Once the wedding buzz has fizzled and you’ve unpacked your bags from your honeymoon, it’s time to settle into, well, life. Though much effort and energy are put into the wedding planning process, the actual work begins with your marriage. Now, you and your spouse are committed to one another for a lifetime — and yep, through the good times, the not-so-great moments, and all that’s in between. While there will be trials, there will also be many joyful experiences that you’ll share. Also, you have the unique opportunity to start creating traditions as a duo for your future. From weekly date nights to annual celebrations, these customs not only bring you closer but help unify your bond. Here, we spoke with relationship experts on why creating rituals are meaningful, along with their top suggestions for traditions in the first year of marriage.
Why Traditions Matter in a Relationship
Sure, it may sound a tad cheesy, but it’s true: becoming spouses is a whole new chapter in your life. As licensed marriage and family therapist Hanna Stensby explains, marriage symbolizes your partnership and your agreement to build a shared vision together for your life. “Pursuing your dreams will come with challenges and oscillations of stressful periods with busy schedules and periods of ample time together,” she continues. “Traditions are one way of ensuring you stay connected regardless of how busy life gets. Rituals of connections are an important part of maintaining a thriving relationship, and creating traditions will help you to instill these rituals of connection as healthy habits.”
Discuss the traditions you grew up with.
One easy way to begin exploring traditions is to list all of the ones you remember growing up, along with ones you’ve always wanted to practice, suggests Nancy Paloma Collins, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Once you’ve both brainstormed, she says the fun begins with eliminating those that you want to keep and those you can live without. Then, she recommends choosing one tradition you both want to change and make it a better new habit, create that tradition, and enjoy planning this out.
“Really, everything and anything that is practiced with love and devotion can become a tradition,” she continues. “Value each other’s traditions. The first year of marriage can realize that you don’t have time for the ‘single’ traditions you had created. But this is the time to talk and value each other’s traditions, and you can now come together to continue some of those traditions and make it something you can share.”
Traditions to Consider During the First Year of Marriage
By definition, a tradition is a repeated experience you share with yourself or others. In your marriage, you can pull inspiration from rules you had as a child, combine customs or create new ones altogether. And remember, while some can be tangible—like where you’ll go for the holidays or the annual BBQ you’ll host in your backyard—others are emotional. Regardless, therapists say both are important and contribute to your happiness within your marriage. Here, a few to inspire you and your partner:
Make Friday nights (or another night) sacred.
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll repeat it: dates are essential. And carving out an hour in your schedule may seem easy enough now, but as your lives grow busier (and ahem, if you have children), it becomes more complicated. That’s why Stensby says it’s helpful to start the weekly date night tradition now. As she urges: put your phones away, computers away, and spend some quality time together doing a shared activity. “You can have a nice dinner, go for a hike, play a game, or just talk. Make sure this time is focused on the two of you and the relationship,” she continues. “Make sure to prioritize your date night every week as this regular time together will help you understand each other’s inner world and stay connected.”
Have a weekly ‘worry’ check-in.
Sadly, it’s easy to become complacent in a new marriage, significantly when life doesn't slow down, explains Bethany Cook, a licensed clinical psychologist. And while dating is one thing, marriage is another since it requires much more attention.
“Finding time to share concerns, fears, frustrations, worries often takes a back seat in the first year of marriage because there are so many other distractions like your wedding, honeymoon, merging two lives into one family system, and so on,” she continues. “You’ve made a commitment to this other person, and sooner or later, they will get to know all about you and how you manage stress in your life.”
And that’s why a weekly worry check-in is meant to offer a time, place and space that is safe from criticism and filled with understanding. “Some weeks you may not have anything significant; other weeks you will feel like you need an entire day to share all your worries,” Cook continues. “These concerns don’t need to be about you and your spouse; they can merely be what’s filling up mental space. Communicating about topics and emotions that aren't always positive is important because it allows you to be your complete self. Talk about the good and the bad from day one.”
Take time to share gratitude every Sunday morning.
One of the best parts about finding your life partner is having someone by your side for life’s most exciting adventures — and the everyday, simple joys, too. Stensby recommends creating a Sunday morning tradition where you start your day with a cup of tea, coffee or preferred morning beverage. Then, you snuggle up in bed together and spend 10 minutes journaling about what you are grateful for. “Then share with your partner and express some things you appreciate about them as a way to practice gratitude and create a culture of appreciation in the marriage,” she says. “This will help you cultivate healthy communication and increase your ability to express fondness and admiration towards one another, which is the main component of healthy communication and a solid marriage.”
Host an annual BBQ for both families.
Maybe your parents hosted Christmas Eve dinner each year, and you’ve loved being around your extended family. Perhaps your partner celebrated Hanukkah at his grandparents' home. Now, as you start your own family, consider what event you’d love to host as a pair. One idea from Cook is a ‘blended BBQ’ where you combine your different cultural backgrounds each summer. You can invite your family and friends and create new food combos that represent both cultures. “Encourage your guests also to bring unique and creative food combos that represent their family,” she says.
Have a monthly emotional briefing.
At the beginning of each month, do a check-in with your partner to touch base on your emotional wellbeing. To make it easier, Stensby recommends using the following prompts to get a sense of how each person is feeling in the marriage and what intentions they want to set for the coming month. “This will help you stay aligned with your shared vision and purpose for the relationship and understand your partner’s needs to support them better,” she says.
- One thing I appreciate about you/One way that you have made me feel loved and cared about this month is…
- Some feelings I had this month are…
- Some ways I felt connected to you this month are….
- Something that led to me feeling disconnected from you this month is…
- How I might have contributed to that disconnection…
- The space between us feels…
- My self-care commitments for the month are…
- You could support me with this by…
- The way I felt about our sexual connection this month is…
- One thing you can do to make me feel loved and cared about this month is…