Prepare for a Marriage, Not Just a Wedding


“Your ring! It’s beautiful! When’s the date? Where are you going to have the reception? Who are going to be your bridesmaids? What color will the dresses be?”

It was the first day of our engagement and those were the questions that our well-meaning friends and family were asking the minute we told them the news. My fiancé and I felt overwhelmed. Of course we didn’t know any of the answers yet and we definitely were not used to being the center of attention. Little did we know—it was just the beginning!

The minute we were engaged, our relationship became all wedding all the time. Date, church, reception, bridal party, dresses, flowers, honeymoon. We lived and breathed decisions, decisions, decisions!

We heard a ton of opinions and suddenly had very strong opinions of our own. I want heart shaped favors, calla lily bouquets, and a bagpiper at the church!

I certainly was no bridezilla, but my husband and I have never fought as much before or since that one-year period in which we were engaged. High stress was an understatement.

Fast forward 9 years, I look back and realize none of it matters. I look at our pictures and have vague memories. The day went by so quickly that it really was a blur. Rather than spending that year on details, details, details…I wish we had spent more time on us.

Just like an athlete trains, a doctoral candidate writes a thesis, a musician practices—couples should prepare.

I remember speaking with a coworker who had been married a year about our Pre-Cana sessions. She wasn’t Catholic, but she wished she had gone through something similar before her marriage.

This conversation made me appreciate what the Church in her wisdom requires for couples—to prepare the heart and soul for a lifetime, not just for a day.

During our engagement, my husband-to-be and I started getting together specifically one day a week to read a religious book. At the time, most of the books were specifically geared toward our wedding preparation.

One book that was particularly helpful was A Catholic Handbook for Engaged and Newly Married Couples by Frederick Marks. The back of the book had important questions that we discussed ranging from parenting to finances. I remember a long and drawn out conversation about if we should have a joint bank account or keep our own individual accounts when we got married. We finally decided to have a joint account which now is clearly the best option for us, but at the time it seemed so foreign! All these discussions about serious topics helped us to learn the art of communication. We were in a committed relationship and we were working together to come to a mutual understanding. We certainly had some heated discussions (and tears on my part) about certain subjects, but we became a stronger couple because of it.

Reading and discussing a religious book is a practice that my husband and I have resurrected throughout our marriage. One of the most memorable discussions was when we bought a Catholic catechism course. I have such vivid memories of discovering things that we had never known and really expanding our faith. One section had a beautiful reflection on the Holy Trinity. Together we learned that the Holy Spirit was the direct result of the perfect expression of love between the Father and Son. It was a joy to reflect on the love of the Holy Trinity especially sharing it together in the context of our own love and marriage.

For all couples—whether you are dating, engaged or married—I encourage you to take advantage of the helpful resources that are available to you.

For all you dating, engaged and married couples what resources were helpful to you? Leave me a note in the comment box.

And whether you are in a relationship or not, increase your love for the One, whose heart burns for you.



  1. Jacinta K. January 21, 2014 Reply

    Thank you! I just got engaged yesterday and your article spoke to me. Thank you for the advice to form ever more deeply the relationship and the soul…those were some of the questions asked…but that is natural…AND THANKFULLY the wedding will just be a day. 🙂

  2. Theresa-989320 August 20, 2013 Reply

    Fantastic post! I kind of wonder how these conversations come about? I know that Marriage prep is a good opening, and some necessary topics will just come up over time.

    I’m sure that communication regarding the long term can sometimes get tricky so that the one who brings it up doesn’t sound controlling or jumping ahead in the relationship.

    I’ve known a number of wonderful couples, and they always seemed happier and healthier when doing things together with others in mind. Mutual “projects” would probably bring up opportunities regarding finances, dependability, etc. These fantastic couples were neither individually selfish nor even predominantly focused the romance between the two of them. (Not that there wasn’t time for just the two to get away occasionally.)

    I suppose I will know when I need to know….
    Any recommendations on how to broach such topics later in the relationship? Should most of these long term questions be known before or after the engagement?

    • Evonne-838540 August 20, 2013 Reply

      Even with preparation, your husband can still decide he wants a child with someone else ten years later because you can’t have children. Even though you talk about these topics before the vow. Getting married in the ‘Church’ is no promise that God will bless your marriage. Its what you hold important, like a promise. that makes a relationship last. Take a realistic look at your partner….and yourself….don’t ignore the core person inside. That person will not change.

    • Evonne-838540 August 20, 2013 Reply

      I did have a checklist of important topics to talk about when we were engaged. One night i kinda went down the list and just went for it….l wasn’t afraid of putting him off or jumping ahead of the subject. If our relationship can’t last through an honest conversation….how was it going to last in a marriage? Its the only way to discover how you really feel about things. Sometimes you really are two different people and should not get married.

  3. Rachel-55571 August 19, 2013 Reply

    Great article!

  4. Pauline-931463 August 19, 2013 Reply

    We did an Engaged Encounter before our first marriage and we had a wonderful marriage for 21 years. That set the basis of all we did and we were one till the death of my beloved. Now I am again in a relationship and we are working on a Handbook for Engaged Couples and this helps us dialogue and get to know each other. I fully agree that we must prepare for our life long relationship, not just the wedding day.

  5. Colleen-329593 August 19, 2013 Reply

    7 years divorced and wish i would have gotten this 14 years ago BEFORE I got married, I might not have married him in the first place! 🙂

  6. Tara S. August 19, 2013 Reply

    Yes yes and yes!!! Although its nice to have a beautiful wedding day…”preparing your hearts and souls for a lifetime” is what really matters in the end! Nine years married and I see this so clearly now. 😉

  7. Colleen-329593 August 18, 2013 Reply

    I completely agree. A wedding is a day and over with quickly but the marraige is a lifetime. Prepare accordingly.

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