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Lauren’s Wedding Planning: The Marriage Prep


It’s been awhile since we’ve had an update from Assistant Editor Lauren on her upcoming wedding (it’s coming up in July! It’s going to be here before we know it!) So she’s back today, writing really honestly about the Catholic Pre-Marital Counseling Process, Pre-Cana.  As most of  you know, here at APW we’re huge fans of doing some sort of Pre-Marital Counseling, religious or secular, because it gives you a chance to talk about the real issues of marriage, and not just the flowers and the dresses and the wedding, wedding, wedding. But I will say that every single one of my girlfriends who has done Pre-Cana has come out with some really thoughtful and hilarious stories. And today, we get Lauren’s:

Laurens Wedding Planning: The Marriage Prep | A Practical Wedding

I’ve already spoken about how important I feel the engagement process is over at I’m Better In Real Life, so I’ll just start off this post with a small paragraph about it. I believe the space between dating and marriage is necessary. I believe the fighting, the team building, the surprises that pop up are more than necessary in building a solid foundation. I believe that these moments can be the beginning of how you define your small family against the families you’ve come from, and I believe it’s a chance to go toe to toe with your partner in order to say, with complete certainty, that yes, we’re in this together and I am a stronger person with you by my side. Or not. The or not is equally important.

That being understood, there are so many things during engagement that are just plain fun. For us, it’s been our experience with Marriage Prep. Kamel and I are doing Pre-Cana through the Catholic church and it was something I was battling with from the beginning. I knew it was necessary, but just wanted to go through the motions to get to the end result. What’s happened since has been a complete happy surprise. We’re not quite done yet (we still have 4 classes with other couples to attend plus one more meeting with the representative from the church we’re attending), but we’ve already met with our Deacon twice (up in Seattle) and our church in San Francisco twice, so we’re well on our way.

The first time we met with the guy who runs Pre-Cana in San Francisco we were nervous. We didn’t want to say anything that would eff it up. We didn’t want to leave anything out that may be important. We didn’t want him to suddenly decide we were unfit to wed, because then what would we do? So for any of you who are engaged and are planning to go through the process but haven’t begun yet, here’s how it went for us: We chatted with him for a few minutes in his office, giving him all of the deets for our wedding (date, place, deacon) and then he took us each, one at a time, into a different room to ask us other questions (are you pregnant? do you plan on raising your children catholic? have you been married before? are you entering into this union by your own free will?) and this is where I panicked a little because holy god, I had not prepped Kamel for what he was supposed to say – the control freak section of my mind nearly clawed through the door for an emergency run down of appropriate responses. But then I heard the guy ask a question, realized I had no control over the situation, heard Kamel respond, and then heard the guy bust out laughing, and figured it would all be alright. Then we took a large scan-tron test about how we felt regarding certain issues within our relationship. At our next appointment we would compare results.

A month to the day rolls by and we headed to our next appointment. I went straight from work to pick Kamel up and was starving and cranky. Kamel was rolling along in happy Kamel land as always, so of course what happens? We start to bicker. To the point where Kamel’s saying, “I don’t even want to HAVE this meeting anymore! We aren’t in the right head space for this sh*t.” And then, because I’m a snot, I reply, “Well too LATE! This was his LAST appointment until May.” And we stomp up the rectory steps, ring the doorbell and our church man opens the door, to our smiling stepford-wives faces. Nothing to see here, guy-who-ultimately-signs-our-good-to-go-paperwork. What happened next blew my mind.

The church rep got right down to business, reading off what we had answered to certain questions. It kept coming up that I thought everything was just dandy in our relationship, but Kamel’s answers were flashing red flags. Kamel thinks I’m too hard on myself, Kamel thinks I worry too much about what I’m going to wear for the day, Kamel thinks I put others before myself to a fault, etc. And we discussed these, in a loving way, all of which were not serious issues, but issues that caused him a touch of anxiety. But then it got to a question that I had raised a red flag about (finally), and when the marriage prep guy said the words, “But then Lauren’s response was…” I let out a whoop and yelled “Yes! One for me!” And everybody laughed. This experience was not overly serious. This was our love and our life and the ins and outs of relationships, this was Kamel and I; forever clawing each others’ eyes out, forever racing to the front door to be the first one home, forever reaching for each other in the middle of the night.

When it got to a question about the ability to say “I’m sorry,” Kamel had marked that it was sometimes difficult for him to say. Our moderator asked why and Kamel hemmed and hawed at the question for a moment before sputtering out, “Because…. because I wanna win!”

You should have seen the church guys eyes completely bulge out of his head like a cartoon character and utter, “whaaat?”

HA! I couldn’t believe Kamel had actually admitted to what I had suspected from the beginning of our relationship! And Kamel continued, “Yeah, I know when I’m wrong, but I don’t want to actually say it out loud! I wanna win!” And our moderator couldn’t have made a better point than when he asked, “And how’s that workin’ out for ya?” Priceless.

We walked out of that meeting strong. We walked out with the ability to laugh at ourselves, at our short comings. We left a better team and a happier couple. And it’s not that we hadn’t talked about these things before – we should win a prize for how freely we address our sh*t – it was that we were able to talk about them with a stranger, a stranger with a certain kind of authority, and it was alright. We saw that our bumps in the road are not large, that our unique relationship means a unique style of communication and a unique way of resolving issues. Marriage prep has reinforced the importance of laughter and having fun, even in the space of meaningful thought.

Laurens Wedding Planning: The Marriage Prep | A Practical Wedding

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  • Meghan

    I love this. Our pre-Cana experience was quite different. It wasn’t bad, in fact, I went in with a very stiff spine preparing to be really upset about being told that I had to have like 20 babies and obey my husband’s whims, you know. And it wasn’t like that. But I love how you got one-on-one COUNSELING. Ours was more like a class in a lecture hall with 50 other couples. We had good speakers but I didn’t feel like we got that deep into working with our own relationship. Kind of annoying.

    • Wsquared

      …you know, think most Archdioceses do what’s called a FOCUS exam– essentially a compatibility test. What happens there is that you take the test, and areas of difference will come up in order to signal to you that they need work. A deacon and his wife from the parish in which you will marry will meet with you to discuss the results.

      And yes, it’ll ask you questions like “when you discuss things with your partner, do you always feel that you have to win?” Discussions during Pre-Cana, whether one-on-one or in a class full of 50 couples (which is what I went through),*will* touch on those kinds of issues. I actually took a lot away from Pre-Cana, including a new willingness to investigate the Catholic faith for myself. I sat up and took notice when the speakers recommended that we put the Catechism and the Bible on our wedding registries: they wanted us to know the faith in depth.

      It wasn’t bad, in fact, I went in with a very stiff spine preparing to be really upset about being told that I had to have like 20 babies and obey my husband’s whims, you know. And it wasn’t like that.

      I can empathize, because I did have similar fears. But I should point out that the Church does not teach anything of the sort. Please, all of you who are getting married in the Catholic Church, read the Catechism before you even think to jump to such a conclusion. That is a really crude caricature of the Catholic faith, and it’s also offensive to God for either husband or wife to put something that is less than God before God. A man “lording it over his wife” falls under that category . …or if you need a short-cut to “What the Catholic Church Really Teaches,” I recommend Catholicism for Dummies.

  • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

    Man, this makes me want to do pre-marital counseling even more than I wanted to before. Donnie says he’s willing to go, but not because he wants to, mostly because he knows I want to. And that’s fine for me, except I also have a hard time spending money and usually need someone else who wants to do something just as much as me, if not more, to convince me that we should go for it. I’m going to do a quick search into our options, though, and see what we can come up with. Happy Monday, all!

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

      That’s why C started, but now it’s really important to him. Kinda sweet. What eventually did it for him was that my school has a clinic where it’s free for students. Most areas have very cheap pre-marital counseling.

    • meg

      Oh, trust me, it will be worth the money over the course of your marriage. And that’s fine anyway! Our Rabbi asked us to agree that we would always go to counseling, even if we were not in crisis, if the other person asked us to go. And that seemed like a pretty reasonable thing to agree to, right up front. So really, your partner is already on board with that plan!

      • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

        Ooh, I really like that idea of always going if your partner requests it. So very much. Idea stolen. And you have me convinced. How long do pre-marital counseling sessions usually last? Weeks? Months? Is it flexible based on what you’re looking for?

    • McPants

      “I also have a hard time spending money and usually need someone else who wants to do something just as much as me, if not more, to convince me that we should go for it.”

      Kinzie, it’s so worth it. We also saw finances as a hurdle to pre-marital counseling, but we were able to find an office that works on a sliding scale. It was still an investment, but we gained so much from the process about how we communicate (“wait, you mean I can’t always be right?”), and having a neutral third party there really helped my partner open up about things she hadn’t been saying before.

      It’s so easy in the stress of wedding planning and just generally living your life to accept the status quo so you can keep moving. Just having that time every other week to focus on intentionally growing our relationship was infinitely valuable.

      • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

        Oh dear friends, thanks for such sound advice. I’m sold. Now, off to do some research on local opportunities!

  • http://marriageable.wordpress.com Mary

    Aw, Lauren, I’m so glad you had such a good experience! I loved our Catholic marriage prep. It got us talking about some of those minor issues (like wanting to win, haha) that are not huge deals but are sort of on the back burner. Our one-on-one counseling was a little awkward though, since we did it with a couple instead of a priest and they were… a little stiff. It was still helpful though to talk about the issues after we left the session.

    Ah we had the same anxiety about getting quizzed by the priest separately! We were so worried that he would ask if we had lived together and had sex and then would refuse to marry us! I went into the questioning first (of course he didn’t ask those questions) and when I opened the door Mark made an, ahem, certain hand signal to check if he asked about sex and I just shook my head. It was pretty hilarious.

  • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

    Lauren, you’re awesome. That’s all I’ve got for now. Really enjoy your updates!

  • Faith

    I can sympathize with your “just get through it to the end result” thought about marriage counseling…that was our thought too. Necessary, but annoying.
    However, we definitely gained a better understanding of each other and how we work independently and together. We were also given a lot of stuff to help us when we’re in the midst of the difficult things in life.

    And we absolutely had many times where we would show up after having a stupid fight or I would be upset with him for something, and during the course of our session, realize how much we still love each other:)

  • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com LovelyOlivia

    I love, love, love that you always talk about “team-building.” I feel like that’s what we do, as an engaged couple, a lot–whether it’s dealing with family issues, work issues, or being lost in a new city while it’s slowly getting dark out and you have no idea where you are, or, being lost in the mountains of the Berkshires while heavy fog is rolling in (we get lost…a lot, ha!). I never saw my parents work as a team, so it’s VERY important to me that E and I can work together and support each other along the way. It’s all about building our team to be the best we can be. Also, we think we’re awesome, and I think sometimes in life, it’s OK to not be so humble, and to be REALLY proud of yourself, and of yourself in a couple, AND of the two of you together…okay, I’m done rambling now!

    • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ Anna

      I think that’s exactly how I see getting married…being a team together.

  • Sooz

    Any suggestions for those of us who (a) have a partner who’s very anti-counselling based on a bad experience, and (b) have probably run out of time for pre-wedding counselling anyway.

    I feel like we’re going into the marriage somewhat under-prepared, and that’s bothering me.

    of course, less-than-six-weeks-to-go-and-work-is-stressful-and-our-landlady-is-a-nightmare-and-i’m-stressing-about-my-mother-coming-over stress is also bothering me, and it’s a little hard to tell the difference at the moment!

    stressed Sooz

    • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

      My partner was hugely anti-counseling. It was very, very hard to get him to try it. Our counselor was very understanding of his reticence and gave him an easy out: we had six sessions to see if we could make any worthwhile progress, and if he hated it, we could stop. Over a year later, and we’re still seeing our therapist, and he’s even going to a therapist for his own issues.

      With only six weeks left, that’s tough! But it might be worth it. If you can get in touch with a couple’s counselor through your insurance, they can tell you your options. And if you present it to your fiance as a trial run (as I did with mine), then they might be more open to seeing if it works for you.

      Good luck!

    • http://marriageable.wordpress.com Mary

      My suggestion would be to do some reading on marriage (which obviously, you’re already doing, since you’re here :) ). I CANNOT recommend John Gottman’s Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work enough. I know the title sounds gimmicky, but it gave tons of great advice that I found applicable not only to my marriage but also to my other relationships. It’s far more helpful to be able to talk things through with a a neutral third party, but the point is really to be thinking about your dynamic as a couple, so doing some reading will probably prove helpful. :) (Also, six weeks! Eek!)

    • JUST JENCIL

      The only advice I would have to offer is to make sure you guys put time in your schedules to have time together – fun times where you can talk about some of this stuff together. Its gonna be hard (I’m in the same planning stage), but like in marriage, life is sometimes crazy around you and it takes work to set aside time for yourselves as a unit. Remind our partner that even if the counseling is not the best, its an experience for you guys to maybe have a few laughs at the experience and talk alone afterward about important issues. Personally, I had to put off a few “important” vendor appointments to do this, but it was well worth it – vendors worked with me to reschedule and we are happier and more excited for the wedding.

      Good luck!!!!!

    • marbella

      Hi Sooz, where are you getting married? Did you have any kind of counseling discussions with the officiant? If you feel under-prepared, that is probably contributing to a lot of your stress.
      If your partner is very anti-counseling, have you discussed what will happen if one or both of you need to go to counseling at some point in your marriage? Will they go with you, or support you? I think that is something that should be addressed beforehand.
      Six weeks isn’t too long, but if you can, it would really benefit you both to find time to visit someone, be it a priest/rabbi or a secular counselor, and talk through some things, even if you can just go once. If your partner knows how you feel (under-prepared), perhaps they would be willing to make this sacrifice (not wanting to go) for your mental health?
      If you just can’t, perhaps you could gather a list of questions online and talk through your answers together? The FOCCUS test given to Catholics that Lauren mentioned is basically about 100 questions in different categories that you answer separately, then afterward talk about your answers together. It is a good jumping off point for things that you may not have thought to talk about, and the things you have discussed will give you assurance that you aren’t totally unprepared.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      We haven’t done any premarital counseling (yet?). But, if your partner is very anti-counseling, how about doing some informally with just the two of you? When I was reading “The Bitch in the House”, I had the boy read any of the parts that particularly hit home for me, and then we discussed why. These two posts are good places to look for some inspiration: http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/01/ask-team-practical-books-for-brides-wives/ and http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/02/ask-team-practical-questions-to-ask-before-marraige/

      Good luck with the next six weeks. Don’t forget to breathe!

    • Suzanna

      I was in the same boat with my guy not wanting to go to counseling. A couple of things helped. 1) He got to pick out the counselor. 2) I reassured him that I had no interest in having massive emotional upheavals in counseling, and no digging for deep dark childhood issues–we were only going as a very practical, short-term, task-oriented way of sort of checking off a list of potential issues, in order to build a solid foundation for our relationship.

      I know most guys are put off by crying and never want to do that emotional exploration and cleansing that most women find helpful. Once I put it in Dude Terms (practical, checking off a list, building a foundation, etc.), he could see the value in it. We went a few times and of course learned some valuable tips about getting along better. Nothing traumatic. ;)

      With only six weeks left, I’m with the others here who say to take time for yourself. Deep breaths. Go through that awesome list of questions mentioned above, if you both have the head-space for it.

      You can do this stuff after you get married, too! Good luck and congratulations!

    • Caroline

      I agree that Gottman’s book is great. But it really freaked me out when I picked it up with 6 weeks to go. I needed to put it down, and pick it up a month afterwards. The lessons are applicable any time, not just before. Just my experience!

  • Jen M

    I really hope my secular marriage prep experience is this good. Love your updates :)

    • http://quiltonthetracks.posterous.com Margaret M.

      I’m jealous! We could not for the life of us find a secular option for pre-marital counseling and wound up doing without. It was so frustrating.

      • Noemi

        http://www.twogetherpgh.org/

        In the Pittsburgh area, this is a great possibility for those who don’t have a lot of room in their budget for traditional professional counseling, and it’s secular, though the locations are usually at church halls. It’s not just for those who are engaged, there are also programs for already married couples. Though I personally haven’t attended these yet (we both live in separate cities for now), but we hope to attend some of these sessions after we’re married. A really interesting community project, it’s definitely worth it if you’re in the Pittsburgh area!

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    We’ve had three or four appointments with our person, and we talk about stuff, but we have yet to get raw with her. I hope she breaks us down fairly quickly, because while we’ve been honest, we’ve been restrained-ish since she does have authority.

    And you’re awesome.

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

    Mmmm-mmm, counseling. Love it. My husband and I have been going to a therapist for over a year (about nine months before our wedding, and five months after). Our counseling with my minister was mostly to get to know my husband, but only because he knew we were seeing a therapist.

    The experience has been awesome. It is amazing to have a third party help us; it isn’t a nag or a lecture, but someone holding a mirror up to ourselves and to our relationship. We’ve found it VERY helpful. When we feel like we have a lot to work on, we go every other week; if we’re feeling good about our relationship, then we go every few months for a check up.

    At the Boston APW meetup this weekend, the topic of counseling came up in a couple different contexts, and all the married ladies who had done counseling essentially turned to the unmarried ladies and said “DO IT.”

  • Mihaela

    This alleviates a lot of my fears. We haven’t started counseling yet, but I keep thinking “What if…?” What if he thinks we shouldn’t get married? What if we’re hiding some terrible deficiency we know nothing about? It almost makes it worse that we picked a minister who knows us well, because I’m worried about our friendship with our minister, as well. Does anyone have thoughts on the subject? I know I’m being paranoid…but this post is helping me realize that it is going to be just fine.

    • N

      I was a little afraid of this too, that counseling would unearth some insurmountable problem we didn’t know about before. I can only speak to my experience, but all it really did was shine a light on problems we knew we had and give us an opportunity to discuss them more.

    • http://www.betterinrealife.com Lauren

      It really will be alright. Your minister WANTS you to get married. And that’s what I realized the most – none of these people actually knew us at all and even THEY want us to get married. People are rooting for you, not trying to sniff out the problem areas so they can stick ‘em to you. To be honest, it just wouldn’t be good for business, and at the moment marriage is a good business for any religious organization. (trust me, they are charging for everything, ha)

      • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

        Hmm I hadn’t thought about that side of it, but that community building spirit is a huge perk!

  • N

    I know that Pre-Cana is specifically for Catholics getting married, but I wish it were somehow available to everyone. I just finished it going through it so that our marriage is recognized by my fiance’s church. So I’m not Catholic, but still really enjoyed the process and found that there was relatively little about the process that was Catholic-specific. The FOCCUS (the scan-tron test Lauren refers to–I’m assuming all Pre-Cana uses the same one) is a pretty great tool. They just ask you a bunch of things like “have you talked about what roles you will take as parents”(I will say, if you are not planning on having children, I do NOT recommend this process. It is strongly pro-babies, and it could be uncomfortable if that’s not in your plans.) How you resolve things isn’t so much important as that you talk about them and have some solution that works for you. And in ours, they paired us with a married couple who would share how they worked through the same things. I do wish some secular organization popped up that offered a similar program that was widely available outside of a religious context (a business opportunity for those entrepreneurial APW-ers, perhaps?).

    • http://silver-sandalled.blogspot.com Margaret

      “I will say, if you are not planning on having children, I do NOT recommend this process. It is strongly pro-babies, and it could be uncomfortable if that’s not in your plans”

      Yeah, that’s kinda the impression I got – I had a LOT of trouble finding any pre-marital counseling (or helpful books) that weren’t heavy on the religion and/or kids… both sort of non-issues for us. :-P I’m still curious about the FOCCUS test, but can’t seem to find the full thing online.

      Oh, and for those who are looking for books, this one wasn’t amazingly helpful (John Gottman = way better), but it did start a few interesting conversations: “PMAT: The Perfect Marriage Aptitude Test” By Mary Carty.

    • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

      We started going to a couple’s therapist, and she approached it as secular premarital counseling. She offered six sessions to see if we were a good fit and if we could make some progress. We decided to continue with therapy, but I’m sure if a couple went to a traditional therapist and asked for premarital counseling, they would be able to work together.

    • lolo7835

      I disagree about the anti-kids thing scarring people off. There are so many great questions on the FOCUS inventory, that those questions were the easiest for us. Yes we’ve discussed how we are going to be as parents, yes we’ve talked about the roles of kids. And we decided our answer is ‘no’. They really just want to make sure you’ve talked about it and discussed it, so it didn’t bother me.

      The finance questions totally freaked me out though as I don’t think we’ve covered any of those in real detail. Some, but not all.

      I really enjoyed our pre-cana meetings. As a very liberal Catholic I was really really worried about having to argue why I don’t believe in NFP or my support for XY and Z issue, but that didn’t happen for us. It really was about creating a dialogue between the two of us and how the church fits into that. It was pretty awesome actually. Alot of it depends on your priest though, which makes me sad for folks that have had a bad experience. I think it’s totally 100% worth doing though.

      • susan

        Is a “very liberal Catholic” really even a Catholic? I’m sure you know, or rather, I assume you know, that you can’t pick and choose what you will/won’t believe and remain a Catholic. You’re either a Catholic who believes in each and every doctrine and dogma of the faith, or you’re not a Catholic. Wouldn’t you agree? When you say you “don’t believe in NFP” does that mean you believe in artificial contraception (in which case you are not a Catholic).

        • C.

          Sorry, i can’t let this go uncommented.
          As a devout Catholic who works for an Archdiocese and teaches theology, I’m disheartened when people try to define others out of being Catholic. It makes Catholicism sound like a tribe or a purity system; it is not.
          I agree with NFP, and my fiance and I plan to use it, but having disagreements with aspects of Church teaching doesn’t make you not Catholic. I really, really wish people wouldn’t say things like that, as it’s very hurtful. (Speaking from experience).
          It’s much more helpful to dialogue with someone about why the struggle with the things they do than to just define them out of the group.
          Unless of course you want a really small minority Church that has little to do with Jesus. In which case, go ahead.

    • dylanhope

      My fiance and I went to a retreat called Catholic Engaged Encounter as a part of our pre-cana. It was a fantastic experience, led by two different couples. It had little to do with Catholism and more to do with our relationship. They offer them all over the country and they told us that it is open to non-Catholics; in fact the couples leading ours said they’ve had Jewish and non-religous couples attend as well. It may be a little religious for some people but my fiance who is an agnostic did not find it to be overly preachy or religious. We were able to really talk about a lot of issues that we often purposely ignore for the sake of harmony in a non-hostile environment. It cost $300/couple for the weekend (including the retreat, lodging, and food) so it could be a relatively affordable option for people who are interested. I second the advice about it not being for those who don’t plan on having children though.

      • Wsquared

        It had little to do with Catholicism and more to do with our relationship.

        Oookayyy? This is news to me. How did it have “very little to do with Catholicism”? Because I should point out that the focus on a good relationship– about the equal dignity of men and women from their both being made in the image of God– is classic Catholic teaching.

  • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

    We’re only one session into our pre-cana, but I absolutely loved it. The deacon who’s officiating our wedding is doing all of our classes, which is awesome because he both relates to what we’re going through and is helping us mold our ceremony (we’re getting married in the church but not having mass) around our beliefs, which I had gone into expecting to be impossible with me a hard-core Catholic and my fiance agnostic.

  • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

    YAY, pre-marital counseling! And YAY, Lauren post!

    I am still really irritated that we never did pre-marital counseling. I don’t think that the lack of it has hurt my marriage, but I know for a fact that we’ve experienced specific road-bumps that would have been helped by pre-marital cousneling. (Helped, not solved. That’s our job…)

    Based on this post, I just ordered the ReFOCCUS training packet. There are books that will probably help us more in the long run, but I really thinking taking that post-marriage quiz will be interesting and will get us talking in general. Which is kind of the point of all counseling, isn’t it?

  • Caitlin

    Lauren I love your posts! My husband and I went to pre-cana in NYC but it was in a large gymnasium for a few weeks and then we did our one on one sessions with the Deacon who married us upstate-we loved it. We were so nervous about saying the wrong thing, so anxious about saying something that would prove to the world that we were not meant to be together, and I was especially scared that I would feel uncomfortable since I am not Catholic. I loved reading this because I am sure we all feel the same way before we start. But it ended up being awesome. Even in the larger setting, the man who led the group made it feel so personal, I remember sitting face to face and holding Mike’s hands with all of these couples around us and we had to close our eyes and repeat the sentences the leader was telling us. I thought it was corny at first but halfway through I was crying. I totally agree that having these kinds of sessions, no matter who runs them, is so important before marriage (or after!). It helped us talk about the things we like to avoid talking about (ie: whether or not to raise kids Catholic like Mike, or let’s-take-a-walk-in-the-woods-on-Sunday-and-call-it-church like Caitlin). Keep the updates coming Lauren!

    • Amandover

      Caitlin,
      I just wanna say hi, because I’m a formerly Catholic, take-a-walk-in-the-woods-and-call-it-church New Yorker who’s getting married upstate.

      And Lauren, your writing is awesome.

  • clampers

    Glad to read this post and all the comments so far because I’ve been a little nervous about the counseling too. Excited for it, yes, but still have that feeling like they’re going to say, “YOU FAIL. Marriage NOT granted.” Happy to hear that’s not really going to happen.

  • A girl

    We didn’t do counseling, and I was okay with this. I don’t regret it, and I think that each couple is going to handle these issues differently.

    My husband was openly anti-counselling, while I was pro, mostly because I have been to counselors before and found them helpful – he had not. My only real concern was that this resistance would be an issue later on. It’s not. Now we both have experienced good counselors and the benefit they can have on your daily life, and I am no longer afraid that we will not be able to get counselling down the road.

    Point? There are lots of different ways to deal with the big issues in a smart, safe way. For some it might be counseling, but for us its each day, as they arise, in their own time. And don’t freak out if he is anti-counseling now. Because that can change.

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

    Hahahaha: “I panicked a little because holy god, I had not prepped Kamel for what he was supposed to say – the control freak section of my mind nearly clawed through the door for an emergency run down of appropriate responses.” I can 100% relate!

    For me, the fun part about the pre-wedding one-on-ones with our Rev was hearing the different answers come out of our mouths. She’d ask us questions and I thought I knew what himself was going to say, and then he said something different. Not bad, but not always what I thought, and it was really neat to discuss the similarities and differences in our responses. We’d inevitably end up continuing the discussion on the way home.

    Glad to hear that your ‘letting go’ worked out so well. :)

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    Just wanted to throw out the opinion that if a couple is very serious and talking about marriage, doing some initial “pre-engagement” counseling can take some of the pressure off. I found talking through stuff before engagement to be deeply freeing and calming. I also knew that if something unexpected came up in our sessions, we would have time to work through things in a private way without any sort of time pressure or questions from other people. Our sessions were really helpful to me and after them, I felt ready to get married, like I was on solid ground and ready to move forward.

    Of course, the benefits of couple’s counseling can happen at any stage- pre-engagement, during engagement, or post-marriage. :) I agree with this post and the comments- counseling is worth the investment. But I think it is important to find a counselor that you click with. (If your religion doesn’t assign you somebody.) My spouse and I both really clicked with our counselor (who I found from a recommendation from a like-minded friend), but I think I got more out of it than my spouse, which is okay because I know he is glad that I made the journey I did. And I know the things I learned have helped me lots in trying to navigate our personality and cultural differences during misunderstandings and fights during this first year and a half of marriage,.

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

    I’m glad your Pre-Cana experience was great, Lauren! Mine . . . not so much. While I was nervous about it, Pre-Cana seemed like a good thing & I hoped we would benefit from it. Ours was a long, one-day class with a million other couples in a lecture hall setting. We didn’t get to talk to each other much & after hours & hours of lecture, it was difficult to pay attention. Plus I was deflated after being told children of divorce (me) are most likely to get divorced. Then we answered the questions separately in a test format at our church. Two weeks later, we were told that we tested well & we should get married . . . without discussing any of our answers or delving into the results. At our class & on our test, lots of good issues were brought up without giving us a fair chance to discuss. It’s hard to remember everything so we couldn’t even touch upon all the topics on our own. Our church just kinda goes through the motions of Pre-Cana & I wish it had been more than that.

    • Wsquared

      I’m sorry to hear that your Pre-Cana experience wasn’t so hot. What I would suggest that you do is that you conduct your own, independent study of what it means to be Catholic. It will make what you understand about marriage fall into place in a way that you’d not thought about.

  • Meaghan 2

    “The church rep got right down to business, reading off what we had answered to certain questions. It kept coming up that I thought everything was just dandy in our relationship, but Kamel’s answers were flashing red flags.”

    Lauren, I can totally relate. We aren’t catholic but we did pre-martial counseling with our minister that involved a big scary test that yielded similar results to yours. I answered like everything was wonderful and perfect and A was more realistic. Our minister told us that in his 35+ years of marriage counseling that this was the most common issue he saw because people think there is a magic cut off number that if you get X amount “wrong” you can’t get married. He assured us there is no right or wrong as long as we were always willing to discuss whatever issues we encountered. That small comment made a huge impact on us because it finally allowed us (mostly me) to relax about the whole thing.

  • Amandover

    We’ve gone through several marriage books now (including Gottman’s), and had one meeting & many emails with our officiant – the 3 of us being in 3 different places for a while.

    But I think I’m gonna take “how you define your small family against the families you’ve come from” to the hubs-elect. Kind of excited to hear his answers. Thanks!

  • http://twentyfivetowife.blogspot.com Amanda

    When it got to a question about the ability to say “I’m sorry,” Kamel had marked that it was sometimes difficult for him to say. Our moderator asked why and Kamel hemmed and hawed at the question for a moment before sputtering out, “Because…. because I wanna win!”

    YES! Haha, I totally relate. Luckily, so does my fiancé and we recognize this about ourselves and each other, so we can sidestep the instinct to defend our position to the death (at least, when the situation calls for it, like real fights rather than, say, political or philosophical discussions).

  • Rachel

    Our rabbi didn’t offer any pre-martial counseling and I kind’ve wish he did; I think I am going to ask him about it. We are both open to going (ok, well in my head J is open to it) but I really do think we would go if we had to to and I agree that it can be beneficial.

    Congrats to you Lauren!

  • Sara

    I was so excited about the Editz feature but it doesn’t seem to be working. ???? :(

    • meg

      Might be your browser. It was definitely working today, I got some editz.

  • http://itsthejumpoff.com Goose

    OH thank you soo much for this post today!!! It could not have come at a better time, because we have pre-cana in 3 weeks. I’m nervous/excited about it. I think we have the class kind, but also will get to meet with our priest over the coming months.

    At first I was all “I guess I just have to do this.” But after reading more about it and hearing what you ladies have to say, I’m excited for it :)

  • http://hodoeporicon.blogspot.com Stacey

    YES! This is exactly how I felt about our pre-marital counseling:

    “And it’s not that we hadn’t talked about these things before – we should win a prize for how freely we address our sh*t – it was that we were able to talk about them with a stranger, a stranger with a certain kind of authority, and it was alright.”

    I’ll never forget the day my husband and I had to go to a pre-marital counseling session with my pastor after the worst evening in our relationship. We’d been to a party his “friends” were having that night. These are people who aren’t very friendly and don’t/didn’t make any effort to talk to me or put me at ease. And in the midst of things, my love behaved very badly – left me to my own devices and drank too much. We had a hushed, teary (on my part) fight in his friend’s bathroom and it was very very not pretty.

    So then we have to drive to the counseling session the next day to talk about our relationship. Gah. But we talked through things a bit on the drive there and while I didn’t feel comfortable going into details with the pastor, some of what we covered that day was what we needed to hear. We talked about expectations and were reminded that you have to verbalize them. Not that this condones his behavior, but it occurred to me that he may have not realized that I needed a bit of babysitting that night. I’m normally very outgoing and can rock the small talk with most people. Faced with a crowd that I/we knew would be kinda unfriendly, I could have specifically asked him to keep an eye on me and make sure I wasn’t left alone.

    So yeah, horrible night, awkward counseling session, but in the end, I think it actually helped us a lot, as did the other sessions we had. So dooooo it, even if you don’t have to or don’t really want to. It really does help.

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  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ Anna

    A friend of mine once said to me that when you get married, you think it’s going to be all about the faults you find in the other person. And when you’re married you realise it’s much more about the faults you see in yourself…I’m looking forward to doing marriage prep just cause I know how much stress I can bring to issues, and it’ll be good to be able to look at them in an objective way. Thanks Lauren for a lovely lovely post.

  • ann

    help!!! my fiance is extremely uncomfortable with professional counselors/therapists/social workers/etc. i really don’t want to push the envelope here (would take too long to explain, but trust me on this one) but i want a premarital counseling like experience for us. suggestions?

  • http://www.andreasmoser.wordpress.com Andreas Moser

    That still doesn’t address my main concern about marriage: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/why-dont-you-get-married/ :-)