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:

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.

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