Trust me. I get it. Your whole life you’ve dreamed of the perfect wedding dress, the perfect flowers, the perfect ring… you have not been drooling away hours on Pinterest fantasizing about the perfect premarital counseling.
In the past, brides got married almost exclusively in “their” churches by “their” ministers. Today we have a new creature: the wedding officiant. The wedding officiant is generally an ordained minister who is not affiliated with a church but has the authority to legally perform weddings. The wedding officiant is technically called a “minister” but most often lacks any spiritual training. To prove my point, there are a number of websites where anyone can be ordained completely free of charge without taking any kind of class. Because of the separation of church and state, the government can not regulate or license who performs weddings—even though most modern officiants are not connected in any way with a church.
So the job of the wedding officiant is to, well, officiate the wedding—nothing more, nothing less. Because a wedding officiant wants to get hired by as many brides as possible, they do not require premarital counseling as the church often does. The point of hiring a non-denominational minister for most brides is, of course, to enjoy the flexibility they offer. Nobody likes rules.
Premarital counseling though is one rule that would be prudent to follow. According to TwoOfUs.org, couples that participate in premarital counseling are 30% more likely to stay together. In this day and age, that is certainly worth a bit of your time. Even brides who are believers in premarital counseling are often stumped as to where they can get it when their officiant doesn’t offer it. I’ve been ordained since 1994 and had just one couple in that entire time approach me for premarital counseling—and they only did so because their destination wedding church required it. About a month ago, I started offering a 2.5 hour non-denominational premarital education video series to my clients completely free of charge. The results? A big fat zero. None of my clients have taken the course!
It’s time to take a break from daydreaming about those gorgeous centerpieces and think about what comes after your picture-perfect wedding. I always tell my clients, “Yes, I want you to have an amazing wedding, but—even more importantly—I want you to have an amazing marriage.” Paul Friedman, founder of The Marriage Foundation, writes, “Most people put more time and effort into planning a wedding reception than the marriage itself.” Who among us is not guilty?
In my humble opinion, the #1 reason for resisting premarital counseling is that brides think it means something is “wrong” with their relationship. This could not be further from the truth. The term “premarital counseling” is really a misnomer. It is not “counseling” at all—it is a thorough class on how to be married. SmartMarriages.com says, “Marriage Education is NOT therapy. It does not involve a diagnosis or ‘treatment.’ It is EDUCATION.”
So, brides, you can do non-denominational premarital counseling at a number of places. Start by checking the exhaustive list of resources from SmartMarriages.com, TwoOfUs.org, and StayHitched.com. If you’re more of a book reader, start with Les and Leslie Parrott’s Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before and After You Marry. If you prefer doing an online program, check out my 9-part video series Creating a Happy, Harmonious Marriage that Lasts. I also highly recommend the free resources available at MarriageAdvocates.com and TheMarriageFoundation.org.
(Top Image from this stunning wedding shoot)