Any level of commitment can be a big step in your relationship, but when it comes to marriage, you need to make sure you’ve covered all your bases to make a decision that will stand the test of time. If you and your partner have finally decided to take the plunge, make sure you’ve spent enough quality time together and that you fully understand each other’s needs, wants, and goals.

A great way to accomplish this is by indulging in activities that test your relationship to the fullest. Here are ten steps couples can take to ensure a strong bond before exchanging vows!

1. Take Vacations Together

When we talk about vacations, we’re not necessarily talking about international getaways or multi-week-long trips. Sometimes, a vacation can be a weekend trip to the countryside, or even a staycation with you, your partner, and nothing else getting in the way. But spending time together uninterrupted is the perfect opportunity to see your partner’s habits and compulsions firsthand (plus, planning a trip together can show you how they react under pressure).

Make any trip special by packing something your partner loves. For example, you can find a game they love playing or food that reminds them of home. This helps to further ease the stress of day-to-day life and make your trip comfortable and relaxing.

Just remember to pack the essentials, too! Whether you’re grabbing a resort wear dress for your beach vacation or a pair of hiking boots for your backpacking trip, being unprepared can cause unneeded stress for you and your partner before the big day!

2. Ask Questions and Have Deep Conversations

There will be times when you will be confronted with difficult questions or you will need to confront your partner. Don’t avoid these conversations — embrace them! They will only help you prepare for the long road ahead, as you and your partner learn to navigate life’s difficult moments together. The more confident you are in their answers to life’s deeper questions, the better you can gauge your long-term compatibility.

3. Talk About Finance and Future Goals

Finance can be a tricky subject to discuss, but it’s just as important as any other topic. Before combining finances with your loved one, you’ll want to know how they feel about money. Do they like to spend it or save it? Do they have debts that you’ll be taking on when you get married? All of these questions should be discussed openly so neither party is in for a surprise once you’ve tied the knot.

Financial conversations are especially important to have while planning the wedding. You’ll want to set a budget early on that includes everything from the menu to the dress to the wedding cake. As long as you’re on the same page, the wedding should go off without a hitch!

4. Share a Few Secrets and Learn to Accept Them

Everyone has a few skeletons in their closet. It is essential to let them out in front of your partner and discuss them openly. Also, try to accept your partner’s secrets as openly as they would yours. This is a tough step in any relationship but it’s a necessary hurdle to overcome before you get married.

5. Set Boundaries

Clearly defined boundaries are the gateways to healthy relationships. Set boundaries early on. Define what infidelity means to you, what level of communication you expect from your partner, and find out whether you’re on the same page when it comes to having children. As you’re discussing the deeper questions and preparing for your life together, this is the time to know where your comfort levels are with difficult subjects, so you can figure out how to approach them carefully and with respect for one another.

6. Move in Together

If getting married is the future goal, there’s no harm in giving the relationship a test drive by moving in together. This isn’t the right path for everyone, of course, but if you’re both open to the idea, it’s best to approach it a few months into the relationship — once you know you’re serious about each other. Divide house responsibilities, share the bills, chores, run errands together, and so on. This helps you set ground rules and prepares you for the worst side of your partner before you tie the knot.

7. Meet the Family

Once you have come a long way in your relationship, it’s time to introduce your potential spouse to your family. This could be the ideal time to take a long trip together. It helps everyone bond and eases the pressure of meeting each other’s parents for the first time.

8. Stay Fit Together

Everyone wants to spend the rest of their life with their partner, and what better way to plan for a long married life than to work on your fitness goals together. This will help you look great for the wedding day pictures and will set the foundation for a happy, healthy relationship (in more ways than one).

9. Don’t Forget the Ring

Did you think we’d miss the most important part of any marriage or engagement (apart from your partner, of course)? Of course not! Before you decide to tie the knot, it’s a great idea to talk about what kind of rings you want to get for each other, whether you’re discussing engagement rings, wedding bands, or both.

Does your partner prefer natural gemstones or man-made diamond rings? Do they like a simple solitaire style or something more extravagant? Whatever you choose, it’s best to start these conversations early, so you can make every moment leading up to your nuptials all the more special.

10. Sign Up for a Gift Registry

Once you’ve chosen your date and printed invitations, it’s important to start putting together your dream home. Instead of depending on randomly purchased gifts that might end up in your garage, let your guests know exactly what you’re looking for by creating a registry with your partner. With a little luck and direction from you, your friends and family can help you two put together the perfect home!

Every Couple Is Different

While all of these tips and activities can help you and your partner prep for the big day, the most important thing to remember is that your journey is unique to you! As long as you set aside the time to get to know your future spouse, to understand them, and to allow them to understand you, there’s nothing stopping you from having the wedding (and the marriage) of your dreams.

Do you have your own tips for starting a marriage on the right foot? Share them in the comments below!

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