Preparing for Marriage + Pre-Marital Counseling

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”

Tim Keller


As much as I love weddings and wedding planning, MARRIAGE is so, so much more important than a wedding. Thoughtfully and intentionally preparing for marriage is what should be the focus of an engagement. I adore wedding days (ours was truly the best day of my life!), but it is, afterall, just one day. The days, the weeks, the years to come are what matter even more so. Preparing for your marriage should be at the forefront of your conversations, prayers, and life as you’re engaged. I want a marriage even more beautiful than my wedding day!

Our engagement was filled with preparing for both our wedding and our marriage, and we were so unbelievably excited for our wedding day to unfold – and for our marriage to begin! I couldn’t wait to call Rob my husband, to live together, to spend our days as husband and wife, and to be joined together as one, forever. And I was so incredibly excited for our wedding, but it’s the days and months and years that follow that make me even more excited and the anticipation fills me with so much joy and peace.

I cannot recommend pre-marital counseling enough, and I wholeheartedly believe every engaged couple (and even those discussing getting engaged) should actively participate in pre-marital counseling and seek wisdom regarding marriage. Rob and I did pre-marital counseling through our church (Vintage Church) both in a group setting with other engaged couples and also with just our head pastor (who officiated our wedding!). This may seem like a lot (and it did keep us busy), but there’s honestly nothing more important. Having these tools in our pocket for when issues, life, or disagreements arise is crucial, and being able to talk and communicate lovingly, openly, and humbly is so important. Marriage is a constant act of forgiveness, humility, honest communication, and unconditional love. After our first meeting with our pastor, Rob and I looked at each other and said “that was so awesome!” After talking with our pastors, married couples in our church, other engaged couples, and our incredible community of family and friends, we feel so much more equipped and prepared for our marriage (even now that we’re a few months in).

We’ve openly discussed so much (so much!), read some amazing books (The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller is absolutely phenomenal), prayed through things, gotten so much Biblical insight and wisdom, and had so many people pour into us and into our marriage. This is the good stuff, y’all! It may be nerve-wracking, you may feel like you and your future spouse have already talked about everything, you may not have any issues now, or you may think you don’t have enough time in your schedule… but nothing should hold you back from seeking wisdom from others, especially in regards to your marriage. There is nothing more important than investing your time and your heart into pre-marital counseling.


“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Tim Keller


If you’re married, what would is your best advice on preparing for marriage and marriage in general? If you’re engaged, I’d love to know if you have any questions about marriage! Are you participating in pre-marital counseling?

meaning of marriage

Marriage Matters

Gorgeous images like these are some of my favorites from a wedding day: the bride and groom, newly married, walking or dancing hand in hand with the biggest giddy smiles; surrounded by their best friends! The design of the wedding is showcased here with the attire, setting, and florals, for sure. And the very best part? Knowing that this is only day one of marriage for these two. A wedding day is likely one of the best, most exciting, and most anticipated days of your life. And I love that!

But there is so much more than just this one day. Marriage is what matters. A lifetime of love (messy and joyful and challenging and full of grace!) is what the focus is. I want my couples, my friends, and my husband + myself to have marriages so much more beautiful than our wedding days. I want engagements to be filled with marriage planning and big dreams and deep conversations – not just wedding planning. I want you to know that there is so much more to come after your wedding day! That’s why I do the work that I do: so that my brides and grooms can focus more on their upcoming marriage than just on wedding planning. So that their engagement season is joy-filled + not stress-filled. So that I get to see huge, genuine smiles like this on their wedding day!


Photography by Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography

Planning and styling by Stephanie Shaul Events

My Grandma’s Wedding Planner

grandma wedding planner

How incredibly special is it to have my maternal grandma’s wedding planning book?! This is far and away one of my most treasured items, and it’s a family heirloom I am honored to be holding onto. My beautiful, kind grandma passed away exactly one year ago on July 12th, and my mom and aunts (there are four sisters!) decided a few years ago, while cleaning out my grandparent’s home when downsizing, that I ought to be the proud owner of Grandma’s “The Bride’s Book of Plans.” I have a deep love of weddings and wedding planning (obviously!), and this is truly such a treasure. Every time I open up my grandma’s wedding planner, see her script handwriting (which hasn’t changed a bit), dream about their wedding day and its details, and remember my grandparent’s 60+ year marriage, I am overwhelmed by how special this is. What a unique, personal peek into her past, as well as to the start of my family’s legacy!


Here are my grandparents, Dwight and Thelma Sparks, on their wedding day of June 8, 1953 in Ohio! My grandpa looks so dapper and proud here (and that huge smile!), while my grandma is so radiant and definitely has that bridal glow.

I love knowing that my grandma carried a bridal bouquet of white orchids with ribbon streamers (I had ribbon streamers, too!). Her maid of honor carried a bouquet of yellow roses, and the two mothers wore pink rose corsages. Grandpa wore a navy suit, and aren’t they one great looking pair?! You can see how clearly in love they are in this wedding photo of theirs! They got married at William Street Methodist Church and had a reception and dinner afterwards at Bun’s Restaurant. My grandma’s wedding dress cost $40, and her bridal shoes were $8. They had a photographer, a florist, an organist, and their minister at their wedding. Within my grandma’s wedding planner lists every one of the gifts they received for their wedding, which is especially interesting to read through, as many of our recognizable family heirlooms can be found throughout these pages!

My grandma and grandpa had one of those marriages that everyone looked up to and learned from. They were blissfully married for 63 years (their 64th anniversary would have been a couple weeks ago), and it’s a marriage that has certainly inspired countless people who knew them and loved them. They raised four wonderful, smart, loving daughters and nurtured, spoiled, taught, and loved all of their grandchildren so, so much. As their granddaughter, I have always known how deeply blessed I have been to have such incredible grandparents and role models in my life. Their faith and family came first and foremost, as anyone can attest to. Grandma and Grandpa loved traveling abroad, traveled far and wide to visit their family, and hosted large holiday gatherings at the 4th of July and Christmas in their home. Many of my fondest memories in life come from our time with our grandparents and family in Ohio, for sure. We’ve always had the most loving, fun, close-knit family, due in large part to my grandparents’ love, legacy, and focus on family. I could go on and on about all that I have learned from my grandma and grandpa, but that would be an endless list!

Their marriage and love has impacted so many, from the young couples they mentored to their daughters and sons-in-law to their friends and community to the youth in their church and most definitely to their grandchildren. I can only hope and pray that Rob and I have a marriage as strong, fun, full of adventure, family-focused, and Christ-centered as theirs. Their love for one another was truly something special, and it’s something we all got to witness even more so as my grandma’s physical health deteriorated while my grandpa’s mental health and memory declined. No obstacle was too big for their love; that’s for sure.


A few fun peeks into all that’s changed in the wedding planning world in the last sixty years, as chronicled by The Bride’s Book of Plans, circa 1953:

-“Time and plan schedule allowing 12 weeks before the wedding. In this section you’ll find a meticulously mapped-out schedule which can simplify the life of the most pressed and busy engaged girl who ever lived! No matter what kind of wedding you are going to have, this will help you go through all the necessary preliminaries without skipping one single heart beat. It’s best to allow 12 weeks for the schedule, but it is not essential; the plan is absolutely flexible.”

-The groom was responsible for paying for the flowers for the bride, her mother, and his mother, as well as the wedding ring, minister’s fee, marriage license, bachelor dinner, wedding trip (honeymoon) expenses, and his own attire.

-“Adding security to happiness: The Bride and Groom, feted and dined, deliriously happy, look upon one another lovingly and feel they will be serene and secure forever. Even while they smile and say it, both know, however, that security and serenity involve more than a desire to cherish and be cherished.

-“Security becomes a rather prosaic matter of living within your means! This is not an objectionable fact, but a good and sustaining one. People who begin with a resolution to respect their income have started with a good basis for security.”

Isn’t it eye-opening to see how much (for better or for worse…) wedding planning and weddings have changed over the years?!