My husband Dan and I met in high school, and we’d been dating for about 3 years when he proposed to me. We’d known we wanted to get married for a long time. In fact, I realized I wanted to marry him about 3 weeks after we started dating, when I was only 18! I just knew he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. It might surprise you, however, to know that I didn’t start drooling over white dresses when I came to this realization. While many little girls dream of their wedding day from the time they first hear the story of Cinderella, I don’t think I was one of them. Not because I didn’t want to get married. It wasn’t that at all. I dreamed of marriage, not just a wedding. While I played with my dollhouse, I arranged the little dolls in the day-to-day interactions of married life. I don’t once recall dressing a doll up and pretending she was a bride.
Fast-forward twenty years, from the dollhouse to our marriage preparation sessions with our parish priest, and my sentiments hadn’t really changed. I was thrilled to be marrying the man I loved, but I had a somewhat relaxed attitude towards the details of the day. So did our priest. During the first session, he reminded us that we were preparing for something much larger than our wedding day – our married life together. He said sometimes couples thought they would come in and hash out all the little details of their wedding, but that wasn’t why we were there. We were there to plan a marriage.
I recall this conversation more clearly than the other parts of our marriage preparation because he was exactly right. You can obsess over flowers or dresses and create the perfect centerpieces for your reception. There’s nothing wrong with this – really. Lots of women do it, too, or Pinterest wouldn’t be so popular! But it won’t prepare you for being married, for supporting each other through the triumphs and the tears, the rough days at work or school, the moments of indecision where it seems like the weight of the world rests on your choice as a couple.
One of the things I love most about being Catholic is that marriage, joining together as a couple before God, is one of the sacraments. We receive the sacraments throughout our lives. Some, like marriage, are received only once. Others, like the Eucharist and Reconciliation, are received over and over. All of the sacraments are ways to bring us closer to God, and marriage is no exception. Loving someone as completely and perfectly as God loves each one of us is not an easy task, but that is what we are called to do when we say our wedding vows.
This brings me back to the importance of being prepared for marriage, of spending as much time thinking about your new life together as you spend figuring out how your bridesmaids will tie the sashes on their dresses. From the time you’re born, your parents and siblings are your family. You rely on them for love, care, and support. Once you marry, you still have your family, but you and your husband or wife will establish your own family. You have to be able to rely on each other, trust each other, and love each other. Knowing each other well is really important, both for being self-reliant as a couple and for being able to love each other as God loves us. After all, one of the reasons God loves us so completely is because he knows us so completely.
“Even all the hairs of your head are counted.”
With all the decisions to make about your wedding day, getting to know each other better as part of engagement might seem like something to put off, or even an outright waste of time. The reality is that while I love to look at pictures from our wedding and remember how much fun we had on our honeymoon, I’m thankful every day that we took the time to prepare and get to know each other in a way that has helped us so much over the past four years of marriage. We’ll celebrate our fourth anniversary here in about a month, just as we are taking on the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced as a couple – parenthood! While neither one of us has ever done this before, we know we can rely on our marriage, our love for and knowledge of each other, and God’s love for and knowledge of us. I can’t think of a bigger blessing as we embark on the next step of our journey together.
Sarah blogs about faith, family, food, and life at …and twins make four! She and her husband Dan are expecting twin daughters this month.