Sometimes in the wedding planning process more time is spent on the, umm, wedding planning process than thinking about and preparing for what we might call “life itself.” We asked Perry Hardison, a well-known ordained minister and wedding officiant and Triad Bridal Association member for his thoughts…
When it comes to premarital counseling, yes, consider investing time into the preparation for marriage. The amazing memories created at the wedding will last a lifetime…and so should the marriage. Research indicates that marriages preceded by premarital counseling have 80% higher success rates than marriages that do not (true for couples who are living together and for those who are not).
So: how to proceed?
1. Most professional clergy provide access to some level of premarital coaching. In fact, many require this before they will perform the ceremony. Some religious organizations provide training through professionally developed programs for lay members (non-clergy) enabling these members to provide marriage coaching. This approach often resembles a mentoring-type process.
2. Professional marriage therapists can also provide premarital counseling. Licensed therapists can be found in most areas. Since this is part of their ongoing work, there will be a fee.
3. Some officiants offer premarital counseling as an optional service. Ask the officiant about their training and experience in counseling. Since it is a professional service, there will be a fee.
Expect premarital counseling to be more like “marriage coaching” rather than therapeutic counseling. The purpose is to help couples develop practical skills in communication, conflict resolution, financial planning, and relational tools. The process assists in the identification of areas of potential stress couples may face and to make sure they have addressed those aspects of life, thus creating a solid relational foundation. Note that counseling can also be done after the ceremony and couples who have been through premarital counseling can attend refresher sessions later in the relationship as a “booster shot” of relationship skills.