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?
Every bride and groom would benefit from counseling to evaluate their readiness for marriage. They would examine areas of strength and consider areas where they could use more conversation. Couples would learn skills for managing conflict and enter marriage with realistic expectations. Healthy communication would become the common language of our relationships.
Often, dating couples do not see the value in premarital counseling. Being in love, they don’t really anticipate conflict, 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, couples are reluctant to back out or postpone if they have publicly set plans into motion. No one wants to cancel a wedding after they have just mailed all of their invitations. But troubled couples are more receptive to getting it right if they have premarital counseling early in their engagement. Unfortunately, such counseling is usually an afterthought, something couples rush through in the march toward the big day. It is often too little or too late. The best time for counseling is immediately after engagement, before wedding planning begins in earnest.
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 a biblical and thoughtful picture of what issues couples are carrying into marriage. Ministers may be busy, 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.
Unlike the wedding plans that are completed when the ceremony is finished, marriage management is ongoing. It is important for couples to recognize that their marriage is an ever-evolving creature that will need to be cared for. When we counsel a couple before they marry, we ask them to read a marriage book or attend a retreat each year. Marriages need the planning and investment of a wedding as well as ongoing support!