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When Did the Wedding Become More Important than the Marriage?

Matched Dior gowns. Orchid covered archways. Spectacular mountain settings. Magicians. Balloon releases. Fireworks. Photo booths. Wii games. Free all-night bar. Casino games. Lobster bakes, island bike rides, “event” stations where you scan a QR code to receive a secret surprise, go cart centers, yard games, massages, a multi day party on a remote Asian island.

What do they have in common? These are all wedding ideas being sold by wedding planners who will charge up to $30,000 for “a truly unforgettable $250,000 wedding.” Brides are told to make it a party they will never forget. In a period where 50% of all marriages fail, it’s remarkable how so much money and time and worry are spent on the wedding, but not a thought is given to the marriage itself. And after the last piece of cake is eaten, the last toast given, the last people leave, the deliriously happy couple – having experienced the wedding of their dreams – are now faced with making their marriage work. You would think weddings that cost $250,000 to $1,000,000 certainly would result in a fantastic marriage. But people don’t think about the marriage of their dreams, only the wedding of their dreams.

The fact is, a simple wedding can result in a deliriously happy marriage. But a deliriously happy marriage isn’t the goal anymore. Only the most spectacular wedding is. Then two, five, ten years later when every day is an argument, the kids are falling apart, and divorce lawyers are on speed dial, everyone wonders when it all went so wrong.

I’ll tell you when: the wedding.

The bride, her mother, and maybe the groom spend hundreds of hours picking out wedding consultants, choosing the location, selecting the stationary, ordering the flowers, the music, the caterer, the menu, the wine, the cakes, gift bags, and great, great care is given to “how to make this wedding unforgettable.” The problem of course is this time is not spent in spiritual pre-marriage counseling, in praying to God to bless the marriage, in quiet times learning how your partner feels about money, kids, in-laws, sex, God, spirituality. There is precious little discussion about morals and values. This marriage, according to the Chicago Tribune, is doomed.

But the wedding was mind-blowing.

The Tribune reported on a finding by Emory University that looked at 3,100 married couples. They found that couples who spent less money on a wedding tend to stay married longer than those who opt for expensive weddings. And couples who spent less than $1,000 on their wedding ceremony were least likely to get divorced.

So how to avoid being one of those couples whose best day in their marriage was their wedding?

1. Invite God/Spirituality into the relationship early. Some couples find this way too intimate. Sex is ok, prayer isn’t. Don’t fall into this trap.

2. Pledge that every hour you work on the wedding, you’ll spend two hours working on your relationship. This involves getting to know each other and talking about your future.

3. Start going to church now. Find one with other young couples.

4. Take a pre-marriage counseling course at your church.

5. Talk realistically about money. Are you on the same page financially? Does one person believe in charge cards while the other abhors them?

6. Make sure you agree on children. Not just having them, but also about how to raise them.

7. Talk honestly about what you love about each other, and what drives you up a wall.

8. Learn to stop criticizing your partner.

9. Talk about how you will handle the difficult days that are bound to occur. Establish rules for arguments.

10. Finally, realize your wedding is the first day of a precious journey, one that should be treated as sacred. Or else you’ll remember it as the first day of a long mistake.

I’m not in the business of criticizing anyone for an expensive, grand, out of this world wedding. I just want to remind couples there’s more to your marriage than your wedding. There’s the rest of your life.

Harry H. Harrison Jr. is a New York Times best-selling parenting author with over 3.5 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations including NPR. His books are available in over thirty-five countries throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia, and in the Far East. LEARN MORE.