One of the greatest roles I get to play is when I officiate a wedding ceremony for a couple. I say “one of the greatest roles” because for me its a culmination of everything we’ve worked on for the last number of months. Its a huge responsibility to sign a piece of a paper for a couple who is saying they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
See, when I was younger I foolishly officiated a handful of weddings for couples who I never spent adequate time with. I talked with them a handful of times but it was mainly about not leaving the sink dirty and where they squeeze the toothpaste. I didn’t have much marriage experience so I thought, “Well, they love each other so it will work out.” I wish it was the case.
Unfortunately I know a handful of weddings I’ve presided over have not worked out.
So how can we change that?
How can we help give couples the best foundation for a health marriage?
Let me share two things I’ve learned about setting couples up for a healthy marriage:
1) Ask them to abstain from sex
This is actually a requirement for me now. At our church we strongly encourage couples to remain sexually pure prior to marriage. For some people this is tough. I’ve actually talked with couples about this and some have opted to have someone else officiate their wedding. On the other hand some couples are embarrassed when I talk about this because they are already remaining sexually pure. There are also the couples who have gone too far sexually and they choose to commit to remain pure until their wedding day.
2) Mandate pre-marital counseling
This is where you talk about focus on the marriage and not the wedding date. Much of what an engaged couple is doing is talking about the wedding day. They want to make sure the time is right, the flowers are perfect, the cake is good and the list goes on. I want to talk about what happens the following day. I want to talk about waking up to that person for the next 50-70 years of your life and supporting them.
My pastor has been using A Handbook for Engaged Couples and I’m enjoying the book. In the past I’ve used books like: Sacred Marriage or Love and Respect to talk with the couple about marriage. These books, in my opinion, are more for a marriage couple. The handbook is great to bring up conversation related to practical advice of what they need.
I’m sure I will have more to offer on this subject the longer I’ve been married and the more couples sit at our kitchen table from 8pm-10pm as we talk about the greatest commitment, besides following Jesus, they will ever make.