Changes in Identity from Engagement to Wedding
Most couples who become engaged experience overwhelming feelings of joy and excitement. However, they may also experience sadness, anger and fear as their identity as a single person starts to shift. Like every other life cycle transition, getting married involves a loss as you mourn the single person you were and begin to embrace your new identity as a married person. In fact, the wedding planning period can provide time to integrate these new identities. Recognizing that these feelings are normal and do not reflect that anything is wrong with the relationship can be reassuring. Understanding these changes, and their effects, will help you manage the many unexpected feelings that will emerge.
Your engagement is a symbol of your commitment to one person. You may have waited for this day, but it can be scary and anxiety provoking. Your friends will also view you differently. Your single friends may see you as no longer one of them, as you make your plans to join the married world. They may anticipate that you will no longer be part of their “adventures”. Their feelings and behavior are usually less reflective of their feelings toward you but their own struggle to come to terms with your changed identity and how it will impact on them.
The shift in identity from son and daughter to husband and wife can be extremely difficult. Getting married means starting a new family, which means leaving your family of origin. Even if you’ve been on your own for a while, your parent’s sense of loss can be quite acute as they realize that their future son or daughter-in-law will be more responsible for the child that they have raised and protected. The sense of loss is also experienced by the engaged couple as they shifts from their identity as a daughter and son to assume the adult role of husband and wife. The tradition of the bride’s father “giving away” his daughter is symbolic of this change. The wedding ceremony represents this rite of passage.
A couple’s journey from engagement to wedding will include many identity changes. The feelings of loss and confusion are part of this process as you mourn your old self to make way for your new identity. It is important that you allow yourself to experience these feelings. This will help you to successfully move ahead to the next stage of your life and your new identity as a married couple.
Money is always an issue
Money is always a charged issue, so it is no wonder that dealing with finances while planning a wedding can be one of the most stressful challenges an engaged couple has to confront. There are many things to consider including:
- Who will pay for what
- What are the different family’s resources
- How is money viewed by the families
- How much will tradition play a part in financial contributions
- How do the families view the relationship between their financial contributions
and how influential they will be in making decisions
- How will the couple handle their own differences regarding money
Reviewing all of these areas will help the couple negotiate the many issues that will come up during the wedding planning and give them an opportunity to explore their own views about money. If the couple is taking on all of the financial responsibilities for the wedding, they will be in a better position to make decisions without feeling responsible to others, but family and friends will still have there ideas and feedback. If the couple expects their families to contribute, before they meet with their parents, they should discuss: how they envision their wedding; what the estimated cost will be; what they can contribute and how much they expect their families to contribute. To the extent the couple can predict some of the reactions of their parents and strategize some responses, the meetings will be more productive. If the parents agree to contribute financially, the couple needs to find out in what way they expect to be involved in the planning and decision making.
If money has been used as a way to control, this may also come into play. Parents might want to contribute more than they can afford, bringing up feelings of inadequacy, especially if the other family has more resources. These talks are usually emotionally charged because they are reflective of the changing relationships inherent in the engagement period, as sons and daughters begin to define themselves as a couple. As joyous an occasion as a wedding is, it requires not only financial resources, but also all of the couple’s and their families’ inner resources. I recommend that the couple be as clear as they can be about their needs, as direct as they can be with their families and as aware as they can be about all of the factors that influence people’s views about money. Most importantly, they should keep in mind what their wedding day is all about and enjoy the big day.
The holidays are upon us and for most newly weds this is a time of great joy. It will be the first holiday they celebrate as a married couple. However, it may also require the couple to navigate the different expectations and traditions that they have with those of their families. Some of these areas include: what’s the tradition in each family regarding celebrating the holidays; what are the expectations of where the couple should spend the holidays; how does location and emotional closeness play a part in these decisions. Most newly weds will be spending their holiday with one of their families. They will need to discuss how this will work out. Holidays can bring out the best and worst in us, so it is important to recognize that the in-laws they experienced at the wedding may be different than the in-laws that appear at the holiday table. It is all part of getting to know another family and their traditions.
Thanksgiving may be easier to manage than the religious holidays. Although the families may have different traditions, the national norms present some guidelines. Religious holidays are usually more difficult. It might be easier for couples that share the same religion, but may also require flexibility since the families may celebrate in different ways. It is usually more challenging for couples that practice different religions. If these differences haven’t been addressed before the wedding, the holidays most likely will require that they start this process.
Here are some rules of thumb to help you navigate this joyful and stressful time. If the couple is going to spend the holiday with one of their parents, they need to be clear on their decision to spend it with one family instead of the other. It can be extremely difficult for the family who will not have the couple spend it with them. The couple should be sensitive to this and emphasize how much they will miss being with them. They shouldn’t be influenced by the parent who is most upset and putting pressure on them to spend the holiday with them. They can sympathize with their difficulty, but they should avoid avoid setting up a dynamic where this parent’s difficulties will inform their decisions. It’s easier to set the boundaries from the start.
The newly weds may also experience some mixed feelings within themselves. As much as they may love their in-laws, they are not their parents and their traditions will not be the same. There may be feelings of loss as they remember their single days that they spent with your own family. If they have a strained relationship with their in-laws, they need to be prepared and should expect their spouse to handle any difficulties, should they arise. This will help them avoid getting in the role of the “problem” in-law.
Their first holiday as a married couple is very exciting. It is a time of joy and change. The wedding day symbolizes the joining of the couple as well as their respective families. The holidays spent together with their families further solidifies their journey together.
Answers to 6 Questions for Lovepost’s Wedding Blog
Q: How can I talk to my fiance about being more involved in wedding planning? I have a strong vision so the process might be intimidating, but I want his input too! What’s the best way to approach this?
A: Wedding planning is such a significant part of your engagement that it is best to sit down with your fiancé soon after you are engaged to discuss what role each of you will take. Since you are already in the process, it’s not clear in what way your fiancé would want to be involved. He may be reluctant because you have such a “strong vision” and he has had no experience planning an event. You should start by asking him how he feels about the wedding planning so far. For example, “I know I have certain ideas about the wedding, so I hope I haven’t left you out. It would be great if you could come with me to the different venues, so we can make the decisions together”. If he can’t join you, you could go through the information or websites together and jointly make the decisions. If he shows no interest at all and wants you to handle everything, you should express how important his input is and maybe suggest that he handle just one aspect of the wedding planning that he feels comfortable with. If he’s into music that may be an area he could coordinate. On the other hand, he may want to be more involved than you intended and you may have to modify your “strong visions”.
Q: What’s a good way to tell my bridesmaid she isn’t my maid-of-honor? I feel like she might be disappointed, but we aren’t as close as we used to be.
A: Having to make a decision between two close friends can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the tradition of choosing one maid-of-honor puts you in that situation. When you chose one friend, you inevitably make the other friend feel hurt and disappointed. If you are certain that they both expect to be the maid-of-honor, you should talk honestly and directly to the friend you haven’t chosen. You should convey the difficulty that you had making your decision and that it in no way reflects your feelings for her. If true, you might also mention some practical reasons that went into your decision. For example: the maid-of-honor’s location, availability, resources and organizational skills were important in selecting her. Express your gratitude that she has agreed to be a brides-maid and describe in what ways you want to her to be involved. I wish there was an easy solution and except for having two maids-of-honor, there’s no way to avoid hurt feelings. However, an honest and direct conversation can strengthen your relationship and give you both a model for communication in the future.
Q: I’m having a budget wedding. I keep feeling like I need to apologize to the people in my life about us cutting corners. For instance, we had an engagement party and it was just a casual BBQ without much and we are not serving dinner at the wedding to save money. My friends and family have certain ideals and standards for how these things should go. How do I deal with this?
A: It can be extremely difficult to have a wedding, which does not live up to your family and friends expectations. However, I’m wondering if you are the one who might be feeling most uncomfortable about your “budget wedding”. It wasn’t clear to me from your questions that anyone mentioned or criticized your “cutting corners”. Those close to you should be aware of your financial situation. After all, a wedding shouldn’t be about the venue or food, but about two people in love committing to spend their lives together and sharing it with family and friends. However, if someone does say something, I think you should respond, “Your sorry that this isn’t the type of wedding they expected to attend, however a more “upscale” wedding would have made it impossible to invite them and you wanted them to be there to witness your celebration”. If they continue to be critical, there is nothing you can do but accept where their priorities are and enjoy your special day.
Q: I really don’t like the ring that my fiance picked out. I don’t want to hurt is feeling? What do I do?
A: The engagement ring symbolizes the beginning of your lives together as a married couple. It will always be a reminder of this special time and something you will be looking at for the rest of your life. As difficult as it may be, it is important to talk to your fiancé about the ring. I’m sure there will be many times during your marriage that you will hurt your husband’s feelings. It shouldn’t be a reason not to address an important concern. You should let your fiancé know how much you appreciate all of the time and effort he put into selecting the ring. Explain that it is a beautiful ring, but not your style and you were hoping that you could both go to pick out a ring together. In the future, as you admire your ring, it will also be a reminder of how understanding and flexible your husband is and how your open communication was worth it.
Q: My fiance’s sister is waaay too involved in the wedding planning. She’s constantly emailing me and she’s trying to take control of everything. Should I say something or let it go?
A: Family relationships can change when there is an engagement and wedding. The addition of a family member may result in another family member experiencing a loss, and concern about how they will fit into the new family. Your future sister-in-law may fear that she will no longer have the same involvement with her brother after the wedding. I’m wondering if he views her “controlling” behavior in the same way as you do? In any event, this problem needs to be addressed, but it is your fiancé who should speak with his sister. Family members should always be the ones to address concerns about their own family members. Your fiancé should let his sister know how grateful you both are for all of the time and energy she has put into your wedding planning and your hope that she will continue to be involved. Let her know that you are sure she will understand your need to do things as a couple. Assure her that she will be the first one you will go to for advice and recommendations. Additionally, you might give her a responsibility that she can be totally in charge of, for example, the flowers. You are identifying yourselves as a couple and beginning to set boundaries with family members.
Q: My fiance doesn’t really like my best man. He’s a little hard to deal with sometimes, but he’s my childhood best friend and I want him to be involved in the wedding. How do I strike some kind of balance here?
A: Getting married means adding additional “friends” into your life. Often friends, who were tolerated before the engagement, may now seem permanent and elicit more negative feelings. Although your primary allegiance is to your fiancé, it is important for you to discuss how other significant people will fit into your life. My advice would be to let your fiancé know that although your friend may be difficult at times, that he is a very important childhood friend. Explain to her how helpful it would be if she were able to not criticize him and be more tolerant of him. You don’t expect her to have a close relationship with him but respect his. After all marriage requires tolerating people who you would never choose to be in you life and, to the extent you can, it helps the relationship.