Model and actress Elizabeth Hurley married wealthy businessman Arun Nayar in an elaborate Indian wedding. The multi-day event included parties, performances, and traditional Indian ceremonies. During the festivities, Hurley changed her outfit at least three times a day, and both bride and groom were involved in the “haldi” (turmeric) ceremony, in which the bride and groom are covered in a paste of turmeric, milk, and cream believed to cleanse and beautify them.

Hours of work and countless dollars were spent to prepare a beautiful elaborate wedding. But throughout the bustling media reports, I didn’t read anything about how Hurley and Nayar prepared for their marriage. During all the external planning to make themselves beautiful and “cleansed,” it seems they forgot the most important part—the internal preparations that make a marriage work.

Both bride and groom are entering their second marriage. What preparations have they made to address the problems in their first relationships? Hurley has a son from a previous relationship; what have they done to solidify the friendship between this young man and his new father?

Maira Oliveira, reporter for the secular publication All Headline News, sums up her feelings about the outward extravagance, “One wedding isn’t enough for Liz Hurley, especially when she’s getting married to her prince charming who can spoil her until they eventually divorce.”

Oliveira’s harsh sarcasm reveals the world’s skepticism of the marriage vows. The news stories reveal more about Hurley’s diamond-crusted sari and honeymoon destination than her efforts to make this marriage last.

The All-American mistake

You won’t find this mistake only in Hollywood. Although most weddings aren’t as elaborate as Hurley’s wedding, we still commonly put so much emphasis on the wedding that we forget about the marriage. The average American wedding costs upwards of $25,000. The decorations, costumes, and hors d’oeuvres look fabulous for one day, but what happens to the relationship once the flowers fade and the cake topper is frozen?

How much stronger would marriages be if we spent our time, money, and energy meeting with mentors, speaking to counselors and pastors, and enacting binding agreements (like a Covenant Marriage license)? What if we spent time cleansing our hearts of bitterness, unforgiveness, and sin, instead of cleansing our skin?

Perhaps it’s time to rethink our perception of weddings and shift the focus from preparations of a spectacular wedding day to preparations for a spectacular lifetime together.

Five steps to preparing for marriage

If you or someone you know is planning a wedding, here are some simple steps to help you prepare for a lasting relationship.

  1. Participate in the book study Preparing for Marriage by David Boehi, Brent Nelson, Jeff Schulte, and Lloyd Shadrach. As an engaged couple, you may find it hard to believe that you will fight during marriage. But there are usually a lot of unanswered questions that can cause conflict, such as, Who is going to take care of the finances? Who is going to wash the clothes and the dishes? Who is going to cook dinner? These might seem like small details, but if you will work these things out before marriage, it will save you a lot of quarrels and hurt. Preparing for Marriage will take you through a study of your relationship, helping you ask the right questions and guiding you with biblical insights.
  2. Meet regularly with a pastor or mentor couple. Experienced married couples have a lot of wisdom to learn from, especially during the pre-married and newly married stages. Throughout your times of meeting together, a mentor couple can identify trouble spots that you will likely deal with in the future, and help you work through those issues. In addition to biblical counseling, a mentor couple and/or pastor can keep you accountable during your engagement period to stay sexually pure all the way up to your wedding day.
  3. Attend a three-day Weekend to Remember® marriage conference. There are basic principles in the Bible that make marriage work, yet most engaged couples don’t know what those principles are. In most cases, the model for marriage is based on the person’s parents or even on his or her own feelings. The Weekend to Remember will teach you the biblical guidelines on how to resolve conflict, understand the different roles of men and women, and keep unity as a couple. It will also explain God’s design for marriage and the central roll that Christ plays in your relationship.
  4. Agree to never use the word “divorce.” Many couples have the idea that if marriage doesn’t work out, they can divorce and marry someone else. But a great marriage depends on your commitment to make your relationship work. By pledging to never use the word “divorce,” you are promising to remove divorce as an option—which means always looking for a way to work things out. This promise not only solidifies the relationship in your own heart, it also builds trust in your spouse, further proving that the words you vowed on your wedding day weren’t just part of a tradition. But you really meant, “Till death do us part.”
  5. Purchase a Covenant Marriage License. This marriage license doesn’t cost any more than a traditional license, but it does give feet to your promises. Although the license does not prevent divorce, it sets into place certain precautions to help you stay together should hardships tear you apart. Those who choose to purchase this license must legally agree to get premarital counseling, pre-divorce counseling, and accept a two-year period before obtaining a no-fault divorce.

These five things won’t guarantee a conflict-free marriage, but they will give you the tools you need to face life together when problems arise. We live in a pressure-filled culture that takes its toll on marriages. As you prepare for your wedding, don’t neglect the most important part—the rest of your lives.

© 2008 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.