wedding dress

What You Need To Know Before You Get Married

Expert Advice From a Divorce Lawyer So You Won't Ever Need One, by Gabrielle Hartley, Lawyer, Mediator, Best-Selling Author

A note from Gabrielle:

When I was in my twenties and thirties I was a bridesmaid fifteen times.

There’s nothing like falling in love and playing princess or prince for a while.

Marriage is a partnership. Before you get married, you need to carefully consider lots of things beyond chemistry.  There are many things to know before marriage. Marriage is a partnership, in all senses of the word. I have found there are so many topics couples fail to discuss until it’s too late.  My new book (coming soon) What You Need To Know Before You Get Married was written with you in mind. It raises the important need to know questions before you get married.

Nobody likes a wedding as much as I do.

When I married, I loved everything from selecting my wedding dress picking out china (does anybody even do that anymore?) making the music playlist. But, after more than twenty five years serving as a divorce lawyer and mediator, is that getting married is very serious business. Getting married is easy.  Disentangling is much harder. There are things to do before you get married that are not necessarily fun, but they’re important. It’s so important to address lingering questions before you get married. Afterward, it’s too late.

Your marriage is a financial partnership.

Your marriage is a partnership, and as unromantic as it sounds, it is first and foremost, a financial one. In addition to the most important tips and exercises to do prior to marrying, I have created a very simple budget sheet to get you off to the right start. I suggest you print two copies of this pre-marriage budget sheet and that you each fill it out.  Then discuss. See where you are in agreement and where you diverge.  Your marriage, is the launchpad to the rest of your life.  Have the hard conversations now.  It will be easy later.

It’s so easy to focus on the romance and fun of it all that we can lose our practical minds.

Yes, even if you are super educated and independent you can get swept away in the excitement and forget to ask questions before you get married. It happens. Nothing surprises me anymore. I have represented many very affluent, high achieving, successful women who marry men who they believed were their knight in shining armor only to hear them say, “I should have known.”  I’ve also represented many wonderful, trusting men who believe their beautiful brides are their perfect match, who come to me saying, “I wish I had paid better attention.”  I do not mean to say divorce is either avoidable or inevitable.  Only to say that you are marrying the exact person that you see in front of you today.  And, it’s prudent that you know them well before you get married. When you enter any partnership you need to do your homework thoroughly.  Marriage is no different. For some people a prenuptial agreement makes sense, for others it’s not necessary.  Whether it’s your first, marriage or your second or third time walking down the aisle, you cannot know if you need a pre-nupial agreement without asking important questions before you get married.

wedding cake with words

You need to enter your marriage with your eyes wide open.

All too often before getting married people avoid difficult conversations.  The idea of a pre-marriage budget analysis seems crazy.  Lot’s of people run and hide when they hear the word pre-nuptial.  But all of these things which are not particularly fun or sexy, are tools to help you to avoid problems later.  You should talk about kids, where you will live, what your dreams are, and what you can’t stand. While it may be uncomfortable, and not as much fun as planning your honeymoon, asking questions before you get married is essential.  As a seasoned divorce lawyer, I see all too often that there is way too much emphasis on the wedding and not enough on the marriage.

What You Need To Know Before You Get Married won’t guarantee a perfect marriage.

But it will help to ensure that you have the highest chance of starting off on the right foot. About 50% of all couples wind up divorced in America today.  I make my livelihood mediating on-line every single day.  The people who had the important conversations before they got married have a much easier time disentangling. They have clarity and clarity makes everything easier. What You Need To Know Before You Get Married offers lists of things couples should talk about before marriage.

My hope is that you live happily ever after.  

But, if things derail, having gone through these exercises, you will have a much easier time. 

What You Need To Know Before You Get Married is coming soon! Stay tuned.

Photograph of Gabrielle Hartley, a Divorce Lawyer, Coach and Mediator



DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.


  • One Edgewater Plaza Suite 304, Staten Island, NY 10305
  • 266 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Northampton MA

New York: (917) 905-4553
Boston: (413) 450-0420