With Harry and Meghan’s reflections on their own wedding day at Windsor, and Carrie and Boris beating the media pundits and enjoying a very private ceremony at Westminster Cathedral, weddings, and all that surrounds them, have been very much in the news in recent weeks.
Last year was a disastrous one for the wedding industry both in this country and all around the world as the lockdowns took their toll but this year promises to be a bumper one with somewhere around 400,000 ceremonies planned at a cost of more then £12 billion. But the uncertainties also remain. Even as I write it is not clear quite what restrictions will remain in place later this week.
How many people will be able to be there?
What will they be allowed to do?
What sort of honeymoon will be possible?
Should we be cutting our guest list now?
All these questions only serve to exacerbate what many couples and families find to be a pretty stressful time in any case. As I know from personal experience and from my counselling room preparing for the ‘big day’ often results in tensions appearing that people were not expecting to arise and this year will, I am sure, prove to be no exception to that general rule.
The experiences of the last 15 months have, in many cases, helped couples form deeper relationships than they had in pre-COVID days. Whilst they may well have been living together already the reality of home-working and isolation have created their own pressures and have required individuals to learn to negotiate the constant presence of the other. Coming through those experiences will, I am sure, be beneficial for many though for others they will have been anything but that.
One danger I anticipate is that, in a rather upside-down sort of way, the pressure to survive during lockdown may have disabled couples from having the important conversations that will be foundational for future growth as they take the step of marriage. It is easy to assume that the other person thinks the same way as you do and has the same priorities but I am more certain than ever that it is important for couples to give themselves the opportunity to test those assumptions out, and for individuals to think key questions through for themselves.
We are all familiar by now with the questions surrounding where and how we will work in the future. Will we be at an office or at home? Or a mixture of the two? What will this mean about where we want to live and what sort of home we hope to be living in? And how may these factors determine what we want for our children and what our expectations will be for them?
Some new questions are appearing as a result of COVID, but in many cases they are just the reworking of the old ones. What matters for every couple is that they take the time with each other to address them together. Recognising and talking about them is vital for every relationship, however well established it may be, but particularly when a couple is embarking on a new stage in their own lives.
At Coupleworks many couples find having pre-marital counselling with a relationship therapist can be a real help in exploring these questions. It is not because there are any right or wrong answers per se, but the important thing is the process of the couple themselves communicating and coming to an understanding of each other. After all, whether it is on a wedding day, or at a tenth or twentieth anniversary, the aspiration of couples is to build relationships that are long lasting and nothing can beat communication to ensure that that becomes and remains a reality.