Thanks to all who responded to our call for stories of spiritual wedding preparation. Here are some of the ways our readers readied their inner selves for the big day.

When my husband and I got married 30 years ago, it was suggested to have premarital counseling, which we did. The pastor said, "Why do you want to get married?" My husband said that he likes the way I look. The pastor said, "Years from now, looks will change." I had read an inspirational article about true beauty, and how when we love others it transforms our face. So in preparation for our wedding, I thought about each person who was coming, and I said a prayer for them. This July 5, we will be celebrating 31 years of marriage.
--Christine and Carl

My husband and I have been married 38 yrs (will be 39 in November 2006). We spiritually prepared for our wedding by attending a series of classes offered by my church. We also met with our pastor who performed the ceremony. We found the classes especially helpful because they touched on everyday topics, like...how to deal with in-laws, children, work, finances, commitment, sexual feelings, and prayer life.
--Nancy Kenney

To relax from all the preparations and frayed nerves, my husband and I spent the evening before the wedding together talking and holding hands. It was technically against the rules, but it worked out well. We just talked and listened to soft jazz. I slept well and the next day was refreshed.

My husband Jerome and I took marriage classes both with our pastor and my brother, who is also a minister. We had classes once a week for a month. My brother lives in California, and we live in New York. So we had our classes with him over the phone. It was worth it, because we have now been married for 17 years and we are still as happy as we were the day we were married.
--Stephanie Starks-Hussey

My fiancé and I are to be married at the end of September. I pray daily of course, but as an offering of myself to God for His guidance, I will fast one day a week every week until the big day. It is a way of emptying myself out so that God can put the virtues He wants in there. The Bible says that a good wife is a true blessing, and my fiancé deserves that. I am (in my humble ideals) trying to become that for him, and to bless God with a God-fearing home.

For us it was very important to go to a Pre-Cana weekend retreat through the Catholic Church. We had a great time and learned a lot about each other. We had group religious meetings and they would also send us off, as a couple, to answer questions about ourselves and each other. There was so much to learn in so little time! There were lots of things that we never even considered asking each other, but things that turned out to be very important. It is very important, if you are a spiritual/religious person to go through some sort of spiritual/religious training. It brings you to a closer sense of the word "marriage."

I once took a class in seminary training us to do premarital counseling once we were ministers. My professor encouraged us to offer premarital counseling to couples prior to their weddings, but also to set up a follow-up appointment within the next year. That way, no one has to call you up and "admit" there's a problem in the first year of marriage—the session is already set on the calendar, so the couple can come in and talk about anything (inevitably there will be PLENTY to talk about!). So, as my husband and I prepared for our wedding, we took the same approach. We had a pastoral counselor who helped us journey through the spiritual and emotional aspects of getting married. He encouraged us to consider the unspoken expectations we had for each other, and he also led to us to consider what place God would/should have in our marriage. Then, before our wedding date, we set a time to go back to the counselor to "check in". That time proved invaluable to us, and it set a precedent for us to feel comfortable approaching him anytime we just need a third party to listen and advise. We have been married for two years now, and are still learning to "become married" through a Godly commitment to each other and to our faith.
--Rev. Courtney Mills Jones Willis

My husband and I aren't terribly religious, but I intended to go by the book and have an Orthodox Jewish wedding. Part of the preparation is for the man to attend what's called an aufruf, where he is called to the Torah. In addition, I went to the mikveh, or ritual bath. That was a rather interesting experience, sort of like going to a spa. They sent me into a quite lavish bathroom to shower, file my nails, and otherwise clean myself up so that nothing would come between me and the water. Then an attendant took me to the bath, which is made from rainwater that flows in from outside. I dunked several times before I met the requirements for three kosher immersions and was declared "ready." Something about participating in the rituals made our wedding more special because we were carrying on ancient traditions. I highly recommend it to any Jewish couples, even if they aren't Orthodox. --Doreen Bonnett

My fiancé went into the hospital with double pneumonia three weeks before our wedding - a huge affair - in 1957. I prayed a lot during those weeks. Thank G-d, he was released from hospital three days before the wedding, which went off without a hitch. I prayed a lot that night too. I thanked G-d for letting us reach the day and praying that we would have a good and fruitful life together. We did—for 48 years, with only one argument and only once did we raise our voices with each other. G-d granted my prayers.

When I got married, I decided to prepare by learning to juggle. I am not very coordinated, so this was a hard task for me. I wanted to be able to juggle bowling pins at my wedding, as a metaphor for having to juggle more and bigger things in my life. I carried juggling balls with me everywhere and practiced anywhere, anytime, until finally I was able to juggle them fairly well. I ran out of time for the bowling pins and decided against it for the wedding, yet the discipline and the concentration of being in the present moment helped me remain more spiritually focused. Marriage is like juggling…you have to keep your eyes on all the balls at once and attempt not to drop them! And when you do--which you will--you must begin again!

During our engagement, I would be in the middle of the simplest activities or most routine of chores when I would reflect on what my life would be like after being married, and how it would change. I knew there would be times of trouble and of hardship, and I prayed that God would grant me patience, strength, wisdom, compassion, and some common sense when I needed it, and sometimes when I didn't know I needed it. I asked Him to keep an eye on me and send me gentle reminders that he and my angels were always there for me, just as I knew my husband would be. After almost two years of marriage, I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the changes that are still happening in our lives, but I know that my prayers have been, and continue to be, answered each and every day, and I am forever thankful for His presence.
--Leigh Anne Culliford

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