Once you and your partner decide to Getting married, it can feel like a swift free-fall towards the big day. It’s easy to get caught up in wedding planning and let every single interaction with your other half revolve around wedding details and decisions (there’s a wedding planning checkpoint for that). But whether your wedding is months or years away, it’s important to take this time not only to prepare for a beautiful marriage but also to get ready for a lasting and happy marriage.
To deepen and strengthen your bond—and make the transition into married life even smoother and breezy – here are 10 important things that wedding and marriage experts recommend couples do together before they get married. So grab your husband-to-be, consider the following advice, and start checking things off this list.
List of 10 important things that wedding and marriage experts recommend couples do together before they get married.
Long before making that commitment to spend the rest of your lives together, it’s important to communicate and discuss your personal values and beliefs, such as religion, family dynamics and rituals, and politics. “You may not always agree, but you need to respect each other’s viewpoints and ensure that they’re not a deal-breaker before walking down the aisle,” says Brittny Drye, founder of Love Inc. in new york city. If you do find yourselves on opposite ends of the spectrum in one area, know that it can still work, but it maybe take some extra effort and pre-planning in your relationship to decide how to handle conflict before it happens (say, on Thanksgiving or Election Day).
2. Take an engagement-month trip.
Traveling together gives you a chance to see how you each handle stressful situations, which is a valuable insight for your future life together, says Marisa Manna Ferrell of So Eventful in Healdsburg, California. Even if you’ve mastered the art of the couples getaway already, this is a good time to consider an engagement-moon. “This lets you decompress,” says Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group in Boston. So if you haven’t skipped city together yet, book a trip! It doesn’t need to be far away, lengthy, or costly, either. Road trips, camping trips, domestic weekend getaways in a home rental—they’re all great ways for couples to share experiences outside their usual routines, make new memories, and get used to solving problems (a flat tire, hotel hiccups, canceled flights) ) as a team. And of course they’re fun and romantic. If you’re booking a more conventional stay, Velez recommends making it easy on yourself and consider an all-inclusive resort, which gives you the chance for downtime without having to worry about details once you get there.
You and your significant other should agree on fundamental subjects like finances—even though they’re not always fun or easy to discuss. “401Ks may not be on your mind when you’re in your 20s, but it’s vital to have this discussion ahead of time so you’re not finding yourself in situations down the road that could do damage to your marriage,” Drye says. Talk about how you’ll share/divide living expenses, how you plan to live, and whether you both anticipate to work until retirement. Get the discussion going by asking yourselves these six important money questions.
4. Talk about children.
Like the money talk, the discussion about kids is an important one. Do you two want them? If so, how much? Share your vision before you exchange pledges. “Having kids is a huge commitment, personally and financially, for the rest of your lives, and does change your relationship with your partner,” says Beth Bernstein of Beth Bernstein Events in Chicago. “Coups go into marriages thinking it’s something they can work out later, or one thinks they can change the other person’s mind, but it rarely ends well. It’s important to agree on this one from the beginning.”
Consider taking dance lessons, but for an altogether different reason than you may expect. “Yes, it’s a great way to learn how to move on the dance floor with one another, but equally as important, it’s time where you can literally step away from the stressors of planning,” says Kevin Dennis of wedding business intelligence company WeddingIQ in Washington, D.C. It’s an opportunity to learn together, laugh together, and spend time together, phones down and concentrated on each other.
6. Live together.
More than three-quarters of couples married last year (77 percent) lived together before getting married, according to MarriageWire’s Newlywed Report. And for good reason: Not only does living together before marriage have economic advantages (one rent instead of two? Yes, please!), it’s arguably the best way to test your compatibility with each other. “It’s important to learn the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly about your partner—their strange habits, their cleanliness, their morning routine—and make sure you’re domestically compatible,” Drye says. If you cannot or don’t want to live together prior to marriage, perhaps due to geographical location or religious reasons, at least aim to spend weekends together.
Have a discussion about any name changes before tying the knot. “It’s easy to assume someone is going to take the traditional route, but these days, we’re seeing so many different paths taken, it’s best to visit the subject early,” says Emily Sullivan of Emily Sullivan Events in New Orleans. Whether you decide to take your spouse’s last name, keep your own, combine the two, create a new last name, or choose something else altogether, consider the implications for both of your families and any future children that might come from your marriage.
8. Meet each others’ favorite people.
“Whether it’s their inner circle of friends or an entire extension of family, getting to know the most important people in each others’ lives gives you insight into who the other is as a person,” says Drye. If time and geography permit, spend time together and really get to know your partner’s beloved ones. (If not, fortunately there are more ways than ever to connect virtually!) Building strong relationships with your significant other’s close family and friends will also deepen the bond between the two of you. A note of precautions: If your families come from opposite sides of the country (or even the world), start having conversations now about how you’ll spend time with each of them once you’re married, especially when it comes to holidays.
Going out of your comfort zone and learning something new together—whether it’s taking a cooking class, trying a digital photography workshop, or streaming a beginner’s yoga session—stronges your bond over a shared experience. Another great idea? Attend some wine tastings. “Not only can it be a fun pastime, but better understanding wine allows you to make more personalized wedding day selections for you and your guests,” says Heather Jones, formerly of Wente Vineyards in Livermore, Calif. Years down the road, you can open a bottle of the same wine you enjoyed on your wedding day, and the memories will come rushing back.
10. Take engagement photos.
If you’re not sure whether you want to have engagement photographs taken before the wedding, go ahead and do it. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know your photographer a little better,” says Keith Phillips of Classic Photographers in Boston. After all, you’re about to spend a really important day of your life with him/her, so breaking the ice early can be a smart way to make you feel more comfortable in front of the camera when your wedding day comes. It’s also a chance to laugh at awkward moments, loose up in front of the camera together, get even more psyched for your big day, and just be completely wrapped up in each other for a few hours—something every couple deserves.