Saturday, April 12, 2008

To Quick to Marry?

I have been pondering this for awhile. Basically: Are Unitarian churches/minsters too quick to agree to marry anyone who comes through their door? This came about for a couple of reasons. One, it has (sadly, only recently) come to my attention what a big business the wedding industry is; and how many churches count on rental fees and how many ministers count on the extra income performing weddings provides. Second, we had a very interesting discussion about marriage at my congregations monthly book club in which we discussed our different paths to marriage and why some last and others don't.

For a little background, I'll quickly share my path. My husband and I got engaged after eight months of dating. We were married nine months after that. To many, this seemed awfully quick. I was 22 and he was 24. We have now been married 12 years. We were married in a traditional Catholic service. This was not my choice. But, being only 22 and having a father who insisted upon this, I acquiesced. The wedding was lovely, even though it wasn't exactly what I would have planned. To me, the most important part was that my future husband and I were pledging ourselves to each other, no matter what comes our way.

As some of you may know, though, to get married in a Catholic church, it is a process. We had to attend marriage classes. While many of our friends balked at this, I thought it was a great idea. We had to sit down and really talk about the nuts and bolts of our future life together. Sure we love each other, but how comfortable are we with sharing each other's debt? What are our thoughts on raising our children? Will one of us stay home? Will we be moving around? How does each of us feel about saving money? Will we have separate accounts? How will we handle holidays with our families?, and etc. How many couples really sit down and think about the mundane, but important, aspects of married life? Marriage is so much more than the passion of new love. It is about the commitment for a long term future. It is about growing together and making the promise to support each other. Marriage is not easy and shouldn't be rushed into.

I know many UUs would completely disagree, but I would love to see us develop a program that provides pre-marital services. Now this will show my tiny bit lean towards traditionalism, but I would also like it to be mandatory. Please don't send a me a bunch of negative comments, but this is my opinion and I am going to stand by it. I really believe marriage is a big step and should be respected. As easy as it is to end a marriage, the emotional and financial toll can (and usually is) life altering. Wouldn't it be better to invest a little upfront time? I realize we like to view ourselves as open churches that provide a very needed service for a wide population. I am not advocating that we stop this, but to make it a much deeper experience for those involved. From what I have observed, the minister usually has only met with the pre-marriage couple a handful of times. While it is the decision of the couple to determine how well they know each other and their readiness for marriage, I would love to see our churches/ministers provide a means for them to truly reach that point. Marriage/Commitment ceremonies at our churches should be more that just money making ventures. They should be about assisting couples in building a long, happy, enriching life together.


h sofia said...

I think premarital classes would be great.

The only thing I DON'T like is when these classes are scheduled to happen a few weeks before the wedding. I know several women who remarked to me, in passing, that they "had to go" to the pre-marital classes, and just treated them as a perfunctory things ... items to check off the Wedding To Do list.

My question was: "Well, if you do encounter some challenges during the classes, how likely are people to postpone or cancel the wedding just four weeks prior?" It seems like it should be much sooner.

Maybe different churches do this differently.

Montessori Mama said...

I agree with you. I think these classes would be most valuable when first engaged. It's a heck of allot easier to call off an engagement than a wedding. This is a very important step in one's life, as you said, and I believe it would only benefit the couple to meet for classes before they marry.
My husband and I were married by a UU minister we met the day before our wedding. It was awkward actually (and a long story) so I agree whole heartedly with you.
ps if possible could you please change the 'made by mm' under my peace image to say 'made by Jennifer Howard ~ ', thank you so much!

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

We don't exactly have premarital classes, but UU ministers where I live often administer "PREPARE" questionaires to each person separately, then the answers get scored and the minister sits down with the couple to go over any differences in the answers and to talk about issues that might come up before actually planning the ceremony.

The advantage of the questionnaire thing is that certain issues got flagged for us, so everything we discussed was absolutely our shit. I've heard that some classes just go over a set curriculum -- finances, decision-making, sex, children.

I think that many people are too quick to marry -- I see that all the time. Many are also too quick to have children. The couple grows apart and divorces when they still have young children (five years old and younger).

Anyway, I'm very happily married to a fellow UU (met him at church). We've been married ten years.

Melanie said...

I agree - whatever denomination or even a civil ceremony - a marriage prep class is really important...for all the reasons you list and more! We took a course that was not affiliated with any church. It was offered by a married couple, one a psychologist, the other a sociologist, and their class was all based on sociological research on what made successsful marriages work. We did a long questionaire and compared results. We discussed various communication techniques and how to argue fairly. It was great and we still refer to the lessons learned in class now!