When my fiancé Andrew and I got engaged on September 8, 2015 we decided not to set a date right away, concerned that as soon as we started planning the wedding day, our thoughts would become consumed with details and to-dos. We wanted to ensure we had time to focus on us as couple and prepare for our whole marriage, not just our wedding day. For us, we knew briefly holding off on choosing a date would safeguard this time in our relationship.
During this time of waiting to set our wedding date, we made a decision to spend those months pursue marriage preparation over wedding planning. But we needed to figure out what exactly that would look like: How would we prepare for marriage? How would we focus on our relationship?
Our diocese requires a pre-Cana program, yet we felt our engagement would additionally benefit from something richer. By the grace of God we were already working with a wonderful priest who will be officiating our wedding, so together we started researching books and programs. My fiance and I considered couples we admired and might like to sit down with, and we asked other couples what they did for their marriage prep. It wasn’t long before we were completely overwhelmed!
The Church is becoming increasingly aware of how crucial good marriage preparation is, which means there’s an increasing number of excellent books, programs, and other resources devoted to it. We really didn’t know how to choose, or whose advice to take, when we realized it: Who better to decide than God, our loving Father? So we started praying something like this:
"God you know us and what we need. We are overwhelmed by the amount of options to aid us in our marriage preparation. Please be the one in charge of this. Please plan out and show us what we should do. We trust you.”
Soon after beginning this particular prayer, things started falling into our laps. First, a friend told us about the book Spousal Prayer by Deacon James Keating, which encouraged and strengthened Andrew’s and my prayer life together. Then, the Theology of the Body Institute opened its first-ever marriage retreat to engaged couples, and a friend paid for us to go as an early wedding present. After that, Andrew was finally able to attend the Theology of the Body I Course at the Institute, which we had been trying to make happen for over a year. Both gave us a deeper understanding of what marriage and love truly are and require.
Then, friends called and said they were taking a Dave Ramsey class just down the block from where I lived; would we want to do it with them? We initially didn’t realize this was a way the Lord was preparing us for marriage, thinking it was a great excuse to see close friends on a more regular basis, and who couldn’t use a little help managing money? But, boy did God have more in store for us than that! This class didn’t just give us a little help. It taught us how to communicate about money and set us on a path to financial health and responsibility, giving us tools to stay on that path for the rest of our lives.
After all this, we discerned that the time was now right to start considering a wedding date and signing up for diocesan requirements. We registered for NFP and pre-Cana, which for our diocese involves attending Living a Joy-Filled Marriage and God’s Plan for Joy, two programs designed by Ascension Press. These programs provided so many necessary tools we will need for our marriage and helped us begin implementing things like charting my cycle and making important decisions together. It was around this time that we also set our wedding date! We are now living in the joyful tension of preparing for our wedding day and our marriage.
The only thing that still felt missing was a mentor couple. We had identified couples we thought might be a good fit for us and had approached a few of them, but nothing really panned out. Asking for mentorship, we learned, was a somewhat awkward conversation because we didn’t entirely know what were looking for, just that we wanted guidance and wisdom from a couple further along in the journey of their vocation than we were.
Then, while I was working on this very article, one of the couples we'd had in mind, whom we hadn’t spoken with, called me out of the blue and said something along the lines of, “Hey, my wife and I have been talking about how we would love to mentor an engaged couple and share some of the things we have learned. You and Andrew came to our hearts and we were wondering if you would like us to be a mentor couple.” I could hardly believe that after all the Lord had given us, he was making this so easy!
All this is certainly not to say that you cannot prepare for your marriage and plan your wedding at the same time, as we did at the beginning of our engagement. It is to say that I recommend taking the time to figure out what is best for you and your relationship and inviting the Lord into that process. We want God, who is Love, to be a part of our marriage. This season of preparing for it has become a constant invitation to God into our relationship.
I hope that my sharing what the Lord provided for my fiance and I introduces you to some resources that are new to you and encourages you to rely on the Lord in preparing for your marriage. He truly can be trusted with every little detail in our lives. He desires so deeply to guide and provide for us, if only we come before him and ask.
Theresa is the oldest of seven children. She graduated from Purdue University in 2010 with a degree in Youth, Adult and Family Services. Following graduation, she moved from Indiana to Pennsylvania to work for the Theology of the Body Institute and has been there since. She loves hiking, drinking coffee on the porch, sunrises, the ocean, Frank Sinatra, laughing and a good cocktail. She is engaged to marry Andrew on November 5, 2016 and asks your prayers over their engagement and marriage. INSTAGRAM