In this week’s blog post I want to engage in a ‘commercial’ with a view to publicising a 48 page marriage preparation booklet I have just had re-published. Happy Ever After? A work-book for couples preparing for marriage is now in its third edition.
First published in 1996 and then scarcely changed in its second incarnation in 2003, it was very much in need of being updated. The fact is that whereas in 1996 most people wanting a church wedding were not living together; today co-habitation tends to be the norm. Whether we approve of it or not, most couples preparing for marriage are sexually experienced – and this, amongst many other things, affects marriage preparation. So some of the original questions have had to be tweaked, although essentially the course remains the same.
Although much of the course is based on common-sense, the booklet is written from a Christian perspective. Every chapter is headed by an appropriate Bible verse (or verses), and there is a ‘Discovering the Christian dimension’ in which couples are helped to explore ‘the Christian difference’; ‘God’s pattern for marriage’; as also the nature of agape love.
Let me give you a flavour of the booklet, by quoting from the Introduction:
Some believe that moving in together before marriage is a good way to avoid divorce. The logic goes: ‘You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along’. In fact research shows that couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce.
A happy and fulfilled marriage is one of the greatest of blessings men and women can ever experience. Yet it cannot be said of every couple that they lived ‘happy ever after’. Many marriages do not achieve their God-given potential: some marriages break up, while others become dull and sterile. Hence the importance of marriage preparation. For good marriages don’t just happen. Good marriages are the result of people consciously working at their relationship with one another. Your marriage will be successful to the degree that you work at it – both during the period of preparation, as also in the years that lie ahead.
The course assumes that, in addition to the initial interview with your minister, when some of the basic issues relating to the wedding day are sorted out, there will be a number of sessions when you will be helped to think though in a relaxed way what commitment to one another in marriage is all about.
The final section of the book deals with the wedding itself, when you will have an opportunity to finalise the details of the marriage service and to reflect on the meaning of the service.
You will notice that by and large the course is made up of a series of discussion topics, with all sorts of questions to answer. To get the most out of the course you and your partner, before each of the sessions, will need – on your own and together – to work your way through the topics, because some of the questions may require quite a bit of thought before you answer them. Don’t be afraid to write in your answers. Nobody is going to grade you on your answers, for – could they do so – there are no right or wrong answers.
It is important too to state that the primary purpose of the course is to encourage communication and discussion, and so facilitate openness between each couple. It is up to each couple to use the material to suit them and their relational needs. The exploring of ‘red herrings’ may well be as important as adhering to the text. I hope the course proves rewarding and enjoyable.
Although the first and second editions sold well, the original publisher felt it no longer wanted to be in the business of publishing pastoral resources, which meant that another publisher was needed, Fortunately the College of Baptist Ministers (CBM) came to the rescue, with the result that it is now on sale from them – although I need to make clear that there is nothing distinctively ‘Baptist’ about the course.
Including post and packing for UK residents, Happy Ever After? will retail at £2.50 for a single copy and £7 for three (one each for the two getting married + one for the facilitator). Clearly residents outside the UK will need to pay a little more – enquiries are welcome! There are reductions for CBM members: £2.10 for a single copy – £4.50 for three.
Payment may be made by bank transfer: sort-code……. (Barclays Bank, Witham); account number…… (account name: College of Baptist Ministers). At the same time confirm by email to our treasurer (firstname.lastname@example.org) your order together with your name and address. Alternatively cheques may be made out to the College of Baptist Ministers and sent to Peter Thomas, 1 Mimosa Close, Chelmsford CM1 6NW
I am hoping that ministers will do what they did in the past and buy quantities of what I somewhat immodestly would claim to be a useful pastoral tool. If blog readers were happy to help in the promotion of this venture, I would be delighted.