UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Photo courtesy Pixabay

Why marriage preparation classes should be mandatory

One happy recipient of such a course says they set a precedent for speaking openly about important issues in the future.

By Fiona Tapp

For many couples, "marriage preparation" means little more than choosing the wedding cake. But when making a lifetime commitment, it makes sense to do some more forward planning.

My husband and I wanted to get married in our local Church of England parish in London, U.K., which required us to complete a six-week marriage preparation course led by the minister. We were not particularly excited about the prospect of spending the next six Thursday evenings at the church with several other couples, but it turned out to be an incredibly important step to prepare us for a life together. 

The program strongly emphasized Christian values of love and fidelity, but there were also practical lessons on how to budget, talk about finances, retirement dreams and even — gasp — how to cultivate a sizzling sex life.

We saw other people discuss issues for the first time that should have come up far before the proposal. At one point, a couple had a heated exchange, left the session and never returned. I hope the course saved them from a mismatched marriage.

For our part, the sessions gave us uninterrupted time to just talk. It was like going on a series of first dates.

Marriage preparation classes are a great way to help future-proof your relationship, but they don't need to come from a religious perspective.

The Humanist Society offers certification to celebrants who perform wedding ceremonies for secular and humanist couples. Humanists believe in critical thinking over dogma and the agency of humans over their own lives.

Jacquelyn Simms is a humanist celebrant based in North Carolina. She meets with engaged couples to discuss a wide range of topics, like each person's concept of marriage, work-life balance and children — both having them and the possibility that biological kids are not in the cards. 

She says that it’s important that two people share a commitment to building a life together and have similar and realistic expectations of the partnership.

"I do not tell the couples that theirs is a marriage 'made in heaven,'" she says. "I do tell them that their marriage will be made by the decisions they make each day."

"I do not tell the couples that theirs is a marriage 'made in heaven.' I do tell them that their marriage will be made by the decisions they make each day."

Cincinnati, Ohio humanist chaplain and counsellor Bart Campolo says people approaching marriage should try to talk to those already in successful long-term relationships.

"I often encourage couples to find an older couple whose relationship they admire and ask to spend some time together before and after the wedding talking shop about marriage," he says.

He says that it’s also important that couples, especially those who aren't part of a traditional church community, seek out supportive mentors to guide them in developing a healthy relationship.

During sessions, Campolo brings up career plans, spirituality, money management, intimacy, communication styles, children, and the division of household labour.

"Conversations around these issues are almost always easier to begin before the wedding, and set in place the idea that relationships require ongoing reflection and revision," he says.

For humanist celebrant Kye Flannery, who lives in Austin, Texas, marriage preparation is a chance for couples to discuss their commitment to one another, free from judgment. She aims to facilitate discussions but doesn't impose her own thoughts or philosophies.

"I create space for couples to reflect on patterns in their families of origin, to say out loud what they want to hold sacred in their own home, and any family dynamics they don't want to repeat," she says.

"I don't see it as a time for me to lecture them or tell them what they need according to my values."

For marriages to last a lifetime, there must be a great deal of introspection, honesty and willingness to grow. The best time to develop these skills is before the wedding happens.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Culture

Indigenous actor and singer Tom Jackson has named his annual Christmas charity concert after the song. (Photo: Craig Koshyk)

6 must-hear recordings of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

From a beloved version by Tom Jackson to one translated into Mi’kmaw, Jesous Ahatonnia has been adapted in many creative ways over the years.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

Why we pay our interns a fair wage

by Jocelyn Bell

But $15 an hour is only a small step in the right direction.

Promotional Image

Video

Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image

Faith

December 2018

The complex history of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

A product of 17th-century Jesuit missionaries, the popular hymn was written to introduce the Wendat people to Christianity. The Observer explores its troubled origins and continued use today.

Columns

November 2018

Christians should stop using God to sanctify adoption

by Jackie Gillard

This adoptive mom writes that she's frustrated by the common evangelical Christian message that adoption is always the best outcome for a child.

Columns

November 2018

Christmas music was meaningless to me, so I started listening to this instead

by Paul Fraumeni

Tunes about snow and chestnuts and silent nights didn't bring the power of the holiday home to this writer, so he found a new soundtrack.

Promotional Image