It’s the marriage that’s important, not the wedding.

I keep repeating that mantra each time wedding details begin to overwhelm me. Hors d’oeuvres, centerpieces, flowers, music, cake – the “to do” list goes on.

A few days after Ron proposed, I told him I wanted to avoid the inevitable stress involved with planning a big wedding. “I just want something simple,” I said.

“Great, me too,” he replied, cautiously eyeing the big stack of wedding planning books I just checked out of the library.

After skimming through a number of these books, I learned that even planning a simple wedding can be complicated.

In order to make the process as simple as possible, I spent an hour at Borders selecting the most appropriate wedding organizer. On Page 14 is a wedding planning checklist and the first heading is “Nine months and earlier.” The only thing on the list we’d accomplished so far was selecting a date – six months away. I hadn’t yet reserved the ceremony or reception sites, booked a photographer, ordered my dress or selected a color scheme.

All that to do and I haven’t even gotten to the second heading: “Six to nine months before wedding.” We were already behind in booking the caterer, musicians, videographer and florist.

But a recent conversation with Lori Palatnik, who will be speaking in the Valley next week about “The 10 Secrets of a Successful Marriage,” reminded me that I shouldn’t let details like flowers and wedding cake distract me from the real purpose of the wedding.

“You should spend as much time planning your marriage as you do your wedding,” she advised.

So that means that in between choosing invitations and centerpieces we should also focus on what happens after the glass is broken under the chuppah? Hmm… good idea. But how?

First of all, Palatnik says that engaged couples must throw away misconceptions fed by the movies.

Marriage is “not like the movies,” she says. “You’re not going to feel ‘wow’ every day.”

In fact, if a person thinks their fiancÄ is “perfect,” it may be a case of infatuation rather than love, since of course nobody is perfect. Love is both eyes open, she says. You see the virtues and acknowledge the challenges, then decide if you still want to go through with it.

“Infatuation feels like love and looks like love, but it’s counterfeit,” she says.

However, infatuation after marriage is ideal, she adds. Then it’s OK to put on the “rose-colored glasses” and see only the positive qualities of your spouse.

“Love is the emotion that you feel when you focus in on the virtues of another person and you identify them with those virtues,” she says. “Unfortunately, what people end up doing a few years into a marriage is you start focusing on the negative qualities and you forget the positive qualities. They’re still there but you made a choice not to focus in on them.”

The second aspect of marriage that Palatnik mentioned was a person must make what’s important to their spouse important to them.

Her third piece of advice is: The more you give, the more you love. “Giving leads to loving,” she says, and compares it to the love mothers have for their babies. “For the first few months, what do you get back? Sleepless nights and throw-up down your front. And yet you love this thing more than life itself.”

However, most people make a mistake with their spouse and move away from this attitude. “If you focus on giving in your marriage, you will have a loving marriage,” except in abusive situations, she says.

Palatnik has been married for almost 18 years and has divulged the “10 Secrets to a Great Jewish Marriage” across the United States, as well as Canada, South Africa, England and Israel, for six of those years,

“It took me over a decade of marriage to really get it,” she says. “And I’m still working on it.”

Palatnik, author of three books, former host of the Toronto television show “The Jewish Journal” and a Jewish educator, offers one last bit of advice.

“The number one piece of advice I would give anybody – I don’t care if you’re about to get married, if you’re thinking about getting married or you’ve been married for 20 years – learn the wisdom that the Torah has about how to have a good marriage.”

In the 18 months Ron and I’ve known each other, we’ve been to seven weddings (two of those couples also met on JDate). Whether held in a formal ballroom or in an informal intimate garden setting, each wedding was beautiful. And they all ended the same way – with two people ready to begin their new life together.

And that’s what’s really important.

This article appeared in the Jan. 21, 2005 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and the Dec. 13, 2007 issue of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.