Wedding planning can be equal parts intoxicating and stressful. Details, decisions, and projects can fill every free moment for months. But always remember that your engagement is not only a time for planning your wedding day—it is also a time to prepare for marriage! The things you’ll want to discuss during your engagement vary depending on how long you’ve known each other, if you’re already living together, and topics you’ve already worked through. Don’t assume that you know your partner’s answers to these questions until you’ve asked—it may surprise you how much similarity you’re assuming when, in reality, your individual expectations may be very different.
As a starting point, here are nine things that every couple should talk through before the wedding day.
Sit down together and write up a monthly budget for your first month of marriage. If both of you are working, what is the total of your combined incomes? If one or both of you is going through school, how and when will tuition and loans be paid? What percentage of your income should you save, and what percentage should be spent? Do you have similar or different priorities? What are your financial goals? In 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? If your spending or saving styles are very different, what books or other resources could you access to help you compromise?
What will this look like? What are your expectations? Will you be working 9-5 jobs or jobs with varying or unique hours? How will you prioritize together time, social time, and alone time? What are you expecting? Is it the same as what your partner has in mind?
Where do you see yourselves in one year? Five years? Ten years? How many children, if any, and when? Are you both equally ambitious? How will you handle job offers that require you to move? Will one of your careers have more priority? What if one of you decides not to work? Do you have that freedom? How would the working partner feel about that?
What are your expectations for frequency and types of sex? How will frequency be decided? How will you both respond if desires don’t match—for a night, a week, a month, a year? Be sure to talk about how each of you is feeling about sex in marriage. How do you plan to prioritize sex as you get older and life gets busier with careers, children, etc.? If you’re waiting until the wedding night to have sex, it’s extremely important to talk about how both you are feeling and what you’re expecting for the wedding night and the honeymoon. Is there anything from your past that you need to communicate?
How do you feel about counseling in general? Do you see it as healthy maintenance or a last resort? Would you be embarrassed to go to counseling? Have you had any negative or positive experiences with counseling that could affect your view? Under what circumstances should you seek out couple’s counseling? Who can you talk to about conflicts? To what extent can you share difficult times with friends and family?
This is a basic topic that can be the source of a lot of conflict, especially in the first few years. It can be really helpful to talk about what roles each of your parents took on, as it is common to assume that “normal” is what your parents did. Who will go grocery shopping, prepare meals, clean up after meals, take out the trash, do the laundry, clean the house, and maintain the house?
Do you both have similar approaches to health? Do either of you have any habits that the other perceives as unhealthy or would like to see change? How do you feel about weight gain as you get older? What do you consider reasonable and what might be prevented? How important is health to both of you?
How will you handle major and minor holidays? How involved will your extended family be in your new life, and vice versa? Do you have ground rules for visits, phone calls, or other communication? Is there anything that one partner could do that would make the other uncomfortable—such as calling up your mom to discuss a fight that you and your partner just had?
What are your expectations and priorities? How will you maintain friendships? How do you feel about your partner traveling with friends, or traveling to see friends? Will you be more or less involved in friendships and social obligations after you are married? What are your partner’s needs for cultivating and maintaining friendships? Are they easy to support or do they bother you?