Pre-marriage help

We have three young, engaged couples who plan to marry this summer. I’m setting times to meet with the various couples for some pre-marriage prep. What I’ve done in the past is look at the various texts in Scripture related to marriage while focusing on the three purposes of marriage, work our way through the vows, ask lots of questions about all areas of life, ask questions related to sin and handling conflict.

Because I’ve got three couples all looking for pre-marriage counseling I thought it would be a good time to do some research on pre-marriage counseling and see how I might be more helpful. What do you do for pre-marriage counseling? Any recommended resources? Format? Thanks.

In our church, I meet with the couple at least 6 times for about 1.5-2hrs. We have a very extensive premarital questionnaire that they both fill out separately ahead of time and my wife almost always helps me in the counseling. The general theme of the counseling is: What couples typically fight about. Week 1 is called “elephants in the room” and that usually relies heavily on their questionnaires and our knowledge of the couple. The goal is to get the elephants out on the table for everyone to see. Week 2 is called “how to fight” and in it we lay out the basic repentance, confession, repentance and reconciliation process. Weeks 3-5 are on the topics of money, extended family, church involvement. The final session is on intimacy with some audio resources from Ed Wheat.

We also talk about the marriage ceremony and the purposes of marriage in the church involvement week. Our main goal is 'introduce the couple to themselves and their fiancé" and to help them set appropriate expectations for each of the areas we discuss. I also tell them this counseling is like frost seeding. It won’t really make sense until they’ve been married for a while, possibly years.

I’ve recently had 3 young couples in our church come to me and tell me that their first year of marriage hasn’t been nearly as hard I’d led them to anticipate. They’ve enjoyed being married and their fights haven’t been as intense as I’d led them to believe. I responded by telling them that we’re always happy when the weatherman forecasts 12" of snow and we only get 8" instead of the other way around. Also, that marriage can get more stressful as your family grows and you have more responsibilities and less discretionary time.

I’d be happy to send you the premarital questionnaire and outline for counseling though it’s not a very robust outline because I know what I’m going to cover. Just PM me if you’re interested.


This is a chapter from a book done by Crossway years ago, and I think it’s helpful to have the couple read it prior to the counselling so I can discuss it with them in connection with their planning of the ceremony, but also their understanding of what’s going on in a wedding and surrounding celebrations.
!308BaylyMarriage08-03-02.pdf (201.9 KB)

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Keep in mind that David teaches on sexuality regularly, and is unlikely to have the sort of couples most pastors would have who are broadly Evangelical in outlook and therefore feminist-to-complementarian. This is why he doesn’t have a section on authority and leadership, although I’m sure it comes up. Premarital counseling must teach on male authority and female submission, maybe taking it up during the discussion of the mandatory use of “obey” in the bride’s vows.


On a related note, would it be helpful to provide “pre-relationship counselling” to singles before they are in romantic relationships? (bear with me on this one). It seems to me that working with the singles could help, before they are in a relationship; so that if and when a relationship opens up, they will go into things with - at the least - a more realistic take on what to expect. The courtship movement tried to do this, but in practice was way too prescriptive.

Years ago I had a speaker tell a group of us to sort out our “issues” before getting married or even in a relationship, on the basis that it would be a lot easier for us to do it at that stage than if we were married. It was advice I eventually took on board.

Isn’t this one of the natural outworkings of a good discipleship ministry in the church? Older men and women should be discipling the younger generation, which will help prepare them for marriage.


Yeah … but my reasoning was that if we were intentional in preparing couples for marriages, in the way the original discussion outlined, then we should be intentional in preparing people for relationships while they are still single.

It’s a good idea to prepare singles for relationships beforehand, and, if you don’t mind me plugging my own podcast, I think listening to our episodes on both teenagers and these recent ones on marriage would be helpful. Todays episode is even a bit like premarital counseling anyway.


Just started listening to the more recent episode. Good timing. Thanks.

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There’s another consideration. Years ago I was involved in Promise Keepers, and one year the local rally attracted some seven hundred men. They ran a breakout session for the single men, thinking they’d get about forty or so (it was the first time they had done it). The number who showed up was, I was told later, more like 125. The following year they were much better prepared.

My judgement is that any preparation for relationships/marriage with singles, will need to address the issue of what happens if one ends up single for an extended period of time, or even permanently. That way, if this happens, forewarned will be forearmed. Views?