Once you become engaged, you’re probably less inclined to think of counseling and how it can benefit you. If you were like us, I was on cloud 9 calling relatives and updating my Facebook status and he wasn’t thinking of what could go wrong between us. We were just gushing about discussing the details for our wedding from who we’d like to see in our wedding parties, setting the perfect playlist to picking out what food we may want. But fixating on the details was one of the easiest and worst mistakes we could make as a couple, especially as an Orthodox couple.
One of the first people a couple should contact, other than the bride’s and groom’s parents, should be their priest. It is through working together with your priest where you will start the premarital counseling process and set a date for your wedding day.
Premarital counseling, you ask? But isn’t that for couples who have troubled relationships, you ask? Not necessarily. The objective of premarital counseling is for the priest to get to know the couple one on one over a series of prescribed sessions. The sessions will help look for and sort through any red flags to assure the couple is truly right for one another.
A priest can make the decision to turn the couple away from the prospect of marriage and decide not to marry the both of you. This is heartbreaking, but understand it is the hopeful goal of premarital counseling itself that the couple will assess their trust and communication so they can develop these skills to work together as co-workers in Christ helping each other along.
The goal is to have an affirmed faith in God. God is at the beginning, the middle and the end. The man and woman in the relationship are just there to help each other along to stay on the godly path as co-workers in Christ to one another.
Wedding planning is the tip of the iceburg to how the couple will sort through handling major and minor life decisions itself. We endured many hurdles and red flags by just focusing on details and secular demands on what society thought a wedding needs to have that it often felt like things weren’t coming together and they weren’t. For the first time around, before he lost his job a month of the first wedding date, nearly all of our plans went wrong. The job loss was where I wanted to throw in the towel. But something was different between the last time and now.
I didn’t pray as much as I did.
I worried too much about other’s opinion.
I didn’t turn to God, I worried too much about what other brides of the world were doing even though I never could afford to pull off what they could…or how we could pull off a wedding on our humble budget. Cue a lot of stress and soon we ended up bickering with each other. “There’s just too many red flags here. There will be no wedding until you work things out together and I see improvement,” said our priest.
I loved this man and wanted to marry him. We’ve come so far that we wanted to reach this goal even though I wasn’t sure how we ever do it because the money wasn’t ever there.
At desperation and when everything hit rock bottom, I started praying. I would say my morning and evening prayers. I have talks with God. I was at peace. I also turned to the readings of the saints like “In Marriage and Family Life” by St. John Chrysostom who instructs how to live a godly marriage. I believed that that could be us someday.
When we announced our new date, I decided to let go and trust God. Some things still went on, but we were both amazed how smoothly everything went. Perhaps the obstacles were put to place to realign my relationship with God so I can trust in Him to guide our marriage.
1. Take your premarital counseling seriously – even if the priest is busy! Most priests work full-time and have a household to run. They wear many hats so while it may seem like they don’t have time, you can show your commitment to your marriage by listening to them and doing what you have to do. This will help the process go smoothly.
2. Check out the required reading! There’s a reason why your priest will recommend spiritual exercises and books. It doesn’t matter if you already read it either. There may be something in there that you can ponder over by re reading it that didn’t quite make sense the first time but does now.
3. There’s more to that makes a marriage than details. When a couple really loves each other, your guests will be raving about having the opportunity to be there for you on that day instead of just gushing about the type of food. Almost every little bit of the details that goes into planning a wedding is secondary. Details generally work themselves out. Promise.