The epidemic of extravagant weddings is seeping into our culture in an unmistakable way. Turn on the TV at any given time and you will find a plethora of shows centered on the concept of achieving the so-called perfect wedding.

The wedding planning process includes finding the perfect dress, landing the perfect reception hall, making sure you’ve got the right flowers, food, cake, music, wedding party, DJ, photographer, centerpieces, invitations, ceremony, rings, shoes and more. While there is no doubt that there is value in celebrating such a sacred day, is it possible that in our celebration- sometimes we miss the focus?

When it comes to wedding planning, there is a tendency to focus on the minor details while neglecting the main point; planning the wedding, while neglecting to plan the marriage.

Far beyond planning the particulars of a wedding day, the time of engagement is a really sacred time. It’s a chance to get to the bottom of who you are and reflect on the person you want to become. It’s an opportunity to connect with and continue getting to know the heart of the precious partner God has placed in your life.

It’s a time to begin working, preparing and planning for the marriage you hope to build. 

As you reflect on some of the most important aspects of planning a marriage, here are some must-have conversations before you walk down the aisle:

1. Past: When it comes to planning for a marriage it’s crucial to talk about your past, because the past has a role in shaping the present. Whether your past is tainted with pain, or filled with hope- you need to get real with where you come from. Past relationships, family history, and significant experiences (both positive and negative) that have shaped you are just some of the things that need to be discussed as you look back- so that you can join together in moving forward.

2. Family: What role will your family play in your life once you are married? How will visits, holidays, and special occasions impact your relationship with one another? Will you start your own traditions, or continue those of your family of origin? What role will our family have when it comes to our life and decision making? Combining two people from two separate families into one is something that many people take lightly. But it’s a topic that can cause much strain and stress if not tackled in part before you say I do.

3. Sex: Our views of sex and sexuality are shaped long before we commit to marriage. It’s crucial to get comfortable with this topic of conversation, because it’s one that you’ll carry on for the rest of your married life. What are your views of sex, and how have they been shaped? What is your past sexual history and how might that impact your relationship? What expectations do you have and are you on the same page? Understanding your sexual views and knowing your partner’s is a valuable part of preparing for intimacy.

4. Secrets: I get a lot of questions from people wondering when is the right time to share “secrets”- the parts of your life that you rarely share with others. There is no better time to share these intimate things than now, as you look ahead at marriage. From family secrets, to personal choices, from health problems to mental health concerns, this is the time to share things big and small, paving the way for honesty and openness as the foundation of your relationship.

5. Expectations: Because expectations are such a deep-seated part of who we are, we don’t often think about them. But talking about these things gives us a chance to bring them to the surface in a constructive way.  What are your views on work, family, and marriage roles? How will you accomplish the cooking, the cleaning and the chores? This is just skimming the surface of the things we may expect going into marriage, and it’s an important conversation to have.