You’re in love, you’ve asked for her hand or said “yes” to him, you’ve set or are contemplating a date, you’re reading all the wedding magazines and websites, and you’re starting to make specific wedding plans… but have you given any thought to what happens AFTER the wedding? Have you made any plans or done any research about how to have a long, happy and loving marriage?
Many couples think that they know each other well enough that they don’t need
counseling. Some are right, but unfortunately others are not. There are a number of common alternatives to accommodate the different needs, relationships and backgrounds of couples. In secular (non-religious) circles, the decision to pursue pre-marital advice and/or training is generally a personal choice. In some religions, however, have specific pre-marital requirements.
For example, Catholic churches require pre-marital counseling. If both the bride and groom are Catholic, they go through what is called a pre-Cana. It amounts to up to 4 months of preparation for marriage classes. If either the bride or groom is not Catholic, the couple must attend a week-end engagement encounter. It is like a retreat where the couple attends group sessions, then has time alone as a couple to work through assignments and also personal time alone to do some assignments.
Some protestant ministers also require pre-marital counseling before they will marry a couple. The average is about 4 meetings. Other engaged Christian couples take advantage of week-end Family Life Conferences, sponsored by a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ and held throughout the U.S.
Some couples who feel the need for some type of counseling prefer not to receive counseling from a minister. For these couples, there are self-help books available that couples can work through on their own. They may also be able to find a secular counselor that will help them, but often for a higher fee than church-related services would cost.
Even if you choose not to pursue pre-marital counseling or other formal training, do try to take time during your engagement to share with your future spouse about your dreams, expectations, and concerns. Good communication is the key to happy marriage!