FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Preparing for Marriage (Not Just the Wedding)

with Dennis Rainey, Various | May 10, 2010
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You've prepared for the wedding, but what are you doing to prepare for the marriage? Dennis Rainey walks listeners through the goals of engagement.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • You've prepared for the wedding, but what are you doing to prepare for the marriage? Dennis Rainey walks listeners through the goals of engagement.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

You’ve prepared for the wedding, but what are you doing to prepare for the marriage?

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Preparing for Marriage (Not Just the Wedding)

With Dennis Rainey, Various
May 10, 2010
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Dennis:  Frankly, one of the places where the Christian community is most missing in is in the process of equipping young couples in preparing them for the marriage relationship.  We spend far more time preparing for the wedding and all the details surrounding that than we do preparing for the marriage.  We spend more money on the wedding dress than we do on marriage preparation. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday May 10th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine.  So if you are supposed to focus on more than the wedding, what should your focus be during the period of engagement?  We are going to talk about that today. 

Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. Dennis, I don’t know if they call it “Nick at Nite” anymore or if it’s “TV Land.”  I am just sitting here trying to figure out what’s the difference between classic television and reruns.  I mean classic television is just reruns, right? 

Dennis:  It is but it’s the most popular, kind of back by popular demand. 

Bob:  So I guess we can call this “classic FamilyLife Today,” don’t you think? 

Dennis:  Well, they have ESPN Classics, they have the games that are worth replaying for the fans. 

Bob:  Well, what our listeners are going to hear this week is classic FamilyLife Today radio.  This series comes from a more than a decade ago but we really did an expanded look at the subject of premarital preparation, getting ready for the marriage, not the wedding.  It was when we launched our Preparing for Marriage workbook which has just been revised and updated by the way, and it looks great, they have done a great job with it. 

Dennis:  I still think, Bob, it is the finest marriage preparation that a couple of single people can go through prior to getting married. 

Bob:  Yes, and I am just sitting here thinking about the fact that we have been doing this close to two decades now. 

Dennis:  You know the only way we could do this is because of two groups of people. Legacy Partners who give on a monthly basis and the other group are those who just make a gift from time to time.  That floats our boat and enables us to bring timeless, biblical principles around relevant issues that your marriage, your family are facing.  It really is all about your legacy and helping you be equipped in what I believe are the three most critical commitments we make in life: your commitment to God, your spouse and, your family. 


Bob:  Well, and as you know, during the month of May, we have a unique opportunity for listeners to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today because we have had some friends who have come along and they have made pledges toward a matching gift fund. 

Right now, the pledges toward that fund are a little more than $300,000.  In order for us to take advantage of their pledges, we have to hear from listeners who will call in or go to and make a $20 or $50 or $100 donation whatever they are able to do.  When they do, those donations are going to be matched dollar for dollar as long as there are still pledges in that fund. 

Dennis:  Yes, and Bob, the reason we want our listeners to know this is right now we need their help.  I mean it’s just that simple.  We are running behind where we need to be for the year and we are getting ready to move into some very lean months during the summer.  Basically, I am coming to you today saying if you can help us, right now, that gift is going to be matched dollar for dollar.  So if you can give, I want to tell you something, right now, it would be a very good time to give to FamilyLife Today

Bob:  Well, again you can do it online at or you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and we do appreciate whatever you are able to do.  We appreciate your partnership and your financial support.  We appreciate you listening to FamilyLife Today

I think listeners are going to enjoy what they are going to hear today, Dennis, as we talk about the importance of getting ready for not just a wedding but for a marriage.  In fact, as we began this series, when we produced it a while back, we began with you talking about your own premarital preparation. 

You know it was more than 25 years ago that you and your fiancée, Barbara, were facing a September wedding, right? 

Dennis:  Right. 

Bob:  You all just celebrated your 25th wedding anniversary. 

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  Do you remember getting premarital preparation as you headed toward the altar?

Dennis:  You know at that time, there were no ministries like Focus on the Family, no ministry like FamilyLife. There were no FamilyLife marriage conferences, just a little bit of preparation from a couple by the name of Don and Sally Meredith.  Sally is the spiritual mother of Barbara.  She led Barbara to Christ. 

Bob:  And Sally, do you remember leading Barbara to Christ? 

Sally:  I sure do in my kitchen, very small little kitchen and Barbara was really ready to receive the Lord.  So yes, it was a special time. 

Dennis:  And it was a life-changing experience for her and then they did our pre-marriage counseling. 

And frankly, Bob, most of that preparation occurred sitting on the edge of a bed in a dungy, darkened hotel room in some town south of Oklahoma City.  I don’t even remember the name of the town.

We were in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, and it’s not the end of the Earth but you can see it perfect.  It’s just over the edge from Paul’s Valley.

Don Meredith, not the football Don Meredith, but Don and Sally sat there in chairs, while Barbara and I sat on the edge of the bed and we have been – frankly, Bob, we had not even been dating.  Now, people would laugh at that looking back on that now because we spent 52 days out of 55 together.  Somehow, someway, we were always together.  But truthfully, it was not a romantic relationship.

I mean Barbara and I had gone fishing together, we had gone on picnics together and I don’t know some guys out there go come on, you dog, you were romancing her all the way.  But I hadn’t given her any roses and I hadn’t made any statements.  The only statement I had made was attempting to hold her hand.  Now, that was the first romantic overture.  And she had nailed me in my tracks so quickly that died a quick death there in North Park Shopping Center in Dallas, Texas.  But the only preparation we had was in that motel room and Don basically gave us about an hour’s worth of marriage preparation. 

Don:  Well, you know I was just thinking as we talk about marriage today and I talk about a faith relationship and how God sovereignly brings people together and I really felt that about Barbara and Dennis.  It’s just great now to look back and just see the confirmation of that. 

A faith relationship, I define that as looking beyond your mate’s weaknesses to God’s sovereignty and promises.  By sovereignty, we just mean that God orchestrates the universe and that’s what I felt about Dennis and Barbara that day that was real evidence that God was bringing them together. 

I wanted them as I encourage other couples and myself today to realize that God is really involved in bringing you together.  If you look beyond your mate’s weaknesses to God as the guarantor of your needs, then you don’t need to fear their weaknesses.  And then if you begn to concentrate on the promises that follow in God’s word when you are talking about marriage, then you have the hope that in spite of their weaknesses, God can still accomplish your needs and your life. 

Dennis:  But we ended up getting engaged at that point and six weeks later, we got married. 

Bob:  Six weeks? 

Dennis:  Six weeks, that’s right. 

Couples take enormous amount of time to get ready for the marriage ceremony but they don’t take a lot of time getting ready for marriage. 

Bob:  Everything in the culture points them in a different direction, doesn’t it? 

Dennis:  Yes, right here, I have got exhibit A.  Now, this is a heavy exhibit.  It’s a heavy exhibit.  How thick would you say that magazine is, Bob? 

Bob:  That looks like a --

Dennis:  Inch and a quarter. 

Bob:  Like a medium sized city phone book is what it looks like. 

Dennis:  It does.  It’s entitled Modern Bride and this is the special issue.  I am sure they have a special issue --

Bob:  Every issue is a special issue. 

Dennis:  Every issue is a special issue, but I had my secretary look through this and do a quick survey at the advertisements, the number of pages around different products in this magazine. 

Bob:  Right. 

Dennis:  There were advertisements for orchestras, there were advertisements for jewelry. 

Bob:  Now, hang on, orchestras? 

Dennis:  Yes, one page, just one page on that.  There was one page for cigarettes.  That’s a dying part of the deal, and perfume and beauty aids, birth control got a page and here we find stationery and invitations, 17 pages. 

Bob:  It’s a big market for that. 

Dennis:  Big market for that.  Champagne and wine got a couple of pages, but are you interested in knowing the top three products that were advertised in Modern Bride magazine?

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  Well, here they are.  In third place, china and silver, not Red China but china. 

Bob:  Right. 

Dennis:  Nice china, very nice china.  It’s expensive let me tell you, been there done that.  

Sweetheart, we don’t even have a table to eat on and you can eat off paper plates forever for that.

Dennis:  Destination resorts in second place. 

Bob:  That’s the only reason I read Bride magazine. 

Dennis:  Really?

Bob:  When we were getting ready? 

Dennis:  You read that? 

Bob:  I thumbed through it to look for some honeymoon opportunities.

Dennis:  No man would read that magazine, 86 pages worth of advertising for destinations and resorts. 

Bob:  For honeymoons, right. 

Dennis:  That’s right. 

And #1, no peer, 301 pages of advertising, this is why it’s so thick, wedding dresses and shoes. 

Bob:  No surprise there. 

Dennis:  No surprise there. 

And yes, Bob, there is one advertisement for something we didn’t do but I think it’s a beautiful symbolic picture of releasing your daughter at a wedding.  There was actually an ad for butterflies, live butterflies that you could release at the wedding or the reception.  Now, I am a gardener and you can buy ladybugs to eat the aphids but this one – this was pretty cute here, butterflies. 

Bob:  I just want to see the postman delivering the box of live butterflies. 

Dennis:  Yes, me too.  And I have got to move to exhibit B for our culture at this point. 

This is a cartoon from Cathy.  A young man sitting at the table with Cathy turns to her and he says, “Why, Cathy, did you get so weird?  I only asked you to marry me.”  He goes on to say, “If it doesn’t work out, we will get divorced.  What’s the big deal?  Half the people I know are divorced.” 

He adds, “Lots of my friends look at the first marriage as a trial run anyway.  You try as long as you can but then you move on.”  And the last frame of the cartoon has Cathy with her eyes crossed thinking goodbye, till death do us part.  Hello until couple’s therapy moneyruns out.

Let me suggest three goals for the engagement period.  First of all, you need to seal the decision.  For some, you are going to need to remake the decision you have made right.  Now, that may sound confusing.  Some say, “Well, I am already engaged.”  Well, have you really gone about making that decision in a biblical fashion? 

The second goal is to be involved in the process of preparing for marriage.  Now, that sounds so simplistic, but preparing for marriage is a process and this process is for all of those who are being impacted by a man and a woman who are about to leave, cleave, and become one flesh.  It’s for those who are leaving the young man and the young woman who are forming that relationship.  It’s for those who are being left. 

The process of preparing for marriage, I believe, ought to be a profound experience for mom and dad as they go through a process of letting go of deciding what this biblical component of allowing your son, allowing your daughter to leave looks like. 

And the third is to begin to deal with real issues.  A lot of couples get married and they – well how should we say – they have got stars in their eyes.  It has been said, “Love is blind but marriage is an eye opener.”  I think you don’t have to wait until marriage to have your eyes opened.  One of the problems that occurs is that most family members, most friends are not asking the tough questions that a young couple need to be asking each other and perhaps interacting around as a couple prior to getting married. 

Bob:  Now, you can’t wait until you’ve got everything perfect in all of these areas to move ahead. 

Dennis:  You know I am glad you asked that, Bob, because I have counseled I don’t know how many couples and they have such a refined checklist waiting for that perfect person, that prefect situation that they will never get married.  I mean they got their rooms, their apartments wallpapered with checklists, and there are no perfect people, there was only one of those and --

Bob:  And he didn’t get married. 

Dennis:  And he didn’t get married, but we are called by him to marry an imperfect person and frankly, that’s what makes the whole marriage thing go round and round and round. 

Proverbs 24, verses 3 and 4 give us a familiar passage, “By wisdom, a house is built and by understanding it is established and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

You see, we want the precious and pleasant riches, but many times, we don’t want the process that God gives us from the Bible to achieve that objective.  That’s why we have to start with a biblical vision for what a marriage is to be and what it is to look like.

I am convinced today that we approach marriage much like it is just a two-dimensional institution, body and soul.  We ignore the spiritual element that truly makes up a marriage relationship. 

If we had a goldfish bowl right here in the middle of our table here in the studio and we had two goldfish in the bowl and we took the goldfish out.  Immediately, several of our listeners would cringe if they knew we had done that.  They would say, “Why are you doing that?  That’s harmful to them.”  And if we put them back into the water that’s in goldfish bowl, immediately those fish would begin swimming around and they would be okay, why? 

Because goldfish were made to live in an environment of water.  Marriage, like the goldfish, was made to take place in a right relationship with God.  It’s a spiritual institution.  And the water in the goldfish bowl can be compared to the spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and with God. 

Dennis:  If you don’t have that, if you are not connected to God vitally, day by day, experiencing him, knowing him, walking with him, having him work in your life and change you, then at that point, I question whether you are truly going to be able to experience marriage as God intended.

Bob:  So couples don’t just need a vision for how to make a marriage work over time, they need to have a bigger picture of what God intended for marriage. 

Dennis:  That’s right.  In fact, marriage in the garden started between a man, a woman and their God.  You would have never had a marriage without God creating it.  A spiritual being a personal God who has stepped out of eternity in the person of Jesus Christ created marriage.  So marriage is a spiritual institution at its core. 

Couples today are ignoring the spiritual dimension of their lives hoping to have a successful marriage.  It will never happen.  And that’s why the Bible is so important. When you go back to Proverbs 24 it talks about “By wisdom, a house is built,” where are you going to get wisdom, from the world or from God?  And if you are going to get it from God, you are going to get it from the scripture. 

Frankly, one of the places where the Christian community is most missing it is in the process of equipping young couples and in preparing them for the marriage relationship.  We spend far more time preparing for the wedding and all the detail surrounding that than we do preparing for the marriage.  We spend more money on the wedding dress than we do on marriage preparation and we ought to reverse the process.  I know I just went through this.  I looked at the budget and I shook my head and I thought you know, there is something terribly wrong about this picture here. 

Matthew 7 verses 24 through 27 talks about a man who built his house on a foundation.  And because of that, when the storms came, the floods pounded him, the rains came, the wind, that house stood.  But the house that was built on the sand that didn’t have process, that wasn’t built upon the scripture, that didn’t have an intentional process about it, that house failed. 

And Bob, I think that’s what young couples need to consider today as they begin to venture out towards marriage, how much am I going to commit to truly prepare for my marriage and how am I going to go about doing it? 

That marriage license that you get on the day of the wedding ceremony doesn’t constitute a marriage.  It only gives you the right to begin building a marriage, to being to make a marriage, to make that relationship work.  And if you don’t have the blueprints, who is going to tell you how to build, the world, television?  Those relationships are failing left and right.  The scripture contains the authoritative word of God that gives us the hope that two sinful, selfish human beings can make a permanent covenant called marriage, work. 

Bob:  And this coincides too with the work that we have done recently in putting together a Preparing for Marriage workbook that is designed for couples to use either on their own or with a pastor or a counselor or I guess ideally, with an older couple who would step into their lives at this point and be a mentor couple taking them through the Preparing for Marriage material. 

Dennis:  I would encourage any couple who want to get the maximum value out of some older saints in the church to sit down and begin to pray about who they want to challenge to mentor them and walk them through this process. 

Frankly, if I were an engaged couple today, I would say to you target a couple in your church, start praying and then go to them and say, “Would you go through this workbook with us?  Would you just coach us as we move through these eight sessions?  And would you encourage us in our early months and years of marriage to establish this relationship on the right foundation?” 

And Bob, I think if appropriately approached, there isn’t an older couple who wouldn’t delight in taking a young couple through and teaching them out of their own successes as well as their falures. 

Bob:  Well, and if you look at the work that our team has done in the new addition of this workbook, it really makes it very simple for any couple to come alongside a younger couple and take them through the material.  I agree with you, I think both couples will profit from that experience. 

And of course, we have got the brand new Preparing for Marriage workbook revised and updated in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  You can go online at for more information about how to get a copy. 

Again, it’s, or call to request a copy 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number,

1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-F as in “Family” L as in “Life” and then the word TODAY. 

Now, let me also remind our regular listeners about a special opportunity that has been made available to us during the month of May.  We had some friends of the ministry who came along and said we want to encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to help support the ministry to make sure it continues on this local station and on our network of stations all across the country. 

So they established a matching gift fund and, to date, more than $300,000 has been pledged to that fund.  And what these folks are agreeing to do is to match every donation we receive during the month of May on a dollar for dollar basis up to the total of what’s been pledged.  We are hoping to take full advantage of these pledges.  We can’t go back to these folks and ask for their donations unless we have the matching funds in hand. 

Would you consider today making a donation of any amount to help support FamilyLife Today?  Go online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make a $20 or a $50 or a $100 or a $500 or a $1000 donation and just know that donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar until we have exhausted all of the funds that have been pledged to the matching gift fund.  And right now, again, it’s more than $300,000 that has been pledged toward that fund. 

So let us hear from you today if you can.  1-800-FL-TODAY, make your donation by phone or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Let me just say how much we appreciate each one of you when you call or you go online and make a donation.  Whatever you are able to do, it really means a lot to us and we are proud to have you as partners with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today

We want to invite you to be back with us tomorrow when we are going to continue to talk about the engagement period.  We want to talk about what you do with those doubts or fears that can come up while you are engaged, wondering, am I really making the right decision? 

How do you know whether there is a legitimate warning sign there or whether it’s just fear and apprehension that needs to be set aside?  We are going to talk about that tomorrow.  Hope you can be with us for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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