Wedding season is upon us, and that means lots of revenue for all the vendors in that industry, which in the DC Area yields about $1.1 Billion a year. Truly, one must admire the amazing collaboration of efforts that make that magical day happen, but looking beyond the big day, here are 4 key questions all engaged couples should be asking themselves:
1. What are the reasons you want to get married? The motivating factor should not be because you are tired of the dating scene or feel external pressure either as a result of a biological clock ticking, finances, or having a visa that is about to expire. It is also not healthy to want to play the role of a savior– although we all want to help those we love, it grows old when one person constantly needs to be rescued by the other. Furthermore, applying the sunken cost logic, i.e. we have invested too much time or money into this relationship to call it quits is very faulty logic. If things are not good now, it is not likely to miraculously get better by committing yourself financially and legally to one another. Indeed, the only real reason you should want to tie the knot these days is because you genuinely love that other person (accepting them the way they are and not the way you wish they would be), and you cannot picture life without him/her being a part of the many adventures that lie ahead.
2. Are you in sync about finances? First there is the issue of paying for all the costs associated with a wedding, which is no small undertaking. But beyond that are much deeper questions: How important is it for both of you to save vs. spend? How will you manage a household budget? Will you want to keep separate accounts or create a joint account, and who will manage them? Do you want a prenuptial agreement to define what will remain separate versus joint? Are you both self-supporting? If not, are you worried about alimony? If so, do you want to ask for a waiver or set caps in the event of a divorce? If all these questions seem overwhelming or are a sore subject between you, then ask for help– invest in a consult with a legal or financial expert to help you structure your partnership in a way that will work for both parties.
3. How well do you resolve conflict? Conflict is inevitable when there are limited resources, and here the main two often in dispute involve time and/or money. So, how do you find a resolution? Your communication styles and tolerance for conflict will differ, that is normal. But, are you able to hear each other’s points of view and address one another’s concerns respectfully? Do you feel like you work well together as a team? If not, are you willing to work with a couples counselor to develop strategies that will enhance your relationship?
4. What are your dreams and aspirations? We all have a vision for what we want out of life, and each of us has a Constitutional right to actually pursue our own happiness. But, when you get married and join forces with someone, you need to make sure that you are both in agreement as to your family’s core values and vision for the future. Put bluntly, you cannot move the tandem bike forward unless you are on the same page as to where you are heading and the pace you want to use when pedaling.
Everyone dreams of a happily-ever after, but in order to maximize the chances of actually fulfilling that dream every engaged couple has to look beyond that big wedding day and the wonderful honeymoon phase, and think about what real life will look like together after all the buzz has died down. Both parties have to be in sync with their expectations as to the direction, commitment and daily management of their partnership– not just emotionally but financially, and when there are differences of opinions (which are inevitable) there must be a respectful way of addressing problems, such that trust and respect continues to build over time. That is how you ensure that your love really lasts.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.