It's no secret that planning a wedding can be stressful and expensive. But how you and your partner handle the comprehensive, sometimes difficult process says a lot about the nature of your relationship, according to wedding planners.
ATTN: interviewed Texas-based wedding planner Christy Matthews and LA-based wedding planner Cassandra Santor about signs that a couple may not be right for each other. Though the planners haven't specifically had clients report back that they got a divorce later on down the road, Matthews and Santor do have some thoughts on what could be signs of trouble in relationships. Here are some of the red flags they have noticed during the planning process, as well as some tips from them on how to avoid conflict before the big day.
1. They take sides.
"A lot of times mothers of the bride [or groom] have very particular points of view, and the couple should really be in it together," Santor told ATTN: over the phone. "If it's 'well my mom said this' and 'your mom said that,' and the family of origin's opinion [is taken more seriously] than the future spouse, that can be really challenging."
Santor, who didn't have a bridal party in her own wedding and worked closely with her husband to plan the whole nuptials ceremony, recommends staying on the same team throughout the process:
"It does bode nicely when you're on the same team. Who is paying for the wedding, how are they paying for the wedding, this can really show signs of what the marriage might be like and again, I think if you're on the same team from the get-go or always establish that you're on the same team, I feel like that's a huge piece of it."
Matthews told ATTN: over the phone that she is sometimes wary of young couples tying the knot — and whether or not they can handle the struggles of adulthood and marriage.
"The times I worry about my clients is when, in short, the wedding has become bigger than this impending marriage, and I worry more when they're younger because it's going to come as even more of a surprise [that] this whole adult gig, it's tough," Matthews said. "I have worked with couples from like 21 years — or even 20 years old in one case — to couples in their fifties. And I do worry, or the thought occurs to me more, when a couple is really super young and just sort of inexperienced in worldly ways. I personally think like, 'This is not the best recipe for a lifelong commitment here.' But I would probably feel that way even if I wasn't a wedding planner."
Matthews' opinion is backed up by some research on divorce rates and marriage age. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 1979 found that marriages were more likely to end when couples married young. For example, nearly 60 percent of marriages that started from the ages of 15 to 22 ended in divorce, the study found. In July 2015, sociologist Nick Wolfinger published research in the Institute for Family Studies suggesting that getting married between ages 28 and 32 decreases one's chances of divorce in the first five years of marriage.
“The odds of divorce decline as you age from your teenage years through your late 20s and early 30s,” Wolfinger wrote.
3. The wedding becomes a bigger deal than the relationship.
Matthews told ATTN: that she starts to feel concerned when clients "are so focused on the wedding itself to the point of [being] manic, being overly stressed about tiny details, or chang[ing] their minds 400 times about one element of the wedding day."
"[When] it becomes an all-encompassing monster, that's when I worry or the thought occurs to me like, 'We're forgetting what the point of this is,'" Matthews said. "The point that marriage is the ultimate goal here. When that's lost and it becomes more about the wedding, or [there's this idea that the wedding] is the end of the journey, [it's concerning]."
Matthews acknowledged that people can get particularly obsessive over their weddings, because they likely haven't had to plan such an elaborate event before, and that can be a huge stressor:
"If you were going to do anything else in life, go get your car fixed or build a house or put a pool in your backyard, you would hire professionals to do it, and once you hire them, you would let go a little bit. But that's not what happens with weddings because they're so emotionally heavy. And you've been told your whole life what a big deal it is, and it is a big deal. But it's only the beginning of a bigger deal ... it's not the end."
Santor, however, told ATTN: that fixating on the wedding can actually be a sign that a couple is invested in their marriage:
"The impetus of the day is equal to the commitment you're making, so I kind of see it as more of a beautiful thing that if you're committing so much time and thought and energy into your day, it's because [of] how important it is to you."
Both Santor and Matthews told ATTN: that they recommend couples take a step back when wedding planning becomes overwhelming so they can remember why they're committing their lives to each other in the first place.
"Taking time away from it, going on a weekend with your fiance and specifically not talking about the wedding, I think that that's really healthy because it provides you a reminder of why you're together to begin with," Santor said. "It's a special process and I do think it's as important as people make it out to be, it's just how you take it. Are you going to take it in stride and do it as a team or are you going to fight each other on it?"
Matthews said she has heart-to-heart conversations with couples when she thinks they're totally lost in wedding planning anxieties.
"Keep your eye on the prize: which is the marriage and not the wedding," Matthews said. "I have to say that to my couples, and when I do, I say it with love, and I'm a wedding planner! I'm making money off this whole industry, but I'm also a married person. I'm trying my best to figure out this whole thing like everyone else. I know one truth and that's that marriage is harder than weddings. So this is supposed to be the fun part, the easy part, this is the party."