Don’t Forget to Plan Your Marriage (While You’re Busy Planning Your Wedding)

I visited my local Starbucks the other day to enjoy some coffee and free Wi-Fi. I was engaged in relatively mindless grading, so I let my ears wander to the conversations around me. One in particular caught my attention, as it pertained to the seemingly endless numbers of my former students getting married. There was a large group at the table across from me — a young engaged couple, parents, wedding planners (yes, plural) and a priest. The plans they were making were as detailed and complex as those made for a presidential inauguration.

We hear so much about wedding planning. There are entire industries built around helping the couple carry out their “perfect day.” It’s easy to get carried away in the romance and the idea that a single ceremony represents the entirety of a relationship. It’s easy to confuse the ability to control the details of a day with the potential for controlling an entire life. It may be easy, but like the eyes of the audience at a magic show, it is attention focused in the wrong direction. Wedding days should be special; it is a time to celebrate your bond and make a public declaration of your relationship. However, don’t be so busy planning your wedding that you neglect to plan your marriage. Here are a few things to keep in mind for your Big Day, and the days (and years) after you say “I do.”


Weddings begin with compromise. Perhaps she wants to elope and he wants a large, family-filled church ceremony. Hopefully, a middle ground is agreed upon where each partner feels listened to and has his or her critical needs met. Compromise only beginswith the wedding day. As two lives become entwined, differing views and priorities are inevitable. Make sure you know how to navigate these differences in a balanced way.


Have you ever been to a wedding where you couldn’t tell if it was a day for the bride or the bride’s mom? Just as your wedding is your day and should be created in your image, your marriage is yours and yours alone. By all means, listen to the advice of those around you but remember that you make the ultimate decision of what your relationship will look like.



Will children be welcomed at the ceremony or even given a featured role or instead will the invitations politely implore the attendees to leave their offspring at home? I’m always amazed to discover the number of couples that don’t discuss the desired role of children in their lives after marriage. Some, who see children as a natural progression from marriage, simply assume that their future spouse feels the same. Others have the discussion but fail to consider the repercussions if one partner later changes their mind or biology conspires against them. These are important – if difficult – conversations to have.



Apart from those betrothed couples that met at church, there will almost certainly be some differences in childhood or adult religious beliefs and practices. Since marriage vows have historically been performed within a religious framework, the wedding provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss the role and significance that religion will take for the couple. This conversation needs to extend beyond the wedding day. It’s even more important that the couple agrees on where every Sunday morning will be spent than on who will lead the service on the day the marriage begins.


Most people are very deliberate about the friends they invite to be a part of their wedding. They want to surround themselves with others who will be supportive, realistic, and share in their joy. Be just as deliberate in choosing the friends that surround your marriage. We are influenced by those we spend our time with; choose wisely.


Much time and money is put into creating the décor and ambiance of a wedding day. Just because the day is over and the budget is back to reality does not mean that you have to forgo beauty. Find ways to incorporate items that make you smile into your daily life. Any table is brightened by even the simplest centerpiece.


The focus of a wedding is on the words spoken between the spouses-to-be — the promises and declarations to love, honor, and cherish. Even after the walk down the aisle, words, whether spoken or written, are still an important part of a marriage. Never assume that your spouse knows how you feel and never underestimate the power of a positive word or two. The best part? When you say how much you love or appreciate your partner, it fuels those positive feelings in you as well.


Many wedding traditions have a deliberate balance between the time spent as a couple and the time spent apart. Even when you married, it is important to spend time away from your partner, either alone or with other friends or family. Make sure you have discussed your needs and expectations for your balance of time; it’s important to reach an agreement between the two of you so that no one feels smothered and no one feels abandoned.


Some of the meaning in a wedding comes from tradition — elements handed down through generations that create a sense of unity and belonging. Just because the ceremony has ended does not mean that there is not room for traditions in your marriage. Look to your families of origin for rituals that you can implement in your new union or seek to create your own traditions. These conventions will serve to strengthen the bond between you and your spouse and give you a foundation upon which to build lasting memories.


It is the rare couple who marries without a budget. Just because the presents are unwrapped and put away and you have begun to get used to married life does not mean that the budget goes out the window. Make sure you and your new spouse continue to talk about money. Agree on common financial goals. Separate needs from wants. Don’t let nickels and dimes create a wall between you and your betrothed.


A wedding is a public vow, whether it be made in a private ceremony or in front of thousands, it is still declaring your commitment to the world. After the wedding, life settles down and it’s easy to confine your marriage to your private life. Or, even worse, expose your frustrations with your spouse but keep mum about the joys. Even after the wedding, make a habit of speaking positively about your spouse and your marriage. Sharing this commitment publicly helps to keep it alive.


The best weddings are fun. They have a sense of levity and humor. Any mishaps are laughed about and the challenges are kept in perspective. That’s pretty good advice for a marriage, as well. Not every day will be a party but you can strive to find humor and laughter in every situation. Find ways to bring excitement and fun into your marriage. The associated smiles are priceless.

I’m sure that the couple I overheard at Starbucks will have a lovely wedding (and I am SO glad that I’m not footing the bill!). I just hope they have planned as thoroughly to have a lovely marriage.


10 Things People Who Thrive After Divorce DON’T Do!

We all have seen that some people manage to make it through even the most horrific of divorces with their hearts and smiles intact, whereas others seem permanently withered by their experience. We all want to be a member of the first group and yet we often find ourselves unwitting members of the second.

Why is it that some people flourish and others atrophy?

This is the advice that I wished I had received while I was still in the depths of my own divorce.  I had plenty of people telling me what to do (and I followed the suggestions that fit for me), but nobody really clarified what those that thrive don’t do.

Learn what not to do here.

How to Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself (and Start Feeling Better) After Divorce

Do you relate to any of these feelings after divorce?

“It’s not fair that my family has been torn apart!”

“This sucks! I hate having to start over at this stage of my life.”

“My ex seems to be doing just fine. Why am I having such a hard time of this?”

“Nobody else gets this. They haven’t had to deal with the stuff I’ve been dealt.”

I felt all of those and more during those first dark months. There were many days that seemed hopeless and the lonely nights stretched into eternity.

To the public, I put on a hopeful face. While behind closed doors, I experienced more self-pity than I did optimism.

Yet even while I worried that I wouldn’t feel happy again, I took steps towards beginning to feel better. Here are fifteen ways that you can crash your pity party and start to feel better.




7 Reasons to Cross a Finish Line During Your Divorce

Divorce is often a long process. Apart from assembling the required documentation, writing checks to your attorney and making the requisite trips to IKEA (where you fight with college kids over the practical and value-minded inventory), you end up spending a lot of that time simply waiting.

Waiting for your divorce to be final.

Waiting for the legal approval to make changes to your name, your accounts and maybe your living situation.

Waiting for the uncertainty and the pain to end.

And maybe even waiting to live.


Let’s face it – waiting sucks. Feeling helpless sucks. Feeling insecure and lost as you tentatively start your new sucks.

And you know what can help all of that suck a little less?

A finish line.

No, really.

Learn more about how a finish line can help you here.

Three Powerful Lessons About Finding Love From An Unlikely Source

love lessons

Because sometimes the way to learn to do something better is to start with what we already know…


You know: Never go to the grocery store when hungry.

When you succumb to the grocery store on an empty stomach, you’re possessed by a powerful drive to grab anything in your sight. You have a tendency to zero in on high-calorie items, especially those stocked for maximum visual impact. Your reasoning and planning abilities are sluggish, which may lead to a full cart but an empty pantry as you later realize you forgot the staples.

In contrast, when you navigate the store on a full stomach, you find it easier to stick to your list of needed items and resist those temptations that look good only to leave you feeling bad.

Love lesson: Never date when starving for affection.

When you’re starving for attention and affection, you may enter the dating scene driven by that ravenous and undiscriminating hunger. You’re likely to grab anything that catches your eye with little thought to its long-term impact.

Instead, strive to fill the voids in your life with friends, family, hobbies, passions and purpose before you seek out romantic love. You will make better choices for the long term and be better able to stick to your list of “must haves.” And you’ll also find it easier to pass on those people that make you feel good in the moment only to cause regret in the morning.



You know: Your cart only has so much space.

A grocery cart has finite space and so decisions must be made about what will be chosen to occupy that real estate. Maybe you notice a sale on soda and you’re tempted to fill the basket until the cans pile over the brim. You may justify this decision, claiming that you’re taking advantage of a good deal and that you never know when such a sale may come around again.

But at what expense? Yes, you’ll have soda for months. But you can’t live on pop alone.

Love lesson: Sometimes you have to let go of what makes you feel good in the moment in order to make space for what fulfills you long term.

Once we have allowed someone space in our lives, we tend to justify their place there even when they may not have been the wisest choice. It can be easy to focus on the parts that fit while actively ignoring the reasons why it’s not a good idea.

It’s a version of FOMO (fear of missing out). Because as long as that person is there, you know you have someone. If you let them go, you risk being alone. But there’s only so much space. And sometimes you have to let go of one thing in order to make room for what you need.



You know: Junk food may be quick and easy, but it is detrimental to your health.

So called “food deserts” earned their moniker not from a lack of food, but from a lack of quality food. Processed foods are tempting because they require little investment of time or money. They promise sustenance and indeed provide some feeling of satiety. These “foods” have been carefully engineered to promote maximum consumption and to encourage dependency.

However, in the longer run, these foods can cause starvation even as they widen the waistline since key nutrients have been replaced with fillers and empty calories. Healthy foods take effort, intention and planning as you turn the raw ingredients into something that will both nurture and fortify you.

Love lesson: Healthier relationships take time and energy to prepare.

Quick fixes are tempting in love as well. Those relationships that ignite quickly and fill you with both a surge of temporary well-being and a driving need for more. They can become a drug, leading you to always search for that next spark of interest. Only to leave you empty and lonely once the initial attraction fades.

Healthier relationships are built from the ground up. There is effort. Intention. Sustained energy and shared responsibility. And the pride and ownership that comes from doing something yourself.