Things You’ll Wish You Knew Before ‘I Do’



One of my favorite parts of my engagement to my fiancé George, (whom I met on CatholicMatch), came after I said, “Yes.” In the days and weeks following that sunny Saturday in June, treasured nuggets of information began to trickle out from our family and friends, cluing me into the behind the scenes planning that led to George on bended knee.

For weeks, my laid-back then-boyfriend carefully crafted a proposal involving our closest family and friends. From contacting my best friend and her husband to take photos and video footage to coordinating an engagement party at one of our favorite restaurants and swearing everyone to secrecy, he planned every detail, including the perfect location—under the iconic arches at our shared alma mater.

He was intentional and purposeful as he prepared to ask me to be his wife, even incorporating details from my carefully-laid hints during our courtship. Perhaps subconsciously, George was setting the foundation for our time as an engaged couple preparing for the sacrament of marriage and later, our journey as husband and wife.

We’re approaching this life-changing commitment in a different way than many of those around us. I’ve posted before about our wedding plans from choosing the venue to booking our honeymoon, but at the core of each of these choices is a focus on why we’re doing each of these things.

I’m called to be George’s wife and he’s called to be my husband. That’s a reality that goes beyond each of us, and we still do not know exactly what impact our union will have on each other, those around us and the rest of the world. What I do know is that we’re intentionally creating a marriage, not a wedding, through each month leading up to “I do.”

We’re intentionally doing marriage prep. Intentionally not cohabitating. Intentionally planning the wedding Mass. Intentionally planning a life based on faith.

Weddings are commonplace in our society, but not marriages. Among my peer group, I hear many reasons of why couples get married, and in so many instances, they accidentally fall into married life because of outside circumstances and not the prompting of the Holy Spirit. For some, they’re living together already and presume marriage is the next logical step in life. For others, they’re struggling with finances individually and hope that two combined incomes are better than one. Or maybe they just think they’re at the age where they should be married. And so they move forward, promising “‘til death do us part” at a wedding ceremony that they happen to be a part of.

Catholic writer Matthew Warner wrote about accidental living in a recent issue of the magazine Shalom Tidings:

“You were made to live intentionally. You were made to choose how you live your life, not to let life simply happen to you…If life is just happening to you, then you are caught up in the mire and mediocrity of accidental living. An accidental life will never be fulfilling to a creature that was made to choose.”

Just as we were made to choose a life that honors God, we were made to make intentional choices in all other aspects of life, including whom you marry. Living an intentional life is not taking the reins and being in control of every detail of your life. It’s choosing to allow God into your heart to guide you in all of your actions and decisions.

In our careers, we don’t expect promotions to get handed to us. We have to make a series of choices to prove ourselves along the way. You don’t accidentally find yourself in a dream career, even if every stepping stone magically aligned in the perfect way.

The same applies for relationships. You don’t accidentally find yourself in a happy, spiritually-centered marriage. You have to intentionally choose to search for the spouse God has planned for you (like by joining CatholicMatch!) and then live that call out with purpose.

Addressing volunteers at World Youth Day, Pope Francis encourages all of us to fight against the temptation of accidental living to not only follow God’s plan for each of us, but to live a life of happiness:

“God calls you to make definitive choices, and He has a plan for each of you: to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation is to move forward toward personal fulfillment…Have the courage to swim against the tide. And also have the courage to be happy.”
Pope Francis, Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don’t walk through life waiting for the next accident to occur. Live each day with intention—intention to bring glory to God through your future marriage and your life.



  1. Catherine-641198 November 7, 2014 Reply

    Gosh Paul, i am so sorry that you had that experience as do so many decent men;and i am equally sorry for Michelle. Mankind is mankind’s worst enemy. I am sure this was not God’s perfect plan for any of you,but He can use the situations for good,and is so able. I pray for the grief,anger ,pain ,and betrayals you all have felt,but don’t let the sorrow close off your hearts ,because then there are weeds in your souls.Catherine

  2. Marita-847688 July 30, 2014 Reply

    Please remember to be charitable. These are real people who write articles. What she meant was that good relationships, good careers, a Holy family, take work and you have to do this purposefully and not aimlessly. If we don’t make it a point, for example, to take daily time for prayer, we often won’t. If we don’t make it a point to at least try for the new job, we aren’t going to get it because we didn’t even apply. Therefore, we will never get our dream job. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t want the job, just that we didn’t try. Applying and interviewing doesn’t mean we will get the job, but if we seek the job purposefully by applying for it and preparing for the interview, we are more likely to get it. If we want a good, Holy, Catholic husband we cannot blindly go through life thinking that he will just “show up”. We must first become a Holy, practicing Catholic ourselves and then purposefully seek our mate at the right places, such as Church gatherings, not tripping over them like we see in the movies or looking for them in bars.

  3. Carolin-549530 July 13, 2014 Reply

    Are you talking about having a life with purpose??? This “accidental living” concept of yours is very confusing. This article sounds like it was written by someone who has gotten everything in life because she had the intention of doing so. Maybe this was not the intention of your message but that’s what it sounds like.

    • Paul-1102399 July 13, 2014 Reply

      just wait, she will learn in due time, like most of us!
      if not, she is one heck of a lucky woman..

  4. Michelle M. July 9, 2014 Reply

    I think that Paul has missed the message that living a faith based life will hopefully help to strengthen your marriage. While it is true people change after marriage, I have realized perhaps after taking off the rosy colored glasses and separating the “emotional” love we find the true person we married and realize the change is in ourselves. I too was “taken to the cleaners.” I made the same in money but was the saver and in the end, he got the paid off house and every birthday gift and anniversary gifts. He is an alcoholic and sex addict and was escalating in the last of our 27 yr marriage. I walked away. It is hard to give up the material possessions and the fact that our marriage was not important to him. However, I have put it in gods hands. I have a mortgage and can pay my bills. He has a girlfriend and is not supporting his obligations to his children. Our children now are seeing him and the selfish person he is and I am not having tell them because they see it. Divorce is a process of anger, grief, and forgiveness. I know that I am in control of my destiny and cannot expect others to complete my life or happiness.

    • Paul-1102399 July 13, 2014 Reply

      Look, your case is very unfortunate and in the MINORITY.
      ” I too was “taken to the cleaners.” I made the same in money but was the saver and in the end..”
      According to our VA state law, the person who earns more [usually the husband or ‘the man’ has to pay his spouse ”30% of his gross income minus half of her income”; in most cases the woman makes much less and some time nothing at all and then the monthly payment amount becomes HUGE which will have to go on for one year !!
      THAT is the TRUTH and that is REALITY!

  5. Paul-1102399 July 8, 2014 Reply

    The ridiculous things most women come up with for their ”ideal mate” and the stuff they talk about themselves, is hilllllariously obscene!
    In 99% of the cases the man makes MORE money than the woman and she ”takes him to the cleaners” which is done with some kind of weird ‘’pride’’ and honor, thanks to the feminist ‘ideals’ which has not only corrupted the institution of marriage but is also DESTROYING IT !!
    Tell me, what has changed in the last 60 years and could be directly correlated with the ever rising incidence of divorce ?
    Answer: women’s attitude and expectations from marriage which is based on selfish and self-centered aspirations; and why do they get away with it ? because the corrupt ‘’justice system’’ and the laws are on their side and women can easily put on a show of being the ‘’victim’’ by being able to weep and cry for no reason at all, just on a whim! We men just can’t pull off such a phony act to get attention and sympathy!!
    Let me end with a famous quote: ‘’After marriage, the woman changes and the man wishes that she did not, whereas the man doesn’t change and the woman wishes that he did!’’

  6. Gale-1081238 July 8, 2014 Reply

    It appears as if women want/expect a Prince Charming, counselor, investment banker all wrapped-up in one neat low maintenance guy!!

  7. Katherine-1066953 July 4, 2014 Reply

    You can only do the best you can. I met my former husband on a Catholic service trip. He and I both were very active Catholics in our parish. We dated for 4 years before he proposed. He proposed to me after mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. We intentionally did marriage prep. We intentionally took an NFP class. We intentionally did not cohabitate. We intentionally saved ourselves for marriage. We intentionally planned the wedding mass. We intentionally planned to live a life of faith together….or so I thought. I was very prideful looking back thinking that by doing everything right and by the book would make a long and lasting marriage….rather than having my best friend and husband of 8 years walk away from our marriage. Thanks be to God….we were granted an annulment in 2013! What you are doing is how it should be…I don’t disagree with anything you are trying to do or what you are saying…just know…that even in the midst of trying to do it all the right way, sin can come along and take it away. Life does happen and not always the way you want or expect….just always turn to Jesus to help you with whatever happens. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says The Lord.” Isaiah 55:8 I pray that you may have a beautiful and lasting marriage! 🙂

  8. Nicole-748380 July 2, 2014 Reply

    I like this post too. It is easy to let things slide. It is good to be reminded of living intentionally-it is taking some responsibility and action. Also the courage to be happy was a nice ending to the Pope’s quote.

  9. Joan-529855 July 2, 2014 Reply

    What happens when you live intentionally, following what you believe to be God’s plan for your life, and catastrophe (loss of spouse, loss of child, loss of dream job, major illness)? What do you do then? If your fiance was killed in a car accident today, would you still be able to live intentionally with happiness?
    Accidents do happen, despite living intentionally. It sounds like your definition of living intentionally is just another way of “planning your life”, which is certainly not a new concept.

  10. Meesch-691047 July 2, 2014 Reply

    Speaking of living intentionally- this includes money too. Make sure to create a good monthly budget and plans to pay off all your debt! Thank you Dave Ramsey for making millions off of giving sound, biblical financial sense to the rest of us 😉

  11. Jeanette-848045 July 1, 2014 Reply

    Great article! I love the points about being made to live intentionally.

  12. Michelle-989480 July 1, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Jessica for this great article!

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