Friday, 15 June 2012

Weddings or Marriages?

Photo by Clare Long
When we were engaged, I spent quite a lot of time online, talking with other brides-to-be on a wedding forum. We spent hours planning all the details together, discussing budgets and dresses, seating plans and invites, dreams, hopes and fears. We celebrated with each bride as her big day came round, and wished her all the best for her married life.

I was frequently questioned as to the wisdom of our marriage. The forum wasn't Christian, and so the overwhelming majority of brides were living with intended husbands, sleeping with them, lots had children already, and they couldn't fathom why I would marry someone I hadn't practiced living with, who I hadn't slept with yet. Again and again, I explained this was the norm within my faith, that this was the way all my peers were doing it, and this was what I felt was right. I'm sure many of them didn't understand my way of thinking.

Then there those who were marrying in Church and required by their priest/vicar/pastor to attend some sort of marriage prep course. The vast majority who were asked to do this thought it was some big joke, and a waste of time, and having lived together for so long, what was there possibly left to talk about? They went because they had to. We too were expected to attend marriage prep with my parish priest. We also booked ourselves onto an Engaged Encounter weekend, voluntarily. We talked, and planned, and questioned each other, and came out the other side more prepared for married life.

I don't want to sound smug, because that's not how I feel. I'm not writing this as a "well, we're still together two years later- how hard can it be?" I know every situation is different. But I'm overwhelmed by sadness.I don't know the situations these couples have found themselves in, but I heard yesterday another bride I'd planned with was now separated from her husband... less than 2 years on. She's far from the first- I've lost count, in fact.

Even within my Christian peers, I have attended seven weddings in the past 8 years. Two of those couples are now separated, with at least one of the spouses now with another partner. I'm overwhelmed by sadness.

In a world that focuses on the wedding, not the marriage, what can we do to help those preparing for marriage to really prepare for marriage, not just a wedding?

For now, all I can do is pray. Seriously, and wholeheartedly, pray for every engaged couple I know, for every married couple I know, for every courting couple discerning marriage, and ask that God will be the rock on which they lean in times of trial. I'd love it if some of you would do the same...

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