Congratulations on this wonderful milestone! Few seasons in life are filled with as much joy and anticipation as the time spent preparing to get married. You’ve heard it said: As you plan your wedding, don’t forget to plan your marriage. What does it mean to “plan a marriage” in the midst of the more tangible (and demanding) project of planning a wedding? How do you do it?

Step one: Learn from others

Research demonstrates the long-term value of making time now for marriage education classes or premarital counseling. Those efforts go even further when you supplement them by spending time with an older married couple whose relationship you admire.

Step two: Plan with patience

Couples often overlook the importance of using the wedding planning season as practical marriage preparation. You can intentionally set the tone for your marriage by the values you live out in planning your big day. The transformational process of “becoming one” can occur in everything from how you assemble your guest list to how you determine a honeymoon destination. This is a great time to practice decision-making.

Step three: Discover the purpose of marriage

A wedding is bigger than an individual and even bigger than you as a couple. Ephesians 5 describes a couple laying down their lives for one another and becoming one an icon of God’s sacrificial love for His church. That’s the counter-cultural call of Christian marriage. Sometimes, the smaller decisions, picking a paint color, for example, can cause more discussion than the larger decisions.

Step four: Create a meaningful event

To focus on the sacred nature of marriage in the early church, couples often stood during the course of a weekly church service to exchange their vows. Those weddings were a part of the community of faith’s worship routine. They did not have the grand ceremonies typical of the modern wedding, but their simple public vow accurately reflected the purpose of marriage. Be careful that you don’t allow the complexity of your celebration to overshadow the deeper purpose of a strong Christian marriage to honor God and to celebrate the sacred union of marriage.