Engagement can be a time that makes you want to just bask in a celebration of romantic love; those sweet dates and fun trips to share the news with others can be a huge part of the fun of being engaged. That being said, it is helpful to also ask some of the difficult and important questions to each other about topics that you don’t want to surprise you both after the wedding.
If possible, these are good things to get settled before you start booking vendors for a wedding, since it will allow you to spend money confidently. You’ll know that you are on the same page about major life choices, and you’ll be able to enjoy the wedding planning process that much more.
1. What is Your Vision for Our Wedding?
The first big challenge of your marriage will be the actual event of your wedding. If one of you has always envisioned a small ceremony with one close friend and a sibling, and the other was expecting an all-out bash for everyone they know, you have some decisions to make.
One of the best ways to manage your expectations in this stage is a simple exercise. Have each person take a piece of paper and write down the three things they most want out of the wedding experience. Usually, the deal-breakers are things like “must have dancing,” rather than a very specific venue or guest list. Then, work together with the two lists to see how you can get to a ceremony that includes all six items.
Doing this work before you start wedding planning with other family members is helpful to making sure that, no matter how many changes must be made to the original plan, you can work to maintain each person’s best and most important moments.
2. What Are Our Experiences with Sex and Money?
It’s sometimes taboo to talk about sex or about money. Experiences with past lovers and the debt or cash flow you have will be relevant to your future relationship. No one else can tell you the best way to manage either of these areas, since they are very personal. However, a lot of heartbreak could have been avoided between couples in the past if they had simply spoken with each other about these topics. Get a glass of wine or a piece of cheesecake and sit down together to talk about these two important topics. Make space for each person to feel they can express themselves, since if one or the other of you have sensitive information to share, it may never come to light without a dedicated moment to share it.
3. Do We Want Kids, and If So, How Many and When?
If you are getting married while very young, it can be tempting to assume that your future selves will make this decision. In most cases, people already know fairly well whether having children is part of their life goals or not. Make sure that you know what your significant other wants in terms of a family, because all the romantic love in the world doesn’t make a person want children who has never desired them. Talk about the options of adoption, having fewer or more kids than you had thought about. If you can, talk about important values you’d want to raise them with, like religious faiths.
4. How Will We Interact with Each Other’s Families, and the New In-Laws?
Many engaged couples have already met and spent some time with their future in-laws, but people tend to behave differently when first meeting, rather than when they really get to know each other. Help each other out with some of the family information, so that each person won’t accidentally offend or slight someone in the family. It’s also wise to talk about expectations for visits, both if your family lives in town or quite far away. If you are going to be using a lot of your vacation days to visit his or her family, you want to know that ahead of time.
5. Where Do We Want to Live, and What Kind of Careers Are Important to Us?
These elements are linked, since most careers are still tied to a particular place. While no one can predict the future, it is valuable to share with your spouse-to-be if you see your current job as a dead end and desire to go back to school, or if you will happily work any kind of job available just to live in a coastal community. These goals and desires are a chance for you to work together to achieve what you both want. If your current goals are incompatible, now is a great time to talk about “trading off” on dream work and dream locations, letting one of you fulfill a goal for a few years before moving or changing directions for the other person to pursue their dreams. It’s all about compromise.
While these conversations can be eye-opening and sometimes difficult, having these questions answered will solidify your new life together. Speaking with a minister or counselor to get the conversation going is also an option, since pre-marital counseling is a commonly offered option to many couples planning to marry.