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It’s Not the Wedding — It’s the Marriage!

Mia found wedding planning stressful. Her mother’s was obsessing over the invitations, flowers, color scheme, favors, hors d’oeuvres, guest list, and other details — so much that it seemed like she was the one getting married.

Exasperated as her mother droned on about ice sculptures and chocolate fountains, Mia wished she had decided to elope. She finally blurted out: “It’s not the wedding, Mom! It’s the marriage.

Many couples have their priorities mixed up. They stage elaborate, over-the top-weddings, thinking they’re fostering a successful marriage. Yet research reveals that the most expensive weddings typically result in the shortest marriages.

David and I had a fairly simple wedding. Actually, we had two weddings. Along the way, we learned a couple of things about creating a good marriage. First, we set a wedding date and venue at my reform synagogue. We’re both Jewish, but our observance was largely cultural. Bagels and lox; that sort of thing. But after a couple of required pre-marriage counseling sessions with synagogue’s rabbi, I realized I wanted another kind of wedding.

A couple of months earlier, I’d attended a wedding in a private home, officiated by a Chabad rabbi. I’d never seen anything like it. It felt so holy and spiritual. Now, I knew I wanted this kind of wedding.

How could we suddenly change everything? David thought. We’d already arranged for the catering. The invitations were printed and ready to send out. But his main objection was that our families and friends would feel uncomfortable at a Chabad style wedding. Chabad rabbis look different. They have long beards and wear black fedoras and black frock coats like those of 18th century Polish nobility. They practice Judaism without compromise, observing both the spirit and letter of its laws. David didn’t want to subject our friends and family to something so unfamiliar and extreme.

I didn’t know what to do.

Then I thought of Rabbi Rabinowitz. A Brooklyn based Rebbe, he’d been in California some time earlier, when I consulted with him privately about my fear of failing at marriage. He’d said, “Marriage would be the best thing for you.” When I looked surprised, he added, “Your marriage will be 97% successful.” I wondered why not 100%.

Rabbi Rabinowitz said I could phone him anytime and that he remembers everything. So I phoned him to ask what to do about the conflict David and I were having. He said, “One likes chocolate; the other likes vanilla. Have both!”

So we had both. First we had a small Chabad wedding, self-catered with a kosher deli spread. Six weeks later, over a hundred relatives and friends joined us for the originally planned event.

Yes, glitches often emerge while planning a wedding. Yet our connection grows stronger as we learn to communicate authentically and positively.

“It’s not the wedding; it’s the marriage.” To keep the relationship on track, partners need to stay resourceful, with the goal of creating win-win solutions that satisfy both people. That’s the key to creating a 97% successful marriage; not a fairy-tale based 100% blissful one, but a real life one with ups and downs that’s still pretty great.  

It’s Not the Wedding — It’s the Marriage!

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.

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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2018). It’s Not the Wedding — It’s the Marriage!. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 10 Dec 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.