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By now, it’s hopefully at least four to six months before your wedding. Aside from continued planning, there’s also another valuable task that’s worth your time and energy: Pre-wedding counseling. Yes, there may be a deep sigh in there somewhere, and it’s likely you’re questioning whether or not something like this is even important. In all honesty, though, it’s probably one of the most critical steps you can take in preparing for your marriage.
It’s an opportunity to learn about your fiance like never before. You may think you know enough already, especially if you’ve been together for several years. There’s a good chance you do; however, that shouldn’t be a reason to write-off the idea of pre-marital counseling. This kind of counseling is valuable because it digs deeper to uncover feelings and opinions of life’s pleasantries and difficulties, all of which will undoubtedly surface during a marriage. Below is a sizeable list of example topics discussed during therapy:
The takeaway here is that pre-wedding counseling recognizes near and distant future issues within a relationship and addresses them through discussion and engagement first. In other words, it’s like taking a relationship skills class and adding all of life’s what-ifs into the mix. Consider it more or less, an investment in your future, your partner, and yourself. Premarital counseling is also about sharing your vision for the future and coming up with a game plan to make it happen.
The first step is to look for a licensed marriage and family therapist. Recommendations from friends and family are always helpful, but you can also find someone through your health insurance provider; a workplace assistance program; your officiant, or church if you belong to one; and mental health facilities in your area. As with anything, you want to choose a therapist accordingly. It’s beneficial to consider your therapist’s experience with premarital counseling, as well as session costs, and location and appointment times. Keep in mind that if you’re getting married at a church, synagogue, or mosque, or you’re an active member somewhere, premarital counseling is probably available there. It may even be free, but some do charge. Either way, typical out-of-pocket expenses for therapy can range anywhere from $50 to $150 per session.
Therapists commonly administer questionnaires, which are usually completed individually, and reviewed and shared by the counselor afterward. These questionnaires identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas for concern, and cover a wide range of topics as previously discussed in the list mentioned earlier. While some of these questions are fairly sensitive, it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal for pre-wedding counseling is to come up with an action plan for how you can handle life and differences together as a couple.
For planning purposes, you can usually expect sessions to last an hour. Keep in mind, the number of meetings vary. You may need as few as four sessions or as many as 16. This is usually something you figure out as you progress in your counseling. For more faith-based programs, a specific number of sessions or courses may be required.
Premarital counseling provides an excellent framework for tackling the bigger picture as a couple, but often times it can lead to disagreements. Below are some recommendations for how to handle conflict during a session or in general.
Life happens. Planning a wedding and getting married is only the beginning chapter of your life as a couple. There’s no way to know what lies ahead. As Allen Saunders puts it, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” You may always have the best of intentions, but there’s no way to avoid situations in life that can challenge the strength of your relationship (and sometimes to its core). It’s all in how you respond and work together as a couple.
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