What is Premarital Counseling?
Simply put, it's guided counseling for the couple before they get married! Premarital counseling is mainly designed to guide the couple in discussings issues that will come up in their marriage: children, needs and expectations, money, communication issues, and intimacy. It assists the couple in developing skills they'll use to navigate their marriage as well as possibly identify areas of contention early on.
Premarital counseling can be free-form or very structured. It can range from one or two meetings to an extended series of sections; some larger places of worship (especially Catholic churches) may even hold premarital retreats. Some officiants do the counseling themselves while others require the couple see a licensed psychologist.
Why seek Premarital Counseling?
The obvious reason, of course, is that it might be required to get married. Premarital counseling is often required by officiants, especially ones from religious institutions, in order for a couple to be married. Another good reason is that it might make your wedding less expensive: some states give monetary discounts on the marriage license if a premarital course is completed.
Beyond that though, there are many good times to get counseling, as suggested by the California Association for Marriage Family Therapists:
Myths and Excuses
Like for most counseling and therapy, you're bound to have excuses on why you shouldn't do it. Below are the common reservations you might hold about having premarital counseling and why those reservations shouldn't hold you back.
"The counseling will tell us we are incompatible"
No couple is perfectly compatible. Knowing where opinions differ can help in resolving conflicts. The goal of premarital counseling is to bring these opinions to light, not to break you up. By getting them out in the open and discussing them, you'll be that much more able to resolve future conflicts. Don't worry - the counselor will not tell you to cancel the wedding.
"I know everything about my fiance already"
No you don't! Even if you've known them your whole life. With the help of a counselor and open discussion, couples can discover even more about each other. People always have opinions that they keep to themselves.
"I don't like therapy"
Don't worry, this isn't therapy. The discussion will be confined to issues that are relevant to newlyweds and compatibility. This is not couples counseling, which is far more in-depth and is usually reserved for couples in trouble. Premarital counseling is mainly "preventative".
Compare counseling to the cost of divorce, and you'll see that it's not expensive at all. In fact, most religious institutions and community centers will provide counseling for free. You'll also save money on your marriage license, depending on the state.
Testimonials from Project Wedding members
Don't believe this article? Check out the following forum post on premarital counseling for testimonials from Project Wedding members. If that's not enough, here's another post on premarital counseling.
A few excerpts from those posts:
My FI and I had to do something similar because we are getting married in a Catholic church. We would definitely recommend doing something like this. We had a great time in ours. Eventhough, we have been together for over 8 years and been living together for a lil over 1, there were some things we had already talked about, but it was still a lot of fun and a great learning experience for us getting to share our feelings with each other and even in small groups. Definitely do it if you can, there's nothing to lose. - bride102508
I must say that although nothing may let us know what to really expect, this totally prepared us for dealing with some crucial aspects of marriage that would have been major obstacles otherwise. They really opened me and FI eye's and made us feel very comfortable going into the marriage. it made us discuss realistic approaches to issues such as raising the children, income, spending, money, sex life, what to do when we fight, why/how we're different, how to not "lose eachother" when the kids come and so much more i cant even list right now. we honestly believe (and he's a skeptic usually) that this prepared us for a journey together. Will this stop any drama from occuring in our marriage? Hell to the NO. But what it did do was teach us tactics on how to deal with things and eachother which we have been using since the day we took the first class. - WMForever