Top 10 Wedding Fights Engaged Couples Have (and How to Avoid Them)

You want the wedding of your dreams, but not at the expense of your relationship. If you're fighting about wedding plans, here's how to deal.
by Lisa Carse
Engaged couple laughing
photo by Style and Story Creative

Ah, engaged life. Fancy parties in your honor, champagne toasts galore and a legitimate excuse to plunk down thousands for one dress. You never expected the downside: whisper-fighting in wedding registry departments and slammed doors over the wedding guest list. The engagement period can be a minefield of hot topics that can trigger huge blowouts. Sometimes a seating plan isn't just a seating plan—it can be an indicator that a larger issue is at bay.

"Planning the wedding is a trial run for your future marriage," says Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of True Partners: A Workbook for Building a Lasting Intimate Relationship. "The things you battle about now are clues to where you're going to have trouble in the future." Here's what lies behind the most common prewedding blowouts—and how to resolve them.

1. Family

"My partner's family's guest list is getting longer and longer every day, and they're not even chipping in for the wedding."

Tessina warns this particular argument is "a prototype for future financial dealings." Her advice: Be businesslike. Say to your partner, "This is what your family's guest list will cost, this is what my family's guest list will cost. What can we do to limit the cost? Will your family chip in?"

Patrick Gannon, MD, is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the co-creator (along with his wife, Michelle Gannon, MD, also a licensed psychologist) of Marriage Prep 101, a course designed for engaged couples. He suggests there may be more here than meets the eye. "Always be on the lookout for conflicts like these to be about 'hidden issues.' Are either of you sensitive about issues of fairness or balance? Does one of you have a greater sense of obligation to your parents that the wedding be a certain way?"

2. Partner Involvement

"My partner doesn't even seem to care about the hors d'oeuvre menu options—do they even care about me?"

Tessina warns you could be expecting too much, but don't give up on including your partner, though. "Find out what they are interested in and encourage them to participate in that part," she says. Michelle Gannon agrees, and adds, "Make sure there aren't any underlying issues, like they feel they should defer to you because you're the bride so it's 'your day,' or they feel that your parents or their parents are interfering with the wedding plans."

3. Money

You're spending big bucks on your dress; your partner wants to spend some of that cash to go to Bora Bora on the honeymoon.

"What entitles you to spend big bucks on the wedding dress? This needs to be an equitable deal. At least the honeymoon is something you'll both enjoy. Sit down together, like two adults, and work out the finances of the wedding," Tessina says.

4. Religion

"Why isn't my partner making an effort to understand my traditions?"

Patrick Gannon advises first being sure your partner understands what's expected of them—your partner may not even know you want them to learn about your traditions. Gannon suggests this topic may even bring the two of you closer. "If handled calmly and sensitively, a discussion like this can be an opportunity to get to know yourself and your partner better just by getting clear about what these traditions mean and say about each other," she says.

5. Aesthetics

Your partner wants dark green ink; you want pale green. They want candles on the tables; you think they look silly. And so on.

"So, you wanted your fiancé to be more interested in the wedding details—and now you have a more involved partner, and a new problem," Michelle Gannon says. "Both of you need to share the power and decision-making regarding wedding plans." She has a plan to accomplish that: "Decide on priorities by having each person rate on a scale of one to ten the importance of each detail. Remember, it's good practice to learn early on how to prioritize, negotiate and compromise. These skills will come in very handy later on."

6. Territory

"Why does my partner think we should be married in New Jersey just because we live here? We need to be in South Carolina with my family. My partner's relatives can fly in from Ohio."

"Ask that question for real, not just rhetorically," Tessina suggests. "Why does your partner want to get married at home? Maybe having friends at the party is more important to them than having family. That's a reasonable want. Perhaps you can scale things down and have a wedding at your family's home and a party in New Jersey."

7. Friends

"My partner chose their crazy college roommate as an honor attendant who's just intent on getting my soon-to-be spouse drunk at our wedding."

It's time to be both supportive and sensible. According to Tessina, "Your fiancé and their former roommate may have a strong bond—just make sure there are some more reasonable wedding party members around them to keep a lid on things. Arrange with your brother or a male friend to befriend your fiancé and help him resist the ploys of the best man." Patrick Gannon recommends sharing your anxiety with your partner, so you can handle the situation together. "If the best man has a drinking problem, the groom might address his concerns directly to the best man before the wedding," Gannon says.

8. Bridezilla Behavior

Your partner says, "Who is this detail-obsessed, wedding-magazine-reading person and where is the one who used to sit with me watching baseball and drinking beer?"

Your partner may have a point. "If the wedding has become more important than your relationship, that's a warning sign," Tessina says. "Yes, you want a lovely wedding, but not at the expense of your relationship. After all, what's the point? Keep your future in mind."

9. Prenups

"Why is my partner so intent on planning our divorce when we aren't even married yet?"

This could be a blessing in disguise, according to our experts. "If you pay attention, the prenuptial agreement can be as big an asset for you as it is for your partner," Tessina says. "It's another way to discuss essential financial issues before you commit." Naturally, the prenup brings up more than just finances for many couples. "This is usually experienced as an emotional issue between the couple, often involving feelings of trust, commitment and faith in each other and the future of the marriage," Patrick Gannon says. "Don't let this issue remain unresolved, because it can erode the love you have for each other."

10. The Past

Your partner's good friends with an ex and wants them to attend the wedding. You wouldn't mind if you never saw this ex again.

"You've already won this battle—your partner chose you. Don't mess up things now by being petty and jealous. Befriend their ex, get to know them, and you may like them yourself," Tessina says. "You two need to discuss how involved ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends are going to be in your life together," Michelle Gannon says.

If you're looking for more ways to improve your communication and build a healthier relationship, check out LastingThe science-based app backed by The Knot gets to know your relationship and then creates a customized program just for you and your significant other to help you to shape a better relationship and marriage.

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