I don't know where they got this clever idea, but I've noticed lately that creative wedding ideas ABOUND on the internet. We know several young couples who are getting married this year, and the wedding planning is in full force. Here are some of the ideas that I've seen lately online (stay with me, there is a point to all of this):
- Mason Jars can be used as lanterns or as centerpieces.
- You can preserve the petals from your bouquet and put them in a clear glass/plastic Christmas ornament as a memento.
- If you are having a beach wedding you can give away inexpensive flip flops to your guests as a useful party favor.
- Sparklers or bubbles create some great get-away photos.
- Stringing clothesline or twine between trees or posts and using clothespins to hang Polaroids or other photos of the happy couple and wedding guests is a great conversation piece.
- Having things for guests to do at the reception while they are waiting on the happy couple to arrive is good - mad libs or board games are popular options.
So many great, creative party planning ideas abound! The ideas are easy to find and as you plan, there are usually no shortage of people who will be willing to listen to all of your ideas, get excited with you about the possibilities and offer their suggestions to make the day just perfect. In the midst of all of this excitement, there are also some GREAT ideas for preparing for your pending marriage. At the end of the day, every bride and groom has to know that the wedding is only a few hours out of their lives, but their marriage is intended to last for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. Imagine a couple putting the same kind of investment into planning for marriage as most brides put into planning their wedding! Sounds like a good idea to me. Here are some ideas for planning and preparing for a life together that honors God:
- Put time and consideration into who will provide your pre-marital counseling. I know many couples just go with the minister who is marrying them, or someone in the clergy who they feel close to. As a minister's wife, I can tell you that pre-marital counseling is a skill and some are better at it than others. The hours you spend with your fiance' in premarital counseling can either become the bedrock of your marriage or something you check off your to-do list that you barely remember a year later. Ask around, find someone who LOVES to provide this service and who has a proven track record of providing great biblical counseling.
- Read and discuss quality books about communication, role definition, money management and sexual intimacy. Read them separately and discuss them together or with an older couple that you respect. Some suggestions are: Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs; Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage that Will Go the Distance, by Dr. James Dobson; This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper; His Needs, Her Needs, by Willard Harley Jr.; The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples, by Larry Burkett; Financial Peace, by Dave Ramsey; Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott; and Things I Wish I'd Known Before We'd Gotten Married, by Gary Chapman.
- Remain sexually pure. Do not give into the reasoning that says, "We are getting married anyway, what's the harm?" The harm is that you are communicating volumes to each other in these days of your engagement about what you are willing to sacrifice on behalf of the other. Marriage is about sacrifice, about putting God's will ahead of your own and putting your spouse's needs ahead of your own. Practice this in your engagement by 1.) putting God's will for purity ahead of your own desires and 2.) putting your spouse's need to know that your relationship goes deeper than physical attraction ahead of your own temporary pleasure (or his/hers).
- Pray together regularly. It may not be every day depending on your location or schedules, but it should be consistently. You are about to join your lives together, "until death do you part." You will want to consult regularly with the God of all creation who has a plan for your lives and growth.
- Invest time in your personal spiritual growth. At the end of the day, "happily ever after" only exists in heaven. Your happiness is not dependent on whether or not you get married, or whether or not your spouse is meeting all of your needs in exactly the way you want. True lasting joy is found in Christ alone. Ask God to strengthen your love relationship with HIM, to help you read His word with anticipation and insight and to grow-up in Him more and more over the course of your engagement so that you will not go into marriage putting unhealthy expectations for your own happiness and satisfaction on your spouse, straining your marriage from the start.
- Dream together. Spend time imagining your life together. Not just what kind of dog you'll get or what your house will look like, but things like: How will we serve together in church? What passions can we share in ministering to others? How will we plan to be generous? Will we be open to going on missions trips together or with our children? Would we consider adopting or serving as foster parents? Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God prepared good works for us to do in advance. See if you can discover together what some of those might be and get excited about them!
- Begin exploring your God-given roles in marriage. The Bible is clear that the husband is to be the spiritual leader in marriage and the wife is to respect and submit to her husband's leadership. The Bible is also clear that men and women are equal before God. Guys, start learning about spiritual leadership from other Christian men that you respect and start taking steps toward showing your fiance that you have what it takes to take on that mantle of leadership. When you discuss a book you've both been reading, you share your insights first! When you pray, pray first! Girls, refrain from nagging your fiance. Pray for him instead. Encourage him when he takes initiative. Start taking the initial steps toward embracing these roles and gracefully accept that neither of you will be perfect at it.
- Refrain from spending every waking hour together. You are still your own person. There is still a world around you that needs your unique personality and giftedness. As hard as it can be when you are in love and want to be together all the time, deliberately spend time apart, living your lives as individual people. Strengthen individual friendships, strengthen family relationships, and pursue your own passions and interests. These are the things that make you unique and give you things to talk about with each other at the end of the day.
- Minister together. Teach a children's Sunday School class, visit a nursing home and volunteer, practice hospitality together, lead worship together at church or for a youth group, go on a mission trip together, offer to babysit together for your pastor and his wife or other friends, serve at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen... the possibilities are limitless. The focus of your marriage relationship should not be solely inward. Begin putting into practice your desire to have a marriage that will bless and point others to Christ.
- Plan beyond your honeymoon. Many couples spend so much time planning their wedding and honeymoon, they give little to no thought about what comes next. Start talking about how you will set up house together, who you will invite over first to share a meal, how you will decide which side of your family you will share Thanksgiving and Christmas with this year and next (if either), how you will decide who will do which chores, how you will handle it when you have your first fight as a Mr. and Mrs., what devotional book will you use as a couple (or will you do something else to stay spiritually in tune), what things will you do to make sure that you are implementing all you learned in premarital counseling, etc. Luke 14:28-30 says, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and do not have enough money to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.'" If you don't believe that this passage rings true when it comes to preparing for marriage, ask Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries who were ridiculed by a nation for calling it quits 72 days after their elaborate, highly publicized wedding. You aren't building a tower, you are building a life. Plan for a successful marriage. Plan beyond your honeymoon!
I hope these practical suggestions are helpful! I can't wait to go to all of the beautiful weddings this summer and see all of our friends' fabulous ideas for the ceremonies and receptions, but even more than that, I can't wait to see how they develop strong, God honoring marriages by the energy and effort they pour in ahead of time and throughout their lives together.