I haven’t officiated a wedding in over a decade—no, scratch that, maybe more. But I’ve just committed to performing one.
Look out, newlyweds!
So, needless to say, I found myself needing some updated pre-marital counseling resources. I took to Twitter hoping to gather insight and found some of the responses rather… comical!
Some of the suggestions included:
- Make them listen to one another eat a bowl of cereal…if they can do it, they’ll be fine.
- Please talk about thermostat temps. Our premarital counseling completely skipped this crucial issue!
- Have couples try assembling a piece of IKEA furniture together.
- Make them watch each other load a dishwasher.
- Have couples define when they consider a tube of toothpaste to be empty.
- Find out if one of the pair is a “snooze button” person.
- Send the couple canoeing.
- Have them butcher chickens together.
- Make the couple take a road trip together with a cellphone-jammer in the car.
- Have them figure out which way the toilet paper goes on the reel.
Silly though they may be, I think these responses actually provide us with some important insight. When couples are preparing for marriage, it’s easy to assume that only the big stuff really matters. It’s a given that a couple’s faith convictions, big picture life goals, and expectations for raising a family should line up but other factors are often seen as non-essential.
I think we can all agree that how a person assembles furniture or loads a dishwasher is hardly ‘essential’ to a good marriage. But what we see here is that the little stuff—seemingly insignificant lifestyle choices and daily decisions—are also important to the foundation of a healthy partnership.
That’s why it’s so important to enter into the silliest of conversations before tying the knot—why leave any room for discord to surface at the last minute?
Dishwashers, canoes, and chickens aside, there’s a lot to talk through before (and even after) the wedding day. Thankfully, Twitter folks also had a ton of helpful resource suggestions for couples looking into pre-marital counseling.
Before giving the list, let me mention that several mentioned professional counseling, which I think is a great idea and always good to consider.
Here’s a helpful list:
1 – Prepare/Enrich was really popular amongst the Twitter audience. With over 4 million relationships strengthened, Prepare/Enrich has been the #1 premarital and marriage assessment for over 35 years. The assessment helps couples gain insight into the dynamics of their relationship, commitment levels, spiritual beliefs, and family systems all while working closely with a trained P/E facilitator.
2 – Save Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS) by Drs. Les Parrot and Leslie Parriottis another popular resource. SYMBIS was created by a couple, Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott, and serves essentially as a self-guided premarital counseling course. The book itself and companion men and women’s workbooks are time tested and allow couples to enter into meaningful discussions together as they work through the material.
3 – The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller was written to debunk the notion that marriage is solely a hunt for some soul-mate who sticks around not until death, but only as long as his or her needs are fully met. Instead, Keller helps readers see that marriage isn’t about romanticism, but primarily intended to point us to eternal realities about the nature of God and man.
4 – You and Me Forever by Francis Chan & Lisais a deep dive into Scripture to answer the question: “How do I have a great marriage?” Looking to understand how to create a soul satisfying relationship, the Chan’s radically shift the way we view one of humankind’s most important partnerships this side of heaven.
5 – Ready or Knot? by Scott Kedershais a source of biblical, Christ-centered guidance for couples who are seriously dating, engaged, or even just newly married. Included in the book are stories of the trials and triumphs of everyday couples helping readers let go of Hollywood marriage idols and instead embrace one founded on the unchanging word of God.
6 – Naked and Unashamed was written by Claudia Root, Jeremy Root, and the Billy Graham Center’s own Dr. Jerry Root. Intended to coach couples through the unforeseen challenges of marriage, this book helps readers see that any good life partnership requires work. Happy marriages might not happen naturally, but with the right counseling, care, and strategies, they are well worth the investment.
7 – We ended up using To Have and to Hold, by Byron and Carla Weathersbee. The leader’s guide is excellent and help me help them. They workbooks they have deal with the important issues, giving them checklists to discuss and things to work though. It’s both practical and biblical. In addition, we are reading The Meaning of Marriageand The Five Love Languages.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.