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This may make me unpopular with brides and their mothers, but much of what couples do to prepare for their wedding day doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. At least, it doesn’t prepare them for an extraordinary marriage.

Wearing a $1,500 dress, dropping $10,000 for the perfect venue, paying a photographer $3,000 to capture special moments, spending $15,000 on a magical reception, and then giving the pastor a $50 gift card on your way out to your $5,000 exotic honeymoon may make for a great wedding day. But it does nothing to prepare a couple for an extraordinary marriage.

So let me give you two things that can actually prepare for your wedding day and an extraordinary marriage.

1. Premarital counseling

Quality Christian premarital counseling is a great way to prepare for your wedding day. And, by quality Christian premarital counseling, I mean counseling that will:

  • help you navigate the baggage from your family history more skillfully
  • teach you how to communicate more effectively
  • give you the tools to fight more fairly
  • prepare a groom to lead more spiritually
  • help you to handle money more harmoniously
  • help you connect more intimately

Premarital counseling no more guarantees that you will avoid marriage problems any more than going through driver’s education guarantees you will avoid an accident. But, I can tell you from years of doing marriage counseling, that it does help couples avoid some of the “pot-holes” that wreck other marriages.

2. Get out of your fiancé’s house and bed

Cohabitation is one of the most effective tools Satan invented to destroy marriages. I believe cohabitation is potentially sinful and probably stupid.

Potentially Sinful

I say “potentially sinful” because cohabitation is not a sin, but it makes it easy for sin to occur. You may not care about the “potentially sinful” part of this, but if you call yourself a Christian you should!

As Christians we are to “avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and we’re to avoid things that make our brothers and sisters in Christ stumble (1 Corinthians 10:32), and we’re definitely not supposed to be having sex with someone to whom we’re not married.[1]

Yes, cohabitation is not sinful, but it looks bad, causes Christian observers to stumble, and—in my experience as a counselor—makes being good really hard to do.

Probably Stupid

Cohabitation is probably stupid because it can introduce a toxic insecurity into marriage.

The Bible teaches that marriage is a covenantal relationship in which God unites a man and a woman so they are as one person[2]. Covenants serve to bring stability and security to society and relationships.

Those who support living together before marriage preach that it’s the best way to prepare for their future marriage because, while living together, they learn whether or not they actually can stand living together. Well, that’s no fun and it’s definitely not covenant love.

My wife and I were virgins who had never lived with non-family members of the opposite sex before our wedding day. So we had no idea whether or not we were going to be able to stand living with each other, but it didn’t matter.

  • I didn’t know she didn’t like taking out the trash.
  • She didn’t know that I like griping about her not taking out the trash.
  • I didn’t know she was serious when she said she wanted to have a cat.
  • She didn’t know I was serious when I said I think cats are what people are given when they arrive in Hell.
  • I didn’t know she slurps while eating her cereal.
  • She didn’t know I burp after eating mine.

But that’s what makes marriage fun. Not the slurping and burping, but the adventure of learning to live with and love each other.

Marriage is an Adventure

Learning to live with each other is pure adventure and it is so much fun. Everything was a new experience to us both as a couple and individuals. Experiencing all of these new experiences together bonded us in a powerful way.

The facts prove cohabitation doesn’t make marriage more secure, but more insecure.

  •  Did you know that 40 percent of couples who live together will end their relationships before marriage?[3]
  • Did you know that couples who live together before marriage have higher separation and divorce rates?
  • The Journal of Marriage and Family reported marriages that are preceded by living together have 50 percent higher disruption rates than marriages without premarital cohabitation.[4]
  • Researchers from Yale University, Columbia University, and the Institute for Resource Development at Westinghouse revealed the divorce rates of women who cohabit are nearly 80 percent higher than the rates of those who do not.[5]

So, buy and wear the pretty dress—just leave it in the closet of your own home. Spring for some pre-marital counseling. And save the sex for the honeymoon.  Oh, and budget a bit more for the pastor who will be asking God to bless your wedding day and help you to have an extraordinary marriage.

[1] Exodus 20:14; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; and Jude 7.

[2] Malachi 2:14 and Matthew 19:6.

[3] Larry L. Bumpass, James A. Sweet, and Andrew Cherlin, “The Role of Cohabitation in Declining Rates Marriage,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53, 1991, 913-927.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Neil Bennett, et al., “Commitment and the Modern Union: Assessing the Link Between Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Stability,” American Sociological Review 53, 1988, 127-138.