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Missing the marriage for the wedding

The average wedding takes 250 hours to plan. That’s a lot of time. It’s more than six work weeks. It’s…

By Rebecca teBrake , in Bride & Gloom: A social commentary on weddings , on February 2, 2009 Tags: , , , , , , ,

The average wedding takes 250 hours to plan. That’s a lot of time. It’s more than six work weeks. It’s over 12 flights from Vancouver to Melbourne. It’s about 83 Super Bowl games.

Planning time is spent on details like the dress, the colours, and the location. What doesn’t get prep time is the marriage. In the flurry of planning, it’s easy to miss the marriage for the wedding.

One way couples can prepare for marriage is to designate 6-10 of their 250 planning hours for premarital counseling.

Premarital counseling may seem outdated, but a new study suggests that it is well worth the effort. The study, published in the journal of Family Relations, reports that 90 per cent of couples who took premarital counseling thought it was worthwhile. This same group was less likely to consider divorce in the first five years of marriage.

Hoping to be one of these happy couples, my fiancé and I made sure the first thing we planned was our premarital counseling sessions.

It wasn’t like I expected to learn much. I mean, I have been with my fiancé for five years. That’s long past the honeymoon stage. I know he constantly leaves glasses of water near my laptop, loves any activity that can end in injury, and has a bad case of selective hearing.

Still, during those five years, we had never done an extensive review of our relationship’s strengths and weaknesses. Trust me, there’s no better time for an inventory than before making a deposit on the hall or buying a dress.

While there are many forms of counseling, we chose to use a “relationship inventory” tool with guidance from our pastor. The inventory, called Prepare/Enrich, compared our scores in 12 categories like communication, conflict management, and my personal favourite, marriage expectations. I could pretty much predict the results.

The time we spent with our pastor, who brought a fresh perspective to our relationship, was more valuable. He forced us to be self-reflective about our “growth areas” and make intentioned goals for our marriage. He also gave us tools to enhance our relationship like taking five minutes on the weekend to discuss what you think worked, and what didn’t, in the relationship that week.

For me, it was six hours well-spent. Nothing about my wedding is as important as my relationship with my fiancé. Not even my hair.

Not everyone is up for premarital counseling. My friend called me in mortified horror when his fiancé signed them up for a one-evening premarital seminar. Sitting in a room full of over-romanced, newly-engaged couples nauseated, not inspired, him.

Even if the thought of counseling gives you cold feet, it’s important to find ways to strengthen your relationship during engagement.

Instead of counseling, you might ask a married couple to be your mentors, read a book on marriage together, or just take some time out from wedding planning to spend with each other.

Engagement is not just a time to plan your wedding day, it’s a special opportunity to prepare for your marriage and adopt habits that will serve you well beyond your silver anniversary.

Just remember when planning, you’re wedding will only be as good as your marriage.