Posts tagged ‘Wedding Therapy’

All the Days After the Big Day

Multiple studies have sounded foreboding warnings about the decline of marriage rates in the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, while 72% of American adults ages 18 and older were married in 1960, that number has plummeted to 50%. More people are marrying later in life, and more people are choosing simply not to marry at all. Traditionally-oriented sociological observers point out that these falling marriage rates pose real problems not only for individuals personally, but for society collectively. The Heritage Foundation, for instance, explains:

Decades of statistics have shown that, on average, married couples have better physical health, more financial stability, and greater social mobility than unmarried people.

Other studies show that the children of those couples are more likely to experience higher academic performance, emotional maturity, and financial stability than children who don’t have both parents in the home.

The social and economic costs of family breakdown are paid by everyone.

Studies show divorce and unwed childbearing cost taxpayers over $110 billion each year. But the real victims are children.

Children raised in single-parent homes are statistically more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, exhibit poor social behaviors, and commit violent crimes. They’re also more likely to drop out of school.

And when it comes to fighting poverty, there is no better weapon than marriage. In fact, marriage reduces the probability of child poverty by 80%.

These are sobering statistics. And yet, there is this interesting tension. While marriage rates may be on the decline, the wedding industry continues to grow. Forbes reports that, as of 2018, the wedding industry is a $72 billion a year money-maker, with the average cost of a wedding now ballooning to $35,000. Why are weddings so expensive? Forbes explains that couples feel compelled “to create ever more extravagant wedding experiences to make their day memorable for themselves and their guests.”

This heightened pressure around creating a perfect day for couples has given birth to a cottage industry – that of wedding therapy. Alyson Krueger reports for The New York Times:

The reality for many couples is that wedding planning is a tricky time. Deep-rooted family problems sometimes rear up. Some families face financial strain or must deal with contrasting values of how money should be spent. It’s also a time when couples and their families are going through big, fragile transitions.

The problems soon-to-be newlyweds encounter include things like:

“I can’t make a decision about who to have as my bridesmaid,” or, “I don’t know how to have a conversation with someone about not picking them as my bridesmaid.”

Other concerns, of course, are more systemic and serious. But the fact that there is a “wedding therapy” industry at all says something about our cultural mores and priorities.

In pre-marital counseling, I will often tell couples that the most important day of their marriage is not the first day of their marriage, but the last day of their marriage. “When death finally does you part,” I’ll ask, “what kind of marriage will you want to have – one that is marked by coldness and bitterness due to years of unaddressed issues, or one that is marked by warmth and forgiveness as you have weathered life’s storms together?” My point is this: if you want the last day of your marriage to be a good one, the time to begin working toward that is now. Far too many couples put all their effort and emphasis into the first day of their marriage – their wedding day – while thinking little about what their life together will look like after that. The wedding therapy industry is yet another indicator of our obsession with the first day of our marriages and the stress that first day brings. We have made our weddings about, well, our weddings – the dresses, tuxes, receptions, entrées, cake, gifts, decorations, and celebrations. But the wisest weddings are not about the weddings. They are not even really about the couple. The wisest weddings are ones that celebrate the gift that marriage is to humanity and reflect Christ’s love for the Church.

Perhaps if we made God’s gift of marriage and Christ and His Church the focus of our weddings, we would not only save ourselves from needing wedding therapy for the big day, we would also limit our need for marriage counseling for the days thereafter. I’ll take a healthy marriage over a perfect wedding any day. If you’re married, or especially if you used to be married, I have a feeling you would say the same thing, too.

December 16, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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