limited interaction with your families, that’s just not true. If you have invasive family/friends and have not already drawn certain lines with them — or this is the case with your mate — your “I do” will not change that and those relationships will interfere with your union. Your union has to be more important than any other commitments (other than to your minor children), and that needs to be consistently demonstrated before the “I do.”
If this list sounds more like we are discouraging marriage more than trying to give you tools to make yours work, you’re right. The reason more than half of marriages end in divorce is because most shouldn’t have happened at all; they didn’t have a working foundation, which is about life planning, not just wedding planning. Unlike a wedding, marriage planning can’t be reduced to things that you can sit and tick off from a checklist in a conversation. And once the wedding ends, the planning is over.
On the other hand, the topics we’ve addressed above must be part of a never-ending conversation, if you want a healthy relationship built to last. If you won’t or can’t talk about it now, you have a problem. Once you marry, it may be too late. So, if you’ve planned your wedding for the summer and any part of this felt uneasy to you, your wedding is premature and your marriage is doomed to fail. Long before the “I dos,” you should be each other’s favorite topics; studying each other to ensure that you have suitable qualities to aid a marriage, not to (inevitably) successfully end it. These things make and break relationships. To leave them to chance is foolery, so don’t.
Live in the Grown Zone.
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Zara Green and Alfred Edmond Jr., named to Black Love Forum’s “14 Most Inspiring Black Couples” list for 2014, are co-principals of A2Z Personal Growth Enterprises, producer of The Grown Zone. Zara is a speaker/trainer & author. Alfred is an award-winning journalist and expert on business and personal finance. The couple, both “Do-Better Fanatics”, lead sessions on personal growth, self-love and resiliency, healthy relationships and “grown” decision-making at live events across the country.
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