Yes, the lead up to getting married is stressful. There’s a lot to think about. The wedding. The food. The guests. The wedding night. But don’t let the wedding preparation distract you from the actual marriage preparation, which is far more important and a much better investment of time, in the long run. Here are a few things just about every couple could stand to do before they actually tie the knot.

Premarital Counseling Shouldn’t Be Optional

It’s true that American society is getting a little better at avoiding the stigma around counseling, but it’s also true that there’s a difference between believing that something is beneficial for you and actually doing it. But premarital counseling is one of those things you should actually do. Why wouldn’t you? Very few things in your life are worth more intentional effort and energy than your marriage, so why spare any expense on its health?

Premarital experts at Prepare/Enrich shared with us a study from 2006, which found that if a premarital assessment is taken before marriage in conjunction with follow up sessions, you can reduce the risk of divorce by up to 30%.

Now Is a Good Time to Get Your Finances in Order

Speaking of sparing no expense, it is not possible to overstate how much easier it will be to manage your financial situation now than after your marriage. You may have heard that finances is the number one most common source of tension in a marriage, and scientifically speaking, that’s true. “Not us,” you’re thinking. “Fight about money? Why would we?” And that’s the problem. People don’t consider the many possible points of financial tension before they get married, and that can lead to some difficult fights down the road. The best way to minimize it is to get on the same page ahead of time. Figure out a budget. Talk honestly about your debt. Set some financial goals. You’re going to have a lifetime of unpredictable financial surprises ahead of you. Best to get whatever can be figured out figured out now.

Get Ready to Spend Time with Each Other’s Families

You know the old saying about how when you marry someone, you marry their family? It’s not that simple. Some people come from a difficult family background, and may have put up some very reasonable boundaries between themselves and their families. Then again, other people might be really close to their families, and the very thought of not spending Christmas with them could be enough to drive them nuts. It’s most accurate to say that when you marry someone you marry their family situation, and that’s something you need to get figured out soon.

It’s Time to Get Plugged into a Church Together

A big part of marriage is learning that your life doesn’t revolve around yourself anymore. For most of your existence, you’ve been able to make decisions about your life on your own. If you’re hungry, you eat whatever you want. If you find a job you like, you take it. If you decide to spring for a major purchase, that’s on you. But now, you have to reckon with the fact that you’re making decisions with someone else now, and there’s nothing better to help you figure that out than a church community. A solid small group will give you a foundation of honest friends who can tell you the things you need to hear (whether or not you want to!). And to learn how to live a life in service to your new partner, you’re going to need people who can tell you the things you need, but do not want, to hear.

It’s Time to Start Reading

You know that book you keep saying you’re going to read? The one sitting on your nightstand, or your coffee table, or just hanging out in your car or your backpack? Read it. It’s time. Now is the best possible era to start making new habits that you’ll take with you into married life, and reading is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. It makes you smarter. It opens your world to new ideas and new ways of growing. We’ve complied a list of good books to read for your marriage here and you should read them, but don’t stop there. Make reading a life long habit for the edification of both you and your relationship.

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