Over the past year, and especially since we’ve become engaged, I’ve read dozens of posts about wedding planning. From etiquette articles and to-do lists on The Knot and Wedding Wire, to reception decor inspiration posts on Pinterest, to planning advice on various online forums, there’s no shortage of posts out there about preparing for the big day.
… But what about preparing for everything after the white dress and the honeymoon?
My background: I didn’t grow up going to church. Actually, I didn’t attend a normal Sunday church service until I was 13! I independently decided to enroll in commitment class that year, and was baptized and confirmed at my local Presbyterian church. My faith has been through a lot of ups and downs over the years, but it has always been important to me to marry in the church. In fact, the same pastor who baptized me in 2009 will marry us next year!
My church has several requirements that must be met in order to marry there. These include (among other things) several premarital counseling sessions with an approved Christian counselor, two or more meetings with the ceremony pastor, and attending a pre-marriage mentor dinner and finance seminar.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from counseling before our first appointment a few weeks ago. After all, Eric and I have been together for almost four years and living together for several months–what did we have to learn?!
As it turns out, we have a lot to learn. Our “course” is divided into a variety of topics, such as conflict resolution, children & parenting, faith & worship, etc. Last time we mostly focused on healthy communication and conflict resolution and wow did I eat my words from earlier in the day 😛
Our counselor presented the information, we practiced using the skills that we’d learned, and he even assigned homework! It all sounds so basic and (as some of my family members noted) kind of staged, but when else do you get to practice being married? We got so much more out of it than we ever expected.
We’ll attend three more sessions between now and April, and I can’t wait for the next one!
Talking with Our Pastor
I picked our wedding date because it was the only one of our options that my pastor was available. It was so important to me that the person marrying us was someone who we felt connected to and who shared our values.
We had our first meeting over the summer. He and Eric met for the first time (yay! Obviously Eric has seen him at services before, but never gotten to introduce himself). He walked us through the order of the ceremony and let us know what we had to choose to personalize it (unity candle? Bible verses? etc). He also gave us homework! And, because I asked, he sent us a book about Christian marriage: Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.
Neither Eric not I grew up in a Christian household, but we’d like to have a Christian marriage and raise kids in the faith. Often, I feel unequipped to make those goals a reality–so it’s really wonderful to be working with someone who’s invested in helping us meet them. We’ve only just started Saving Your Marriage, but I can tell it’s got some great tips and exercises that will complement our premarital counseling work.
Marriage Mentor Dinner & Pre-Marriage Finance Seminar
In February, we’ll be traveling home for a weekend to attend two events at my church. One evening, we’ll be attending a dinner and talking with a married couple of church members about marriage. The next morning, we’ll be up bright and early to attend a finance seminar! Groan. But it’s important. Even though we live together, we have not figured out everything regarding budget, bank accounts, financial goals, etc.
A couple of bloggers I follow have collected some resources to help prepare for marriage:
- 9 Books To Read During Your Engagement from Blair Blogs. Since we bought my ring, I’ve read The Meaning of Marriage, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, and Boundaries. All are excellent, informative books!
- 8 Books to Prepare You for Marriage from Hugs & Lattes. There’s some overlap between the two lists, but again, a great list to prepare for marriage! Some of the books on both lists aren’t applicable to nontraditional couples (i.e. couples that live together before marriage, like us), but there’s something for everyone here.
Note: I think that preparing for marriage is something that benefits any couple–not just Christian couples. There are definitely non-religiously-oriented alternatives available to most of the activities that I’ve discuss here. Though they may take some effort to seek out, I think it would be worth the time and investment!
If you’re married, how did you prepare for marriage? For anyone: any general tips, books, etc. on marriage prep?