Planning a wedding is wonderful, beautiful, stressful, and sometimes just plain crazy. There are so many details to plan and then accomplish before the day rolls around! Where do you start? You’ve got to take care of invitations, flowers, catering, cakes, clothes, the ceremony, the honeymoon and so much more!
It’s pretty obvious why most couples give themselves months (and sometimes years) between saying “I will” and “I do.”
We’ve always wondered why couples spend so much time planning for their wedding, but so little time planning for their marriage. The wedding is a fantastic celebration of a couple’s love for one another. But it lasts only one day. A marriage, on the other hand, for better or for worse, impacts the rest of your life.
In order to help you think deeply about your future marriage and reduce the statistical wreckage that surrounds marriage in our culture, we’ve created five crucial questions you should answer and discuss before you say, “I do!” These questions are not easy, but they’re essential for thoughtful consideration.
1. Are You and Your Fiancé Willing to Work at Premarital Education?
With divorce rates soaring, think about this fact; there is a 31 percent better chance a couple will stay married if they are willing to work at premarital education and counseling.
It’s possible for engagement to be a fun, romantic season of life that you’ll treasure forever. But it can be an extremely crazy time, full of many decisions that need to be made, where tensions can run high and some conflict can be expected.
Few couples ever think deeply about it, but the main reason for an engagement period is to prepare you for marriage, and adequate preparation requires significant work. Successful marriages are often the product of healthy premarital decisions and a willingness to work on the relationship before they say “I do.”
Here are a few of our recommendations for resources that are available for you to help you prepare for marriage:
1. Read a book together. No business person would start a new company without putting energy and time into finding out all they can about their new business. Yet couples go years and even a lifetime doing marriage by circumstance and chance. So pick up a book on preparing for marriage and put effort into it.
2. Find a good premarital counselor or mentor. Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” This biblical principle applies to all areas of our lives, but it screams “this makes sense” in the context of getting married. We suggest you meet with someone at least 4 to 6 times before the Big Day.
3. Talk about everything. Having honest dialog about the key issues you face as an individual and as a couple is critical to moving your relationship forward.
2. Are You and Your Fiancé Willing to Hear From Your Relational Community?
These days, many engaged and pre-engaged couples don’t love the idea of inviting family and friends to share opinions about their relationship, but we all need friends and family who will be honest about their thoughts, fears and concerns.
It would be wise of you to give permission to those you trust to speak the truth to you. Such people will have your well-being at heart and won’t be motivated by their own baggage or ego. What a gift those people can be to you! Seek them out, listen carefully, and then together discuss what you heard.
3. Are You Willing to Look Honestly at the “Red Flags”?
People who ignore red flags in the relationship, won’t discuss them, or even worse, expect them to go away, are headed on a journey toward disaster. No one gets married hoping to be miserable, but too many people who ignore red flags mistakenly assume things will get better when they are married. Marriage only gets more complicated if couples haven’t worked through the issues beforehand.
What are some of the red flags you should be willing to look at? Frankly, there are many red flags you would be wise to consider, but here are a few we consider most important: 1) Addictions, 2) A history of being abused or of being an abuser, 3) Unfaithfulness, 4) Warnings from your community, 5) Differences in spiritual values, 6) Poor communication and high conflict.
4. Are You Willing to be Ruthlessly Honest About Your Own Brokenness?
No one is perfect. Everyone has been hurt. The truth in relationships is that hurt people, hurt people. When it comes to your future marriage, there is really only one person who can make a change, and that is you. Trying to change your partner may seem like a noble pursuit, but trust us; you won’t change your fiancé.
You can, however, change yourself. The best gift you can give your spouse is a commitment to work on your own spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health. You will be ready for marriage not when you have your life in perfect order but rather when you are willing to admit to yourself, your fiancé and to God that you are responsible for your own brokenness. You must be willing to do all you can as an individual to deal with your brokenness in order to bring stability and health into the relationship.
5. Are You Ready for Unconditional Commitment?
The words you say to each other at your wedding will be words of unconditional commitment. No one ever says, “I am committing to you for the moment … but, let me be very clear, I make no promises that this marriage will last.”
Before you say “I do,” you must be willing to make sure you do whatever it takes to make the marriage last for keeps. Your level of commitment is the most vital factor in determining the success or failure of your relationship.
Marriage is one of God’s greatest and most life-changing ideas. There is nothing like it. Still, healthy marriages do not appear out of thin air, as a wish granted by the marriage genie. But with intentional preparation and hard work, you can build the strong foundation that you’ll need to make your marriage last a lifetime.
Here’s our best advice: plan your wedding, but prepare for your marriage.
Doug Fields is a communicator, resource-provider, writer, pastor & leadership mentor. He’s the author of more than 50 books including Getting Ready for Marriage and is currently working with Youth Specialties & Azusa Pacific University (HomeWord’s Center for Youth/Family). More information about Doug is available at dougfields.com.