Excerpt: Rules for Marriage

The following is an excerpt from the book The Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider.

Read the transcript from our chat with Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider . Also, buy your copy of their new book here.


Relax During the Engagement and Wedding

Ideally, The Rules for Marriage begin before your wedding day. We believe once you get engaged, a wedding date should be set — no endless engagements. When a man proposes, it should be with a ring and a wedding date within one year, not longer, unless you are young (under 25 years old), in which case a two-year engagement is fine. If your fiancé is stalling on a wedding date, you may have to give him back the ring and move on.

Assuming you have a ring and a reasonable wedding date, what are the rules for the engagement period and wedding?

Every month we receive calls, letters, and e-mail saying, "Thanks. I'm so happy!" But we also get letters like this one: "Now that I'm engaged, we're fighting all the time. I feel him pulling back. I'm acting needy. What should I do?" Or like this one: "How often should I see him now that I'm engaged? Do I stick to the three-day-a-week rule and 10-minute phone calls?"

These concerns are fairly common. The dynamics of a relationship can change dramatically when you go from dating to being engaged and planning the wedding. It is tempting to change your behavior — to call him all the time, to lose interest in yourself, your work, your friends, and just about everything else — because, after all, you are practically married. All of a sudden, you think The Rules are over. This is a mistake. A man may get overwhelmed if he suddenly sees and/or hears from you morning, noon, and night. It's not like he's going to break the engagement, but he starts to miss his freedom and wants space (going out with the guys, working late) and then you get hurt.

If you continue to do The Rules, this will not happen. We don't recommend living together, as we said in The Rules, but if you are and you are planning the wedding, continue to be "a creature unlike any other" (confident, easygoing), remain focused on making your life full and meaningful, and try not to nag him about the wedding plans or anything else.

However, the initial rigid rules of catching a husband no longer apply now. He already pursued you, told you he loves you, and wants to marry you. You're a couple now, so you can relax in the knowledge that you don't need to stick to the original "don't see him more than three times a week or talk for more than 10 minutes on the phone" rules. You will be seeing him more often since you are planning the wedding and your future or even living together. Obviously, you will need to call him to discuss things. The key here is how you conduct yourself — you're calm, fun, pleasant, you still have your own life, you're not suddenly demanding or clingy — that will make all the difference between a happy engagement and a stressful one. You don't have to be a constant challenge. He enjoys just being with you. Also, you can call him at work more often than when you were dating. Just try to make sure the calls are quick and to the point, not an excuse to speak to him or to have marathon discussions. A sample conversation about the wedding: "Hi hon, the flowers are in, my fitting is Tuesday, talk to you later, love you...."

Now, about the wedding planning: Most women can get pretty hysterical while planning their wedding — there are so many details to worry about, so many pressures for it to go smoothly, so many opinions from family, friends, and relatives. Try to keep your sanity. If you act like a diva or a perfectionist, you will make everyone around you crazy, including your fiancé. Relax! This is a good time to go inward, to not let Hollywood images of a perfect wedding distract you from the meaning of it all. You will soon be marrying the man of your dreams. Try to remember that the wedding is just one day of your life, not a motion-picture production. So what if the flowers are more lilac than pink? So what if the photographer you really wanted is booked and you have to go with your second choice? Are you going to let all this ruin your big day? This is a good time to take up yoga or meditation so you keep your priorities straight.

We all know women who made themselves nervous wrecks over their wedding plans and hardly even enjoyed their big day. Of course, they all regretted it. Don't let this happen to you. Don't let family and friends make you crazy about the seating arrangements. Don't lose sleep worrying if the buffet is big enough, if guests are going to starve or complain about the food. Nobody's ever starved at a wedding and what people think of the buffet is not that important. There will always be critics who think that there could have been more hot dishes or that the band was too loud. Do the best you can. You can't please everyone. This is a valuable lesson to learn as you plan the wedding, and it will come in handy when you are married, too. Do your best and then let it go! Make yourself happy and others will follow your lead.

How involved your fiancé is in the wedding plans is also not something you can or should try to control. Some men refuse to be left out of anything. This type will not be satisfied with interviewing one or two caterers or bands or photographers, he will want to see the half dozen who are the cream of the crop. He will agonize over picking the perfect wedding song and even take an interest in the floral arrangements. He wants it to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience because he doesn't plan to get married again. He will be the same about the honeymoon, calling the best hotels for the honeymoon suites (which could probably accommodate a party of six) on a high floor with elegant views of the city. He will make dinner reservations for the most intimate corner tables at the finest restaurants. Money will be no object, even if he doesn't have much. Be thrilled if your fiancé shows this much interest. Go along with his enthusiasm even if you're not as into it as he is. Some brides are not as fortunate.

Your fiancé may show little or no interest in wedding plans; he thinks it's a woman's thing and would go along with "whatever" — he'd be just as happy to exchange vows with both your immediate families, a few close friends, and a vase of flowers in his one-bedroom apartment. Do not force him to get involved. Don't analyze his indifference or nag him to take a more active role, just accept that some men are simply not interested in the intricacies of a wedding, even their own. They will show up at the altar, but that's about it. If this is the case, plan the wedding with your bridesmaids, family, and friends, and be glad that he has confidence in your planning abilities.

As for disagreements, try to take them in stride. Suppose you and your fiancé have different ideas about the size of the wedding. You want a big affair, he wants a small one. You want a band, he wants a D.J. You want to hire a professional photographer, he wants to ask his friend Joe to take snapshots — you get the idea! Don't throw tantrums, act like a diva, or insist on having your way. Maybe a small wedding isn't such a bad idea, especially if he's trying to save money to buy a house and start a family. Whatever his reasons, we think it's important to listen and consider his point of view. Don't impose your fairy-tale images of a lavish Cinderella wedding on him. Cut him some slack — he pursued you, proposed, bought you a ring, and has made a commitment to spend the rest of his life with you. If you demand a big, expensive wedding and he's not into it, neither of you will be happy. Besides, bickering a lot before the wedding is not a fun way to walk down the aisle!

The most enjoyable weddings are the ones where the bride and groom are happy and in love, so if you have that going for you, your wedding will be all you want it to be.

Copyright © 2001 by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider — All rights reserved. Posted with permission of http://www.twbookmark.com