For the past decade, we have taken more than 500 couples through our one-day Marriage Prep Workshop. One fun way that we promote our event is through setting up a booth at the big Bridal Expo in Atlanta. We can connect with hundreds of brides (and the occasional groom) in one afternoon.
In those brief seconds that I have to make our "pitch" to a couple at the Bridal Show, I always say the same thing:
"You're here to plan a wedding, and I'm sure it's going to be awesome. But don't forget to put some energy into planning for your marriage....because it lasts a lot longer than the wedding does." If they give me 6 more seconds to talk, I add: "Weddings are beautiful. Marriage is messy. It's a beautiful mess, but messy nonetheless."
How can a bride and groom prepare for their marriage while they plan their wedding? Here are a few ideas:
1. The Guest List
As you create your guest list, invite every person you can that is important to you. But identify those who have a great marriage and commit to being like them. Identify those who you know will build your marriage and commit to hanging out with them once you are married. Finally, identify those who don't place a high value on marriage and commit to avoiding them. This may mean disconnecting from some old friends, but it's worth it. And necessary.
2. Your Budget
Total up your entire wedding budget. It's probably a big stack of money you are investing into a one day event. Now find places you can cut 5% of the total expense that you can invest in preparing for marriage. Find a good counselor and work through the PREPARE inventory. Attend a Marriage Prep Workshop of some kind. (Hint: INFO for Families offers both.)
3. Your Wedding Coordinator
You have probably enlisted the help of a wedding coordinator. She can help make your wedding day beautiful and memorable. Now, enlist the help of a couple to be your marriage mentors during your engagement and the first few years of marriage. Meet for coffee about once a month to casually discuss what a good marriage looks like and what issues you may need to address.
4. The Bride's Role
Brides, fight the tendency to be "Bridezilla." It's not not good for anyone. As you are patient, gracious, and appreciative through your wedding process, you are practicing a biblical principle found in I Peter 3, and that's a very good thing. (Click on the link to look it up.)
5. The Groom's Role
Grooms, make the wedding planning season a time that you learn to serve your bride. Carry her load. Help her any way you can. When you do that, you are practicing a biblical principle found in Ephesians 5. This will be good for you throughout your marriage. (Click on the link to look it up.)
You know those bridal magazines and guidebooks filling up your bookshelf? Make sure you are also reading good books to prepare you for the challenges of married life. We have created a list to get your started.
If you are like every other bride on the planet, you probably have a Pinterest board where you are saving ideas for your big day. Why not create a board that's focused on relationship skills and health? Make it your goal to have as many pins on that one as you do your wedding boards. By the way, you have to read and apply the content, not just pin it to your wall.
As you have looked at dresses, flowers, cakes, and chosen the "best" ones for you, there have probably been a lot that you have rejected. Think of your life and character the same way. There are likely parts of you that you know aren't very attractive: attitudes, behaviors, bad habits, etc. Just as you cast aside possibilities for your wedding that weren't perfect for you, make a commitment to bring the best parts of YOU to your marriage.
Granted, this is hard.
That's why becoming the right person to be married (and then building a great marriage together) takes more than hard work. It takes the daily discipline of asking God for help. Ultimately, only He can change your heart and give you the marriage of your dreams. Use the busy season of wedding planning to remember that He is close and that He can help you. Don't do this alone!!