Weddings are stressful: there’s the cake, the location, the dress and the guest list to figure out. A great deal of time and money is spent on this major life event.

And although your wedding is something that you will remember forever, far too often couples pay more attention to the celebration of their new life together than to the nuts and bolts of their new life as a couple.

When two people make a commitment to each other, there are some important things that need to be discussed.

  1. Do you want children? Keeping in mind that this may change in the future, you each need to know where the other stands. If one of you cannot imagine life without a child, this needs to be understood. Unplanned pregnancy also needs to be discussed – what are your thoughts on abortion? The ‘morning after’ pill? Adoption? These hard questions are best explored before the wedding.
  2. What role is extended family going to play? This is a large source of conflict between couples. It touches on a person’s identity, family ties, and emotional core. This question includes thoughts about where to spend holidays, the extent that in-laws become involved in raising your children, and what personal information is shared with extended family (for example, you may not want your wife’s mother to know about your sex life, your fights, or political views).
  3. How will money be handled? Will you have joint bank accounts? How will the bills be paid? Who will pay them? Is it okay for one person to buy something expensive without talking to the other one first? Who decides about investments? I strongly recommend coming up with some sort of financial plan before you get married, with a monthly budget and savings plan that you can agree on. Each partner should also be aware of the other person’s financial and credit history. If you’re a spender and he is a saver, this needs to be talked out before you say “I do.”
  4. What are the skeletons that lurk in your closets? Yes, you need to tell your partner that you were married previously, spent time in jail, used to be a heavy drinker, are living under an assumed name, are the illegitimate offspring of a movie star, etc, etc, etc? Everyone has things in their life that they are embarrassed or ashamed of. Get them out in the open now. You don’t want to cringe every time the phone rings wondering if it’s your long lost parole officer finally finding you.
  5. What about religion? What role will religion play in your life? Do you expect your partner to go to religious services with you? What about religious holidays? If children are born, what faith (if any) will you raise them in? What about circumcision, baptism, or dedication?
  6. What about sex? Do you plan to be monogamous or do you have an open relationship? What constitutes an affair: sexual intercourse? kissing? intimate conversations? Do you want to know if your partner has a one night stand? You both need to be on the same page for expected sexual boundaries.

Getting married is a wonderful, intense, stressful and exhilarating time. And while these questions may be awkward or difficult, discussing them before the wedding can lead to a more solid relationship. Your answer to many of these questions will change over the years, but the key is to begin your life together with an openness and willingness to talk about your values, dreams, and expectations. It will make life much easier after the knot is tied.