I recently officiated at the wedding of a couple. Well this is not unusual I am lucky to help couples begin their married life together under the chupah, the Jewish wedding canopy. For couples planning their weddings there are lots and lots of details to attend to; photographers, food tastings, venues, what to wear and of course who will actually officiate at the ceremony.
Today more and more couples are inviting beloved friends or family members to officiate at their wedding ceremonies rather than a judge or clergy person. And of course its easy to get deputized to be able to officiate either with the state or through some online ministerial groups. And while Aunt Joan, or your friend and study partner from law school might know you and your intended and found some great poetry online to read during your ceremony nothing can replace that serious preparation necessary for getting married and staying married.
One of the problems with Uncle Joe or your friend’s sister who sing pretty officiating at your wedding isn’t the ceremony. There are lots of ceremonies online that can be cribbed by the officiant and he or she can write a beautiful speech to you and your intended that will guarantee that tears will flow. But nothing can replace a trained professional like a clergy person or therapist to help you with the necessary premarital counseling every couple should go through in advance of their marriage.
When your friend from Robotics Camp back in the summer of 1999 with whom you shorted the counselors sheets officiates most likely there will be little or no preparation for your marriage. And today 1 in every 2 marriages end in divorce.
A clergy person, (in my case, rabbi) is trained to help you and your beloved explore issues of your marriage. Oh yes, they will help you with the ceremony and make your day so special. But most clergy will meet with the couple several times before the wedding to get you and your future spouse to think through issues like finances, sexual compatibility, how you argue, values, child rearing, religion and religious observances, in – laws, household chore responsibilities, and more. This is as important as picking the right venue, or bakery to make the cake. And perhaps even more important. But unfortunately fewer couples think that they need to have those conversations.
Why is this? Plain and simple many couples live together before marriage. And so they have likely worked out some of these things. Or so they think. Marriage is actually different than just living together. There are different responsibilities to one another. Different legal relationships with each other and financial obligations dictated by the state. These have to be talked through and clarified from the beginning. But most couples think they have mastered these details by living with each other but it can be a nightmare when you don’t.
Marriage can be wonderful. There is nothing more fulfilling emotionally, spiritually and physically (except maybe parenthood and grandparenthood) than finding the person you want to make a part of your family, your next of kin. But marriage can be painful as well when all you do is fight, argue and make assumptions. And then it is truly a waking nightmare.
So do you and your beloved a favor. If you are planning on getting married. Pick the right officiant for you. Find someone trained to help you prepare not just for your wedding day but for your married life together. If you aren’t going to have a rabbi or cantor other trained clergy person find a therapist or counselor who can take you through your preparation. There are also community classes like Making Marriage Work that will also help you prepare not just for your wedding day but for your life together.
But don’t wake up with a wedding nightmare because you spent more time on the cake tasting than on who you are entrusting to help you begin your married life together.
(This is first in a series of blogs about weddings and marriage)