I was never the girl who put much thought into a “dream wedding” before getting engaged but that quickly changed after I agreed to marry Chris. Planning our big day quickly took over my life and I secretly reveled in planning everything primarily on my own. I got excited about ways we would announce our engagement on social media. I spent hours researching wedding websites and save the date templates. I scoured Pinterest for ideas and bombarded Chris with questions about color schemes and how we’d ask our friends to take part in our wedding party. We initially spent every free moment either talking about our impending nuptials or planning for it – until Chris sat me down and hit me with the facts. We needed premarital counseling – and quick!

Planning for a wedding was great and all but he made it clear that his priority wasn’t to throw the wedding of the summer but to start our marriage off on the right foot by gathering as many tools as we could for success. He heard of Merge through a community group he was a part of through Watermark Church  and was eager to sign up for their eight-week course. I was blown away by his enthusiasm and the $20 discount for our marriage license application (because discounts are life) but was hesitant to take part in counseling with a group of strangers. We agreed that we would have several sessions with his pastor that would officiate our wedding then transition into Merge.

A huge part of becoming a couple again after being apart for two years meant we needed to get honest about the things that broke us up initially. Counseling in an intimate setting gave us a safe space to explore those things in greater detail with a third-party we respected and trusted. We dug deep and answered tough questions that were asked of us. At some point, feeling completely drained by the heaviness of the past, I complained that our engagement period wasn’t as lighthearted and fun as I thought it would be. Chris reminded me that building a strong foundation was more important than my fleeting feelings. Touché.

Merge began 8 months before our big day and we looked forward to the change of pace and environment. We were initially overwhelmed by the amount of couples present. There were at least 200 people in our class but it quickly began to feel like a school course in that we’d listen to a speaker deliver a short message or watch a video then share our thoughts with 3 other couples and the mentor couple at our table. And just like school, we were given workbooks that contained questions we were to complete each week. We were challenged to discuss a wide array of topics including how we would handle our finances, spend time with family over the holidays, recognizing our love language, how to fight fair, our expectations regarding sex, and how we’d share responsibilities in our home. We were also encouraged to participate in a purity pledge until our wedding day to avoid being distracted by our physical desires. Side note: I could go on and on about how amazing abstaining from physical intimacy was by taking part in the pledge. Sure, it didn’t feel amazing but our heads were so much clearer when tackling hard topics. We didn’t have a crutch to fall back on. We were forced to find other ways to connect with one another. We quickly began to look forward to our evenings spent with other couples that were not only seeking Christ but also a healthy marriage.

Quite frankly, premarital counseling made me feel normal. I was surprised by how much others related to my fears, upbringing, and other preconceived notions I had about marriage. And even though I knew Chris was the one for me, I still battled with insecurities of the past and my desire to control every aspect of our relationship. My imperfections were met with understanding and so much grace. More importantly, though, it established our readiness to jump the broom. At the root of it all, beyond my nervousness and occasional fear of the future counseling confirmed that we wanted to tackle life together – as a team. I’m so thankful for Pastor Ed and the Merge team for pushing me out of my comfort zone so that we could bravely pursue marriage.

What are your thoughts concerning premarital counseling (and counseling in general)? Is it something you are on the fence about or seriously considering? Let me know in the comments below!

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New to the series? Catch up below!

He Has Made Everything Beautiful In His Time
Unpacking The Proposal