You're engaged. The date is set. The biggest, happiest day of your life is just a few months away.
Bliss becomes burden as you feel the pressure of wedding planning. Banquet hall or caterer? Band or DJ? Where to honeymoon? Who's in the bridal party? Flower selection, budget decisions, the guest list, formalwear, dates, deposits, and of course, your gown!
After the big day, so many brides sigh, "The day just flew by!" Couples realize they invested dozens of hours, over a several month period, planning an event that lasts just one day. And when the party's over, reality sets in: we're married now!
A wedding is a complex event. There are many elements to coordinate, decisions to make, and deadlines to meet to make your day the memorable experience you want it to be. This once-in-a-lifetime celebration deserves your attention. But, are you forgetting something?
Thinking beyond the wedding
Let's do a little cost-benefit analysis. How long will you be married to your future partner? 30, 40, 50 years? That's a long time. Is the time you expect to be married proportional to the time you've invested in marriage preparation? Are you investing disproportionate time planning your wedding day?
Think past the wedding. What will marriage really be like? Do you really know your future partner? What baggage are you both bringing into the relationship? Are you compatible? How will you prepare for the inevitable speed bumps ahead? What are your odds for success in this divorce-crazy world?
Put your plans on pause and invest in something that matters — your marriage.
Investing in Your Marriage
Here's my checklist for marriage preparation:
Engage in a pre-marriage mentoring process. Partnering with a trained, seasoned married couple will provide a sounding board and a safe place to explore your questions about marriage. Your church might have such a program. This is a learning process, a relational connection to the knowledgeable and experienced. But this process is much more than learning. A mentoring couple can provide support, accountability, and a valued relationship. Additionally, such a process might provide an inventory assessment, showing you where growth is needed in your relationship.
Purity. While it may seem old fashioned, there are tangible benefits to maintaining sexual purity before marriage. Of course abstaining from a physical relationship honors God. The Bible says sex is for marriage only. But there are other reasons. Statistically, couples who postpone sex till marriage have a higher rate of successful marriages. Sex before marriage sometimes replaces communication and short-circuits conflict resolution. Couples who abstained from sex actually report experiencing a more sexually satisfying marriage than their counterparts. This decision is very counter-cultural, but the benefits are huge. Even if you are now physically involved, it's not too late to stop.
Living Apart. This is a tough one. Like the purity issue above,living apart before marriage provides a foundation to your future. Logistically, this could be difficult. You can't afford a separate residence. Where would you move to? You love each other, how could you move apart? If you are committed to a strong marriage, pray about this. God will come through. Over and over we talk to married couples who celebrate how God blessed their relationship through this decision. Marriage success rates are higher for couples who choose to live apart before marriage.
Education. Take advantage of marriage preparation workshops and seminars. I strongly recommend a financial workshop before you get married. Blending and budgeting your finances could be a challenge and is a source of problems in many marriages. Look for event info at Growthtrac, Family Life USA, or Family Life Canada.
Spiritual Unity. It is vital you both are on the same page spiritually. Are you both Christians? Are you sure you are a Christian? A spiritual mismatch creates a relational disconnect deep in the marriage and could potentially lead to disaster. The Bible calls this disconnect "unequally yoked." Walking on different spirtual paths undermines true closeness, growth, and happiness. The mentoring process, mentioned above, can help you discern where you are at spiritually.
Right now, amidst the deposits and decisions, commit to a marriage that will last. Invest in your future and your wedding day will last a lifetime.