Written By | Meg Daniel
Photography | Christina Zapata Photography
You have set the date. You found the perfect venue. You bought a swoon-worthy dress, handsome suit and the flowers are going to be gorgeous. You have poured your time, money and energy into creating the perfect wedding. But what happens after the big day? Are you ready? Have you prepared or talked about how you two will handle conflict? Finances? Family? What strengths and vulnerabilities do each of you bring to the marriage?
Premarital counseling or coaching can be a powerful tool to set up your marriage for success. Your wedding day will come and go, but if done right, your marriage will last a lifetime. Research has proven that premarital counseling is an effective tool to use as you begin your married life. It is a helpful way to improve your communication and conflict management skills while increasing your overall relationship quality and satisfaction. Couples who engage in premarital counseling have a more realistic view of marriage and a deeper level of commitment to each other (C. Sweatt-Eldredge, 2017).
Amy Wallace, local officiant, member of the International Association of Professional Wedding Officiants, ordained minister and doctoral candidate, encourages couples to seek premarital coaching before they get married. She believes coaching is different from therapy or counseling as coaching already sees clients as whole, whereas therapy looks to resolve a past pain. Coaching is about looking forward and is often short term. It empowers clients to solve their own problems, whereas counseling and therapy might take longer, offering guidance and direction. Amy says, “Weddings can be amazing! But if you haven’t planned for marriage, a wedding is a waste of money.”
Many couples often overlook this aspect of getting married. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning a dream wedding with birds and butterflies circling your head. Even with divorce rates inching down in the United States, many couples still choose to end a marriage. Amy encourages couples, “Do your guests a favor and invest in your marriage. You can invest in the front end or pay for it later.” Premarital coaching sessions typically range from $800 – 1200 and entail 6 – 10 sessions, depending on the couple. Amy finds it is ideal to start about 6 months prior to your big day, completing your coaching sessions at least 3 weeks before you say “I do.” These sessions are too important to be rushed during the last crazy weeks of planning your wedding.
Coaching creates a foundation for a successful marriage. Every couple is different and not one size fits all. Some couples want to go really deep and discover new things about each other, while others might want to better understand the basic building blocks of a successful marriage. Either way, when you are willing to be vulnerable and open to do whatever it takes to make your marriage work, those are the couples who can find success through premarital coaching.
Many brides and grooms have avoided premarital counseling because they do not want to follow the same rules as their parents or grandparents. But today’s engaged couples need to see this as their thing, investing in their future, creating a marriage that will be long lasting.
So what kind of topics might you discuss in premarital coaching? Amy is careful not to put everyone in the same box, but to tailor her coaching to each couple’s individual wants and needs. She first does an assessment to better understand the couple, then they work through different styles of communication, intimacy, problem-solving and more to figure out how to mesh your differences. Of course, everything is confidential.
Amy also gives couples exercises to do together. First of all, “Stay connected to each other during the planning process.” Planning the big event should be something the two of you do together. She assigned one couple to hug for 60 seconds each morning and night, every day. And not just a quick hug, but a deep, long lasting hug, holding each other until you feel the tension melt away. This simple, physical act of embracing each other and truly feeling your future spouse as your life partner creates deep bonds. Four years later, this now married couple says they still do this exercise every day, helping them to stay grounded and connected to each other.
Phillip Wright, local wedding officiant, has officiated weddings for over 25 years. While he does not offer premarital counseling or coaching to couples, he does visit with couples prior to their wedding day and encourages them to seek a better understanding of each other. “We bring to our present relationship what has shaped us from past relationships and the modeling of relationships we have seen.”
Phillip encourages couples to understand where their future spouse has been. He recommends brides and grooms do an Enneagram personality study to better know themselves and how they can effectively relate to each other. The Enneagram is one of the most powerful and insightful tools for understanding ourselves and others. At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge (The Enneagram Institute, 2021).
“By seeking to understand, rather than seeking to be understood, couples can have a more successful marriage.” Phillip sees coaching through marriage like a ball game. “You are not going to play as well in your first game as you would play in your tenth game, after you have been coached. Learning how to love someone is a learned response and coaching helps guide us to a life where we can choose to act in loving ways, even when we do not always have loving feelings.”
In addition to doing an Enneagram study, Phillip often recommends a bride and groom do a book study together to deepen their understanding of each other. For more in depth counseling, Phillip recommends finding a licensed therapist who is specifically trained to help couples.
So take the advice of trusted professionals, set your marriage up for success. Whether you seek premarital coaching, do a personality study, read through a book together or speak with a licensed therapist, investing in your marriage is important. Be willing to be vulnerable. Be open to working on your relationship. Discover new things about your future spouse. Let go of harmful behaviors. But most of all, love is a choice, so choose love.
amy s. wallace, officiant
love light ceremonies & Coaching
phillip wright, officiant
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