Stresses During Engagement Can Strengthen Your Marriage.

KIKI HAYDEN

 

It is hard to thank God for the difficult situations in our lives, but each time we surrender to the Lord, he works a miracle in our hearts.

Honestly, I am grateful that Michael and I endured some trials before we got married. Engagement, while a joyful time, can also be a time of intense formation in preparation for marriage. It is an opportunity to wash each other's feet, to face challenges together, and to rely on Jesus as the source of your strength and love.

You and your fiancé are sharing many joys during this time, but probably some sorrows as well. If one of you suffers, so does the other, and this shared experience can happen at a whole new level now that you have committed to becoming a family. It feels raw and vulnerable. But Jesus teaches that intimate relationships involve serving each other—and being vulnerable enough to receive service.

One of the most tender moments in Scripture is when Jesus washes his disciples' feet. At first, Peter refuses to let the Lord wash his dirty feet, but Jesus explains that this service, although messy, is crucial to their relationship (John 13:4-17):

“Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”

At first I, like Peter, was reluctant to allow Michael to serve me. I was determined to contribute equally to the relationship, and Michael expressed a similar sentiment. Neither of us wanted to be a "burden" to the other. But throughout our engagement, the Lord humbled us over and over again, sometimes in not-so-small ways. There were cockroach infestations, broken down cars, a minor surgery, a lost job, and even a death in the family.

With our pride stripped away, we were better able to humbly receive service and support from each other.

And as our relationship grew stronger, we realized it didn't matter if one of us was doing more serving and the other more receiving. We were becoming a family, and families don't keep score.

This lesson has been extremely important in our marriage as we continue to lean on each other. While some of our experiences during our engagement were sad, I can see now that the Lord didn't let any suffering go to waste. He used each trial, whether big or small, to bring us together and to teach us how to carry each other's crosses.

Furthermore, there is a whole new kind of challenge during engagement: making big decisions that affect you as a unit, as a family. Maybe you and your fiancé are deciding where to live after you get married, how to budget, or how to navigate the maze of wedding preparation. When there are bumps in the road, you are now affected as a couple. Two lives have already begun to become one.

One of our bumps in the road was our marriage paperwork. Through our own oversight, our files were lost somewhere between the Roman Catholic parish and the Byzantine Catholic parish. Many phone calls, emails, letters, visits to parish offices, and five months later, the files were in one place, and we were finally allowed to attend our first premarital counseling session.

We felt the effects of our mistake not as "my problem" or "Michael's problem", but as something we would have to solve together with God's help. At the time, I did not embrace these difficulties with grace. But looking back, I thank God for them.

During our engagement, we discovered that we can love each other, suffer together, and stay faithful to God's plan even when it doesn't look like circumstances are going to work out as we would prefer them. So when we encountered an unexpected cross during our first year of marriage, it wasn't the first time we had been challenged as a couple.

Here's the thing, though: we couldn’t have done any of that without Jesus. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Christ is the source of strength and love in all marriages. As Catholics, we have access to Scripture and the sacraments, where we encounter God and receive his graces.

I can't be strong for Michael, nor him for me, if we rely only on ourselves. And it isn't enough to rely on each other, either.

Sometimes we both feel stressed or sad. In those moments, Jesus reminds us of his love for both of us. He even feeds us with his own body in the Eucharist to give us strength to keep going in situations that seem beyond our capabilities.

So as you and your fiancé progress together through your engagement, I pray that every difficulty, every disagreement, and every decision will bring you both closer to each other—and, more importantly, to the God who created you and loves you both. Your vocation is a call to holiness, so why not start embracing that attitude as you prepare for marriage?

Whether great tragedy or minor inconvenience, suffering doesn't have to be pointless. We can allow God to use those moments to sanctify us. Remember, "In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)


About the Author: Kiki Hayden is a writer and Bilingual Speech Therapist living in Texas with her dog Goldberry and her husband Michael. She is a Byzantine Catholic. To find out more about how God is changing her life through speech therapy, visit her website, Speaking with Kiki.

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When You're Nervous About Being the Center of Attention

The radiant joy of a bride and groom, wearing their best attire--and looks of love--for one another--is impossible to look away from. But what about when you’re that couple, with all eyes on you?

If the prospect of sustained attention from guests on your wedding day makes you apprehensive, know that nerves are normal--after all, it’s rare to be looked at, photographed, filmed, and talked to for hours at a time in most of our everyday lives. It’s possible, however, to cultivate a spirit of comfort and freedom in the spotlight, with a combination of practical and emotional preparation. Here, our advice for handling attention gracefully.

Talk about your expectations.

Seemingly simple matters, like sharing a kiss, or moving from conversation to conversation at a small gathering, can suddenly feel more complicated at your reception in the presence of dozens of guests. A bit of discussion beforehand can go a long way toward helping you and your fiancé manage expectations and feel on the same page. Have a conversation about each of your opinions on appropriate levels of PDA, a reasonable amount of time to spend with each guest in a receiving line or during your reception meal, and concrete ways to help each of your guests and wedding party members feel seen and appreciated.

Turn to the pros.

Wedding industry professionals are used to working with clients who don’t typically have experience in modeling or being filmed--and that’s a good thing! A great photographer or videographer will educate you in ways to pose, manage time, and feel natural on camera in a way particular to his or her style, one that will draw out who you are as a couple and allow them to produce their best work. Trust in their guidance, and turn to them as a resource for any specific concerns.

Cultivate self-acceptance.

If appearance and body image are a struggle for you, know this: you are enough. Beloved by your spouse-to-be and by the heavenly Bridegroom; beautiful in soul and body. On the days it becomes hard to believe this, consider ways to embrace your looks and to enhance and make visible your inner worth: cultivate gratitude for your body and pursue an exercise regimen that encourages strength and virtue. Research dress styles and makeup looks that will make you feel your best. And when comparison creeps in, step back. Close all the dress, cosmetic, and workout tabs and step into silence and prayer.

You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride…

But, let yourself be surprised.

No amount of planning can account for the grace of forgetting--that is, the moments when the sense of being watched falls away, leaving you and your beloved in freedom to absorb and cherish the sacred and joyful moments of the day. Ask the Lord for the grace to feel like yourselves even when all eyes are turned to you. When we are his instruments, open and willing vessels, we direct the eye to him, the source of all love.

Being looked at taps into something deeply human. Every person desires to be seen for who they are, without veils or masks and loved all the same. Alice von Hildebrand wrote,

Do you recall the Gospel story of the Transfiguration? The apostles went with Jesus to the top of Mount Tabor, and suddenly Jesus became radiant and his garments a dazzling white. For the first time, the apostles were allowed to see Jesus directly, clothed in His glory as God. He was transfigured before them.

Similarly, when you fell in love with [your spouse], you saw his true face, his unique beauty: with the eyes of love, you were granted a "Tabor vision" of [him].

Trust this bright Tabor vision you've been given. Daily rekindle it in your heart and let it nurture your love.

Your wedding day presents you with a similar opportunity: to be who you are, in love, at the threshold of your vocation, and able to bear the Father’s radiant love to all who are present.

5 Tips for a Lower-Waste Wedding

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

One of the highlights of my honeymoon was sharing with my husband the dozens of Jordan almonds—one of our wedding favors—left behind on tables at our reception. At the end of the evening, my mother-in-law gathered the extras into a shopping bag and handed them to us. We snacked on them for the duration of an eight-hour drive and a week spent on the Carolina coast.

Photography:    Sarah Ann Design

Photography: Sarah Ann Design

They were delicious, and even now the taste transports me directly back to those sweet first days of marriage. Yet as I untied each ribbon, pulled apart each tulle circle, and methodically moved them aside to unwrap another, I vaguely wondered how long it had taken to assemble each favor and how long our guests considered the packaging before throwing it away. I felt bad about what seemed like unnecessary waste.

Weddings unavoidably require consumption—which, in the name of hospitality and service, is not fundamentally bad. Beauty, feasting, and refinement have their place and can draw our senses to the invisible realities of the sacrament. It’s an excess of these matters that can unintentionally cause waste. As I look back on my wedding, I can clearly see elements that might have been stewarded more responsibly.

If sustainability and intention matter to you in a similar way, here, my suggestions for planning a lower-waste celebration and choosing details versatile enough to be reused—by you or another bride. As a disclaimer, be assured I make these suggestions not from a moral high ground (see the almond-eating above), but simply from a place of insight I’ve gained over time.

Buy items secondhand, and plan to resell them when possible.

Purchasing secondhand décor and apparel extends the life of items already produced and circulated. It’s not infrequent to find even wedding gowns that have never been worn, after another bride has reconsidered the purchase! When you’re ready, consider re-selling your gently used items; here, our curation of the best organizations for selling or donating your dress, including several distinctively Catholic resources.

Choose versatile items that can be reused for the everyday.

I loved the satin sandals, dyed green, that I wore with my gown. Yet even having had them dyed, the material and style of the shoes very much conveyed “wedding,” and I only re-wore them once before donating them. In hindsight, I wish I’d chosen something more adaptable.

Versatility can be a great guide as you shop: consider what types of accessories you’d enjoy wearing to elevate your everyday outfits or on your honeymoon, a tie your groomsmen can wear again, and signs, vases, or frames you’d be glad to display in your home.

Consider digital over paper materials.

Invitation suites and wedding programs become keepsakes for generations and take on precious meaning in print. For other correspondence, however, consider using digital tools to reduce excess paper. You might include online RSVP instructions in your mailed invitations, for instance, and use electronic cards for matters like wedding party asks, showers, and the rehearsal dinner.

Plan ahead for donating leftovers, and consider serving the Church.

Before the big day, discuss with your fiancé and families what you’d like to do with food, flowers, cake, and any other perishables left over. Contact your diocese’s Catholic Charities for information on food donations in service to those who go without, or contact local religious communities to inquire if and how they accept donations.

I treasure the memory of driving with my best friend after a wedding to drop off her bridesmaid bouquet at the cloistered community of which her sister is a member. Flowers to elevate the chapels of our sisters and brothers in religious life are a beautiful gift!

Have lower amounts of consumption and waste been on your mind as you plan your wedding? Share your experiences and additional tips with other brides in the comments and on our social media.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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Increase the Quality in 'Quality Time'

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

When my husband and I catch up with old friends, we are quick to ask, “what show are you watching?” We often enjoy relaxing together in the evenings throughout the work week by watching a season (or more) on Netflix or Amazon Prime. After recently finishing a gripping series, we habitually returned to our designated spots on the couch, but found ourselves at a standstill.

I hope my husband and I are not alone in the dull experience of spending more time scrolling through a streaming platform than actually watching a show. In an effort to increase the quality in the valuable time we spend together, I offer suggestions to stay on the couch—without turning on the TV. We hope you will share your own ideas for high-quality time with our community on Facebook or Instagram.

A recent post offers additional inspiration and encouragement to Reduce Screen Time in your Marriage.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   MEL WATSON         PHOTOGRAPHY

Read a book

Rather than deciding on a show to watch together, consider deciding on a book that sparks both your interests. You and your beloved may enjoy having an intentional dialogue at the end of each chapter, or perhaps you prefer to sit side-by-side and silently read for pleasure. Even more, you may prefer to read completely different books. The primary intention is to share an experience in the quiet joy of companionship.

Plan a dream vacation

Where would you go? What would you do? What would you eat? Even if you don’t anticipate the possibility of making this imagination vacation a reality, creating a dream together builds communication, collaboration, enthusiasm, and shared goals. But hold onto your plan--you never know when the opportunity for travel will present itself in the future.

Look up new recipes

...Then set a date and plan to make the recipes for a stay-at-home date night. It can be overwhelming for one person to plan a romantic menu, find recipes, purchase and prepare ingredients, and set a full meal on the table. Sharing the process, responsibilities, and experience provides quality time with each step. Bon appetit!

Complete a personality test

If the last time you took a specific personality test was before you were married, have any of the results changed? Do your personality test results compliment each other in surprising ways? Snuggle up on the couch, independently complete the questionnaires and review the analysis together; the results may offer a new insight about your spouse, or a different perspective to understand their unique quirks.

Use an interior design template to brainstorm your ideal home or room decor

There are a number of DIY interior design books on the market, and many of them include a blank worksheet to help organize the ideas in your brain into a two-dimensional vision on paper. If there is a room in your home that needs some renovating, make time to create a plan and prepare the next steps. Beginning the brainstorming process in a relaxed setting can provide a calm environment to discuss potentially conflicting ideas. If your home is already decorated or the budget is too tight for renovations, have some fun creating a far-fetched dream room. Would it be a game room, at-home gym, or movie theater? Maybe the far-fetched dream is to update a pre-existing room with luxurious features and decor. Dream big while you use your creative imaginations together.

Focus on spiritual intimacy

Journey together through a devotional designed for couples, and follow the given prompts for each day or week. Pray a rosary, chaplet, or novena. Work together to memorize a new prayer—with one spouse looking at the words and the other spouse practicing from memory. Read and reflect together on the Scripture for the upcoming Sunday’s Mass. Although daily Mass and adoration are beautiful, sacred experiences to share with your spouse, Christ dwells in your home—even with you on the couch—and yearns to be an active participant in your domestic life.

Travel through time

Ask your families to share old photo albums or home videos with you. If you and your spouse were not friends during the childhood years, get to know the child who grew up to marry you. Videos reveal the sweet voice of their younger years. Pictures are a provocation for stories, faded memories, and old relationships. In what ways do you see your spouse’s inner child still alive today?

Muster up new energy

Dare I suggest you break routine, get off the couch, and do something different? My husband and I live walking distance from a bowling alley; it has quickly become our favorite place to get some pizza and hang out on a weeknight. Find a swing set and push each other so high the posts start to rock. Go on a walk around the neighborhood. Stuff your purse with snacks and visit the nearby movie theater. Invite a friend or another couple over for dinner.

Taking time to relax, prioritizing your friendship, and enjoying little pleasures together in this season of life—before your evenings are potentially filled with children’s bedtime routines—helps establish a foundation for a strong, resilient marriage.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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10 Products for Radiant Wedding-Day Makeup

NICOLE CARUSO

 

To me, makeup is an accessory. It highlights the God-given beauty of each face, and each of us have different features that we love to “dress up”, whether that be our skin, eyes, brows, or smile. That is why I have loved teaching women how to apply natural-looking makeup for over a decade as a makeup artist and beauty consultant. Though some use makeup as a way to mask or change their features, there are a few techniques and products that enhance rather than hide. A few minute check-in in the mirror before starting the day can boost self-confidence, even if it’s just a little mascara, concealer, and lipstick.

Makeup for special events isn’t the same as makeup for everyday. There are a few tricks and types of products that ensure it will last from morning to night, and even look flawless in photos.

I have a list of 10 tips to use to make your makeup look professionally done, even if you do it yourself.

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Clean skin makes an even canvas.

Before applying your makeup, use a cotton pad to wipe a micellar water (something without alcohol) over your bare skin. This will remove any residue from soap and leftover makeup to make your skin look much more even and bright.

Always moisturize!

Moisturizer is a necessary part of getting foundation to look most like skin, and not like a mask of color. Test a few before your wedding day to see which one looks best under your foundation. If it balls up as your foundation goes on, it could be too heavy--something to save for a nighttime regime.

On the other hand, if your foundation goes on looking chalky, your moisturizer isn’t doing its job to plump the skin. Supple, hydrated skin allows the makeup to look most natural. Allow your moisturizer to set for a few minutes before the next step.

Primer is the glue.

If you struggle with getting your complexion products to last all day, you probably need a primer. Primer creates a barrier between moisturizer and foundation. It smoothes uneven texture and has an almost magnetic effect on foundation, allowing it to last an entire day without caking, creasing, or rubbing off.

 Liquid foundation, not powder.

One mistake I often see in bridal and special event makeup is the use of too much powder. Mineral powder and powder-based foundations are excellent for day to day use, though they look best on oily skin types because they mattify naturally. Liquid foundation slides onto a primed, moisturized face and blends effortlessly into skin. It is the most forgiving formula to use, especially when you apply it in the middle of the face first and blend outwards as you go. Always match foundation to your jawline so it blends seamlessly.

Matte bronzer adds warmth, not shimmer.

For photography, it’s important to keep products with shimmer or iridescence on the eyes, lips, or cheekbones so it catches light in the right way. I always recommend a matte bronzer because it warms up the skin gently, and doesn’t make the face look like a disco ball in photos.

Warmth needs to be added back into the skin after applying foundation to bring natural dimension back to the face. I like to apply it with a fluffy brush to the hairline, tops of the cheeks sweeping toward the ear, and lightly on the bridge of the nose. It ends up looking sun-kissed and glowy without sparkle.

Finely-milled setting powder prevents shine.

A finely-milled setting powder is absolutely key for setting makeup, preventing oil patches, and locking all your hard work in. Look for powders that say triple-milled, and apply them with a small fluffy brush in a patting motion. A cheaper powder that is not triple-milled will immediately look heavy, as if it is sitting on top of the skin, similar to the texture of chalk. And finally, if you rub the powder brush over the skin rather than tap it gently, you risk pushing the products around, which may result in the makeup looking patchy, creating discoloration and unevenness.

Create a base for eyeshadow with longwear products.

A longwear base, whether a cream shadow or eyelid primer, works the same way as a face primer. It gives eyeshadow something to cling to and prevents creasing. If you apply primer, then shadow, then liner, and waterproof mascara, your eye look will last all day.

Tame the brows.

Whether your brows are full or thin, brow gel is going to set the hairs in place and add texture to make them look 3D, rather than flat or painted-on. I like to backcomb the brows, rubbing the application brush from tail toward the nose, and then brush the hairs up to frame the face and lift the eyes.

Some of these products can flake after a few hours, so be sure to test a few before your big day.

Skip glossy and super matte lips.

Look for a lip product with a satin finish, meaning it is comfortable to wear, but gives an opaque color to the lips, and shouldn’t transfer heavily onto anyone you kiss. This kind of lip is perfect for photographing both indoors and outdoors, because it has just a hint of shine and won’t crack or dry the lips out.

 Waterproof mascara is a must.

Rather than risking a black smudge across your face--which can easily happen from tears, humidity, or rain--use a waterproof formula that won’t flake or run. From drugstore to department store, many brands make reputable waterproof formulas, but once again, give them a go before the big day. Maybe even watch your favorite tear-jerker movie as a test.

 Whether you’re a beauty junkie or are trying this on your own for the first time, these products will help you get the best result. Think of your makeup as an accessory, just like a beautiful shoe or necklace, and let it enhance--not overshadow--your natural beauty.

Images by Meaghan Clare Photography, seen in How to Do Your Own Bridal Makeup | Video Tutorial


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About the Author: Nicole M. Caruso is a wife, mother, makeup artist, and writer. She believes her mission is to inspire women to invest in their self-worth. Formerly the Beauty Editor of Verily Magazine, Nicole now shares her expert style and beauty advice, tips on healthy living, and reflections on marriage and motherhood on her website. The New York native now resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and daughter.

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The Feast of St. Joseph | A Fellow Human, A Saintly Spouse

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph: foster father of Jesus, spouse of Mary and head of the holy family. He was a carpenter, he was a man.

When we look to Joseph, we see a man who surrendered himself to the direction from an angel in his dreams. We read how he obeyed the command of God, loved and served Mary as his chaste spouse, and raised Jesus, the son of God, as his own earthly son.

Have you ever imagined when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in the caravan, only to find him days later, preaching to adult men in the temple? My heart goes out to Joseph. The parameters of his mission were simple: love, protect, and guide Jesus and Mary. All in all, through obedience and grace, Joseph fulfilled his calling. But in this experience of losing Jesus and consoling Mary, I imagine Joseph was tempted to worry and despair.

Years later, Joseph died when Jesus was 30-years-old, on the brink of his public ministry. I picture Joseph lying on his deathbed, preparing to part from his earthly life. Joseph must have felt both sorrow and joy as he left his family with anticipation for his son’s powerful mission. I imagine the deep sadness of Jesus and Mary who said goodbye to their beloved.

Reflecting on the stories of Joseph bring his humble holiness to a human reality.

As we gaze at Joseph in statues and paintings, recall stories of him in Scripture or reach out to him in prayer, we encounter a friend. He is so approachable; a human man who intimately encountered the divine every day. This man who we rightfully honor with holy veneration was conceived with original sin. He was as human as me and you.

In the vocation to married life, we are sacramentally offered good and holy gifts such as intimacy, vulnerability, and companionship. Receiving and living out these gifts can often send individuals and couples to the heights of love, or can expose a raw wound of human brokenness. Perhaps in a moment of insecurity we believe, “I am not enough.” In the midst of an argument we fear abandonment. In prolonged frustration and anxiety, we despair and lose trust in God’s providence.

It may be easy to admire an icon of Joseph, Mary and Jesus and assume the immense joy in their family life. Amidst the celebration of such pure trinitarian love of the family, I hope against hope that there were days Joseph wished he could love Mary better. Or days when he was disappointed by how he received Mary’s perfect love. Joseph’s imperfections are the only stains of sin in the holy family, yet his entire being—holiness and imperfection combined—was destined for his specific vocation.

Through both his human imperfection and pure intention, God empowered Joseph to love Mary, show Jesus about the love between a husband and a wife, and receive love from his family. In the same way, we are each called to be fully present with God in our unique vocation, to love with virtue despite our own shortcomings.

God has so carefully woven two lives together in your marriage. On the days when your sinful, selfish, or short-sighted human nature is too much to bear, remember goodwill and purity of heart are enough for love. In striving to love and be loved, moments which expose brokenness do not define a limit for love. Rater, these moments help us identify where grace and mercy can provide healing. Joseph’s example offers peace and encouragement to every person, for our hearts to become a channel for God’s love to shine through.

St. Therese of Lisieux offers encouragement to little souls, to those who recognize their long journey to perfection, “Agree to stumble at every step therefore, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, to love your helplessness. Your soul will draw more profit from it than if, carried by grace, you would accomplish with enthusiasm heroic actions that would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride.”

You are human. Joseph was human. If he could fulfill his vocation to the Holy Family, you can fulfill your vocation in your own holy family. You were created for a mission exactly where you are. As you bring your completely human heart to God, you will grow—with an ever-deepening purity of heart—in the capacity to love and be loved.

St. Joseph, you sought to bring glory to God in every action and word. Together with your pure heart, Mary’s Immaculate heart, and Jesus’ Sacred heart, guide me to embrace my human imperfection with humility so that I may receive God’s mercy and grow ever more deeply into the virtue of my vocation. St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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What We Should Have Asked During Marriage Preparation

ADA PIMENTEL

 

Our first marriage prep meeting was in the deacon’s office of the large parish where we were to be married. As we sat facing his desk, we noticed the shelves facing us; they were filled with binders labeled ‘Annulments A-Ba,’ ‘Annulments Ba-Ce,’ ‘Annulments Ce-Di,’ and so on. As we stared at the bewildering number of annulment binders, the deacon informed us that, as twenty-somethings, the odds are against us: statistics show married people in our age bracket are more likely to end up divorced.

We left our first meeting discouraged, our second underwhelmed, and our pre-Cana retreat scared. We desired to make our marriage preparation worthwhile, but all of the support offered by our diocese and parish left us feeling more lost and confused than ever.  As an engaged person, it is often difficult to find the all-encompassing resources to feel spiritually prepared for marriage.

If you are already married and feel as though your marriage preparation was lacking, there are resources available for married couples. You can still seek a deeper understanding of this wonderful sacrament.

Although our diocesan-level preparation lacked convicting formation, we did not  advocate for stronger pre-cana support for ourselves because we did not know what questions to ask. After reflecting on these shortcomings over the past year, here are some of the questions I wish I had asked in the deacon’s office.

What have been the best ways that you have seen couples prepare for marriage?

Maybe the Pre-Cana retreat in your diocese is not up to scratch, but your parish may have an excellent sponsor couple program. Working with a mentor couple who has many years of experience in marriage and marriage preparation can provide trusting relationships and additional ideas during your engagement.  Ask around to friends and family as they may have recommendations as well.

What resources are available to us?

Little did we know, there is a fantastic office full of Catholic marriage counselors down the road from our parish. We never heard about these services while we were preparing for the sacrament of matrimony, probably because we never asked. Every diocese has its own resources, and there are many more online. The right resources are often hard to find, but the first step is to ask the right people in your community.

What books can you recommend?

Ask your married friends for helpful books from their engagement. Ask priests or religious sisters for books to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the sacrament of matrimony. Consult blogs and articles for recommended readings. With your beloved, consider the options and discern which resources you want to dive into together. Even if there are not many formal resources available in your area, you can form a self-guided  marriage prep course with the help of a good reading list.

Are there any ministries geared toward people who are already married?

Marriage preparation is only one part of the equation. Marriage is not an easy vocation; husbands and wives need all the support they can get in a world that consistently tears down the call to marriage and family life. Are there any groups in your parish or in your diocese which can connect you with others trying to live the vocation of marriage?

There are many resources to help you prepare for your lifelong marriage, and many people who aspire to share their wisdom--and your excitement--in your preparations. Do not be afraid to ask for the things you need, both in your desires for more and in the midst of a struggle. As Matthew 7:7 reminds us, “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”


About the Author: Ada Pimentel studied English at the University of Dallas and currently teaches elementary school. She married her college best friend in November 2017. When she is not teaching, Ada can be found contemplating classical education, redecorating her apartment for the hundredth time, and reading British novels.

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