Shayne Looper: Getting married? Things you need to know

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Weddings are big business is America. This summer, approximately 1.5 million people will get married in the U.S. The average wedding is now estimated to cost between $25,000 and $30,000 dollars. That works out to about $1,000 for every minute of ceremony.

In the past, the father of the bride was expected to underwrite the cost of the wedding, but the parents of today’s bride contribute only about 17 percent of the cost of the wedding, according to the website Sound Vision. About one-third of today’s couples pay for the wedding themselves, often on credit.

According to statistics, the median age for a bride is 25-years-old and for a groom is 26. That means people are getting married almost three years later than they did when my wife and I tied the knot. You would think that would be old enough to know better than to spend $1,000 a minute, just as they are starting their lives together, but apparently not.

There are a lot of things brides and grooms don’t, but need to, know, as they begin married life.

An understanding of finances is one (marriage counselors report that money is the most common presenting problem they see in failing marriages), but it is not the only one.

Brides and grooms need to know that they are joining their life to a person in progress. Time will not stand still, and neither will the person they are marrying. He or she will be different in six months, six years and 60 years. They are not marrying a static image, but a dynamic, constantly changing person. The question is, will they change together or apart?

Before I marry couples, I try to get them to consider the trajectory along which their lives are headed. We talk about their values and goals, and whether they share them. I often tell them that having a great marriage is not a matter of marrying the right person, but of becoming the right people.

Another thing couples need to know: Treating a spouse as a means to an end will sooner or later (and probably sooner) bring their marriage to an end. Whether the desired end is happiness or financial prosperity or social acceptance does not matter. A spouse is a person, not a tool; a person one has vowed to love, not to use.

But if some husbands and wives treat their spouses like objects, others treat their spouses like gods, which is just as bad. Some people enter marriage thinking that their spouse will meet all their needs and fulfill all their desires. When their spouse fails — which is inevitable — to fill the God-shaped hole inside them (to borrow Pascal’s description), they feel let down and betrayed.

A spouse cannot be another person’s all in all. That is a position that only God deserves and only God can handle.

Couples also need to know that there are times when marriage is hard. Joining two very different lives, with different backgrounds and experiences, not to mention different values and goals, is going to take work. If a person goes into marriage thinking that it will be easy, he or she will certainly be disillusioned. Even the best marriages have their share of difficulties, and some can be severe.

But couples also need to know that they can weather the marriage storms and be stronger for it.

Survey data collected from couples who once considered divorce show that more than three out of four claim to have a good marriage five years later. This is where the fact that we are always changing can actually help. If those changes move a couple toward each other rather than away, they can still have a good marriage — maybe even a great one.

— Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Branch County, Michigan. Read more at