You would never dream of tossing a 16-year-old kid a set of car keys and saying, “there you go kid, figure it out for yourself, good luck!” Yet, this is essentially what we say to engaged couples when they get a marriage license…
Remember when you first got your driver’s license? You probably attended weeks or months of classes, practiced regularly with an instructor or parent, and took numerous tests both written and on the road. You were taught that driving is a great responsibility, and maybe you were even shown graphic videos depicting what could happen if you don’t take driving seriously. The whole process was neither quick nor easy, and for good reason, because you can really end up hurting yourself and others if you don’t know what you are doing.
By contrast, getting a marriage license is nothing like getting a driver’s license. You simply walk into the Register of Deeds office with your fiancé and ten minutes later you have a license to get married. The only requirements are that you have an ID and a Social Security card, and that you pay a fee and sign a form. Yet, marriage too is a great responsibility and without the proper education, training, and practice you can really end up hurting yourself and others emotionally, even if you have the best of intentions.
The message we receive is that education and training are important for some things, but not marriage, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Failed marriages often leave a wake of devastation in their path, not just for the couple, but for kids, family, friends, and the community. The pain and suffering may not be as concrete or as graphic as a car crash, but the emotional damage is still very real. And in many cases, it is also avoidable.
Of course, there are plenty of resources out there for couples who want to achieve a successful marriage, and some religious institutions do require pre-marital counseling. But the reality is that most couples don’t seek out this valuable guidance on their own. How many people do you think would skip Driver’s Ed if it wasn’t required?
I consider it my duty as a Wedding Officiant to help couples understand that marriage is full of potential for unbounded joy, adventure, exploration, and growth. But it is also prone to hardship, personal challenges, and the twists and turns of real life. In short, marriage is a great responsibility not to be taken lightly, and it takes more than just saying a few vows to make it work. That’s why I created The Marriage Enrichment Program, to provide couples with simple steps to get their marriage off to its very best start and to help their relationship reach its highest potential.
The fact is, a marriage license is easy to get, but achieving a happy and lasting marriage takes know-how and effort. Thankfully, it can be a joyous labor whose fruits are the very richest. So during the process of planning your wedding, don’t miss the chance to take a little extra time to focus on yourselves and your future together. After all, what’s more important than that?