April 29, 2014

7 “Don’ts” for Those Getting Ready to Say “I Do”

‘Tis the season for lots of weddings.

And I love it. I get more excited for weddings now than when Collin and I got married.

Strange? Maybe.

But my understanding of love and marriage has grown over the past few years and makes me feel even more excited for couples who get to embark on the same journey. That while they are crazy in love with each other now on their wedding day, the best is always yet to come!

Collin and I have been married only a few years, not enough for me to be offering any sort of marriage advice. But I have learned a few lessons while being married. So I thought I would share them here in hope of encouraging others as they prepare for one of the shortest days of their lives, and one of the longest-living promises to keep afterward.

Here they are. 7 “don’ts” for those getting ready to say “I do.”

1. Don’t prepare yourselves for just the Wedding Day.
Thousands of hours of planning, thousands of dollars of parent’s money, and hundreds of days of anticipation go into preparing for a single wedding day. Everything is perfectly planned, from the dress to the photography to the little monogrammed cookies being served at the reception. But while a wedding is a 14ish hour event, marriage is a lifetime commitment. And preparing for it may need some of the same preparation and back work.

Whether you realize it or not, everyone enters marriage with expectations, and I learned that the first few years of marriage mean working through these expectations:
How will you care for your home?  (Neat Freak Nancy vs. Sloppy Sam?)
How will you pay the bills? (Please don’t say, “with love.”)
How will you split time between families? (Not-So-Happy Holidays?)
And dare I say it out loud, what are your expectations about sex? (!!!)

I realize many pastors and churches require pre-marital counseling, but if they don’t, it is valuable to find someone to help you hash out all of your expectations before you say “I do.” Being honest about your expectations now may prevent some uncomfortable discourse later.

2. Don’t expect your spouse to be “your everything.”
I don’t care if 98 Degrees sang “You are my everything” and it made you weep. They are a bunch of liars. No person can be your “everything.” Not friends, not parents, not even a spouse. The only ultimate and perfect love you will ever experience is from God.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

We all have holes in our hearts. We all have an infinite amount of needs. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that our spouse can meet all of those needs. Maybe we want them to read our minds or relate to us like our girlfriends can. Maybe we want them to enjoy listening to how we would be a better coach for our favorite sports team like our guy friends can. But only God can fill all of the holes in our hearts and meet all of our needs. When we remember this it saves our spouse from a lot of pressure, and it saves our marriage from a lot of disappointment.

3. Don’t let “I Do” turn into “I Don’t Wanna Anymore.”
Even though we can never love other people perfectly, loving others is how we show that we love God. The way that you love, respect, and honor your spouse will be a reflection of how you love, respect and honor God. Your spouse’s needs may often differ from your own, and that will stretch you and teach you selflessness. But the way that you meet those needs and serve your spouse with a happy heart will be a reflection of your servant heart to God as well.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

4. Don’t only “Focus on the Family.”
Married couples are called to do more than just love each other. I firmly believe that God has a mission for every married couple, beyond themselves and even beyond their kids. God calls us to not only love each other, but to also love and bless the other people around us. The talents that God has blessed you both with will complement each other so that you can make an awesome team and spread God’s love outside of your own home.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. God is love…Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...We love because He first loved us.

5. Don’t be surprised by a few “Wedding Blues.”
Maybe not everything will go perfectly on your wedding day. (It not only rained on our wedding day, it hailed. I realize that’s supposed to be a sign of good luck, but I would have rather had a few more pictures taken with our wedding party.)

Or maybe after the wedding day is over you feel a little blue. Months of being in the bride-to-be spotlight, months of your every thought and moment being consumed with planning, months of anticipation, are all over.

Or maybe even though you went through all of your expectations with your fiancé before you got married, it’s still hard to live up to them or compromise with them. Whatever it is, it’s 99% likely that what you are feeling is completely normal and that others out there have probably felt the same way.

6. Don’t forget to “Leave, Cleave, and Weave.”
This was my favorite phrase from pre-marital counseling. As hard as it might be to imagine, Dad won’t be the #1 man  in your life anymore. And for grooms, Mom won’t be your #1 woman. (She won't be your cook or maid anymore either.) And depending on family dynamics, making decisions independent of your family may be difficult at first. Don’t get me wrong, parents are wise people with very wonderful advice, but as you establish a new family, you as a couple are to be the ultimate decision-makers.

This was a toughy for me, as I have always been very close to my family. But as harsh as this sounds, living far away definitely helped me learn to cleave from my parents and weave myself completely to Collin. Obviously Guatemala was an extreme move, but it was great for establishing “us.” Being away has helped us (me) learn to make decisions completely on our own, even when our decisions did not always thrill our parents. (Like having their grandbaby thousands of miles away in a third world country.)

7. Don’t let all of these “don’ts” keep you from getting excited!
Many people talk about how hard marriage can be and how much work it takes to keep it going. And they are right. But I hope that a lot of people are also telling you about how marriage is one of the most beautiful relationships to have with another human being. I hope that couples are sharing all of its perks and joys too:

Intimacy. Love. Sharing everything you have and everything you are with one other person. Living and growing together. Laughing, fighting, working through life’s tough issues. Supporting each other. Depending on each other. Experiencing a relationship that reflects how Christ so deeply loves us and cares for us as His church, His bride. Be excited for marriage!


Collin and I still have much to learn. And there are many other “dos” and “don’ts” that could be added to this list. (Don’t neglect prayer. Don’t forget to read the Bible and talk about it. Don’t forget to leave the toilet seat down. Don’t forget to clean your long strands of hair off the shower wall.)

But enjoy this time, this season of love. Put the back work into preparing not just for an awesome wedding day, but also for an awesome marriage. Keep Christ in your hearts. Surround yourselves with people who encourage you to serve your spouse (thank you, friends!) Look to those around you who model a Christ-centered marriage (thank you, parents!) Desire to follow God’s will for your lives. And of course, enjoy your awesome, exciting, life-changing day! 

Remember that even after the guests leave, the tables are cleared, and your dress and tux are put away, that you will have more than beautiful pictures, a stomach full of cake, and memories of a happy wedding day. You will also have a fresh marriage and a thrilling future waiting for you when you wake up the next morning.

Grace and Peace,

(All photos taken by TAK Photography.)