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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Wisdom of Investing in Your Marriage


In the news of the last few days, I saw reports of several couples who had gotten married or were planning their weddings.  The focus of some of those stories was a discussion of the venues people have chosen, including some that were literally fairy tale castle type places.  I can’t imagine how much renting a place like that for a wedding must cost.  

Sometimes we hear of couples who get married while skydiving or under the water in scuba gear, or in very exotic locations on land.  There are other shows on television about people getting married, that include plans for very elaborate cakes, or feature the brides trying on wedding gowns that cost $25,000 or more.  I can’t imagine dropping that kind of money on a dress to be worn once, or a cake that will be consumed in a few hours.  I had a college student once, who was a first generation American from another country, telling my about weddings in her home country.   She said she wanted to go back when she got married to have her wedding there, because those weddings last for a week or more and have something like 10,000 guests.  That is incredible.  Since her country is not one of great wealth, I wondered how such elaborate proceedings are financed. 

I have performed a number of weddings myself over the years, and taken pictures for a great many more, so I have a pretty long standing connection with weddings.  And over the years, I have done pastoral counseling with individuals in troubled marriages.  I find a stark contrast in the amount of money couples are willing to invest in a wedding ceremony compared to how much money they are willing to invest in counseling to work out their marital problems.  That contrast is something I have raised with couples whose weddings I have performed over recent years - challenging them to consider the time and money they are investing in the wedding versus what they have invested in planning the marriage.

I am a hopeless romantic in some ways, but I am also a great cynic in others.  I have seen thousands of dollars spent on weddings designed to flaunt or impress and I have also seen individuals living in abject poverty.  

I believe there is a fine balance between appropriate celebration and sinful indulgence. 

I have seen far too many couples spend fortunes on weddings but whose marriages fall apart because they are unwilling to invest themselves in ways that will make their marriage work.  

I wonder how much our perhaps misguided emphasis contributes to the divorce rate.  Sadly, there is no guarantee that a huge investment in a wedding will correspond to a successful marriage or the willingness to make a similar investment into that success.  (Remembering of course, Jesus reminded us that the only investments that truly endure are those invested in the Kingdom of God, such as helping the poor or living lives guided by the love of God…but that is another blog.)

It is notable that when you hear the old, “they lived happily ever after,” at the end of the fairy tale, you are hearing it at the point of the wedding, without describing the reality of marriage or what true happiness is.  Some say they aren’t supposed to, because they are fairy tales.  Maybe that is true.  

However, I think it is much wiser to help those we love prepare for the life that is beyond the day of the wedding.  I sometimes remind my couples during a wedding that in spite of all the efforts and planning and struggles to get everything right for that day, all their preparations are actually the easy part. The hard part is living out day by day in the drudgery of real life -  the lofty promises made in the vows.  When we focus only upon the one and ignore the other, I suspect we are contributing to a divorce rate by exemplifying misplaced values and priorities. 

Frankly, if I had to make a choice between a beautiful wedding and a beautiful marriage, I’d choose the latter.  But maybe that’s because I’m a guy…I have noticed women perceive these things differently.  Even so, not many women I know want only a beautiful wedding and not a good marriage as well.

 Perhaps today would be a good day to ask how wise the investments you have been making have been.  I know that a good marriage requires reinvesting day by day to ensure returns that will last. 

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