If money spent is an indication of value, you would think that, for most, the wedding is much more important than the marriage. Any of the TV wedding shows display ridiculous amounts of money going into a spectacular ceremony and party. Every bride wants her wedding day to be special and memorable, but what about planning for a spectacular marriage? Long after the wedding dress has been stowed away, the marriage will need to be tended for a lifetime.
Every bride and groom would benefit from counseling to evaluate their readiness for marriage. Many pastors require this as part of the wedding preparations. They examine areas of relationship strength and consider areas where the couple could use more conversation. Couples learn skills for managing conflict and enter marriage with more realistic expectations. Healthy communication becomes the common language of our relationships.
Counseling is a gift to your marriage. Often, dating couples, who maybe by definition are inexperienced in complex intimate relationships, do not see the value in premarital counseling. Being in love, they don’t really anticipate conflict or troubles, so they don’t understand why they would need counseling. Couples assume they’ll sail through any potential problems, so the limited resources get directed to the wedding, expecting smooth sailing ever after the ceremony.
Even when the engagement is a rocky one, once plans are publicly set into motion, couples are reluctant to back out or postpone the wedding in order to put the marriage on a healthy foundation. No one wants to cancel a wedding after they have just mailed all of their invitations. Thus, it is wisest to engage in counseling well before dates are set. The best time for counseling is immediately after engagement, before wedding planning begins in earnest. Troubled couples will not only save embarrassment, but have more time for healthy growth if they have premarital counseling early in their engagement. Even since biblical times, wise counsel has been important for navigating relationships.
Sometimes the counseling from the officiating pastor is limited to reading a few scripture verses and planning the ceremony. Some ministers are not interested in digging deeper into full biblical perspectives of issues couples carry into marriage. Ministers may be busy, be uncomfortable with frank discussion, or lack the training for dealing with more significant issues. As a rule, you should be meeting multiple times, say five or six meetings, to talk about all areas of life together—emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, and more. A good sign is if your pastor uses some sort of questionnaire or inventory to capture a snapshot of how you are together. Take the time to dig deep into your concerns so you are not bringing past brokenness into your relationship.
Unlike the wedding plans that evaporate when the ceremony is finished, marriage management is ongoing. Recognize that your marriage is an ever-evolving creature that will need intentional care both to start off well and to be cultivated for years to come. When we counsel a couple, we ask them to invest in date time, anniversary getaways, marriage retreats, couples devotionals, or reading a marriage book regularly. We encourage them to find a mentoring couple to be a resource for their relationship. Marriages need the planning and investment of a wedding as well as ongoing support!
So plan beyond the wedding. Build a firm foundation early, and tend to it throughout the years!