Marriage Preparation

When couples get engaged and plan their wedding, they are often busy with the excitement, details and stress of wedding planning.

We spend a lot of time, money and energy on planning our weddings.

What About Planning Our Marriages?

Current research shows that the best way to build a lifelong marriage is to prepare for it.

Want A Happier Marriage?

Great! Grab our 7 simple steps to improve communication in your marriage (in less than 15 minutes):

In our Marriage Prep 101 Workshops, we apply the latest scientific research that shows what makes marriages succeed and fail.

Marriage preparation can help couples enhance their strengths, clarify expectations, identify areas needing change, learn and practice communication and conflict resolution skills, and develop more emotional and sexual intimacy. With attention and effort, most couples can create a strong relationship that will safeguard them against the inevitable strains of modern life.

Unfortunately, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Half of those report being happily married, so only 25% of married couples consider themselves happily married.

Taking a marriage preparation workshop can help couples increase the likelihood of happy, successful marriages.

The Facts About Marriage Preparation

Research by four studies has found that taking a skill-based marriage preparation class can reduce the divorce rate by 30%. Also, research has found that couples who increase their positivity, learn how to resolve conflict, prioritize their marriage, and avoid relationship traps are indeed able to increase satisfaction and longevity.

In addition, according to the research, when couples have a baby, 2/3 report that their marital satisfaction goes down. However, if they know how to prioritize and work on their marriage, they will be better able to transition to parenthood, and reclaim their marriage after children to work well together as parents, friends and spouses.

Most of us take Driver’s Ed classes when we learn to drive, and childbirth classes when we are expecting a baby.

Why not take a marriage preparation class to prepare for your marriage? We invest in what is important to us- our education, career, hobbies and interests, parenting, golf game, yoga practice…what about our relationships?

Prepare for the Big Issues

The first five years of marriage are essential to figure out how to have a satisfying friendship, romantic life and partnership. The most popular issues during the first five years of marriage are time, sex and money.

Many couples continue to fight about domestic responsibilities and finances. Conflict is inevitable in a long-term relationship, so it is essential to learn healthy conflict resolution skills and emotional repair.

Couples need to learn how to communicate well, express love and caring, have fun together, appreciate each other, and create a relationship that is satisfying to both.

Imagine being the person you really want to be, and creating a long-term marriage that you can be proud of. I believe that we can be intentional, committed, proactive and positive, and even have fun along the way!

What level of marriage preparation did you have?  What should have been done better to prepare you for marriage?

Dr. Michelle Gannon is a Psychologist, Couples Therapist, Relationship Expert, Wife, Mother and Co-Founder of Marriage Prep 101, Award Winning Workshops for Engaged, Newlywed and Seriously Dating Couples. Dr. Gannon writes at Dr Michelle Gannon and Marriage Prep 101, and interacts on Twitter. Dr. Michelle Gannon has been featured on the CBS Early Show, The Kathleen Show, Evening Magazine TV, TIME, PEOPLE, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Gate, Hitched Magazine, and many other newspaper, magazine, radio and TV shows over the years.

She has been married for 14 years, and is a mother of 12 1/2 and 11 year-old sons, a cat and golden retriever. She has taught Marriage Prep 101 workshops with her husband, Dr. Patrick Gannon to over 1,200 couples for the past ten years in San Francisco, and loves helping couples prepare for life-long satisfying marriages.

Photo by michelle.hayes



About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. Pingback: hobbies and interests for couples | HOBBIES
  2. I think marriage prep is a great idea, but at the moment I am having trouble finding someone qualified in my area. Granted, I’ve only done some online searches, but I’d love your ideas and maybe some tips and tricks to finding a marriage prep counselor that would fit our needs (personally, we are looking for someone that is knowledgeable in interfaith marriages). Hearing more about the mechanics of the process would be good, too. 🙂 Yes, I’m one of the few unmarried people who read your blog. 🙂

    1. Hi Catherine! I bet there are a few more unmarried people than you think here, but you guys are always too quiet. 🙂 I definitely need to spend more time talking about marriage preparation, especially since that was one of the reasons I started this blog. Please feel free to share questions you’d like to see addressed in the marriage prep area.

      Where are you located? I’m betting Dr. Gannon may be able to help you find a great colleague in your area. Most of my resources would be through the Catholic Church (since that’s where we do a lot of our teaching), and it sounds like you may be looking for something more secular or least less “dogmatic” to help in your interfaith situation. That said, if one of you is Catholic, there is a real emphasis in the Pre-Cana program in helping couple deal with interfaith issues).

  3. I think it’s a great idea to have someone experienced who really knows what questions need to be asked, what needs to be addressed before a marriage begins. PLEASE ENTER ME IN THIS CONTEST!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Mangage Your Money Challenge =-.

    1. Thanks so much, Laura! I think the experience factor is key. I know we felt totally ready for marriage, but when we look back now after nine years we certainly see *many* areas we could have been better prepared. By the way, our marriage preparation was quite terrible, which is one of our motivations for teaching at marriage prep workshops nowadays.

  4. Please Enter Me In This Giveaway! This sounds wounderful – I am truly a believer in classes of all sorts and your post really made sense to me. Why would I spend 18 hours learning how to decorate cakes but not take the time to really learn how to make a marriage work?

    1. Awesome, Meredith! Dr. Gannon did a great job of putting marriage preparation into its proper perspective. People spend SO much time doing *wedding* prep for one day, but they say they’re too busy for *marriage prep* to help prepare them for a lifetime.

  5. I was really excited to do marriage prep and it’s one of the first things I orgNised when I got engaged. In our pArish marriAge prep is compulsory And involves 2 group sessions and 1 couple session with a qualified psychologist that goes over your focus results. So many other couples complain about being forced to do it and some couples even choose to get married outside the church to avoid it. We did our marriAge prep sessions about 6 months before our wedding but the other couples in our group were getting married in the next couple of weeks.
    It covered things like conflict resolution and the love languages. In the end I was a bit disappointed, because I don’t feel I learnt anything new. Every topic was something my husband And I had read a book on together before we got engaged as part of our own personal engagement prep. I think the other couples learnt alot though
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..iPhone Addiction =-.

    1. You are on the ball, Mary! It sounds like you guys could have taught your marriage preparation course. Maybe you should now. 🙂


    Jim and I have been married for almost four months now, and it is fantastic! We could really benefit from a marriage prep session though. We talked about attending one as soon as we got engaged, but the time flew by and next thing you know we were married! I’d like to do anything we can to increase our odds of staying happily married so please choose us receive the workshop. Crossing fingers. THANK YOU!

    1. You are in the running, EMO! You’ll just have to be really nice to between now and Tuesday because that’s how the winner will be chosen. Right now, you have a 1 in 3 chance! 😉

      I LOVE your enthusiasm and your desire to have the best marriage that you can. Please keep reading here and speak up in the comments. Also, if you and Jim have any specific questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to address them in a post. This site is all about helping newlyweds, and you guys are *very* newlywed. 🙂

  7. Thank you for inviting me to write a guest article for your wonderful blog. Yes, my husband and I welcome Engaged, Newlywed (up to 2 years of marriage), and Seriously Dating Couples in our San Francisco Marriage Prep 101 Workshops. We are also happy to answer any questions people have about marriage preparation, marriage education, couples therapy or relationship advice. Good luck with the contest!
    .-= Michelle Gannon´s last blog ..Wellness: Make Time For You =-.

    1. Thank you for accepting, Michelle! I want to focus some more posts here on marriage preparation because I feel it is so vital. I appreciate you taking the time to share the facts and also for your generous donation of a Marriage Prep 101 course. 🙂

      1. Dustin! I absolutely LOVE your blog! I’m soooo happy that there are more people like you joining the WAR on divorce! …And I love that you’re wanting to do more about Marriage Prep.. the general population doesn’t realize how important it is and how much head, heart and wallet aches it can save you in the long run!!! I’d be happy to submit some material on Marriage Prep, Anytime! :o) Keep up the Good Work!

        Dr. Gannon~ You are AWESOME! Your article is so well written and even though I’ve been studying marriage prep for a few years, I learned a lot and appreciate it!! I would really like to enter this contest, as I’m a marriage prep coach and although my honey and I have been to many seminars and workshops, ironically, we have never done a marriage prep course! I believe in walking my talk, and I don’t think there is anyone else I’d like to do this with then you!!! So PLEASE ENTER ME :o)

        1. Thanks so much, Cory! Your comments are always so honest and affirming as well. You may not realize this, but you were my first commenter way back when….like seven months ago. Thanks for your continued support, and if you have a guest post that you think would be helpful on this topic, please send it my way! 🙂

  8. Please Enter Me in the Contest!!

    We just got engaged in November after 8 years of “dating”!! We will be getting married in June, and while I think we have already gotten past a lot of those bumps that newlyweds hit, we can ALWAYS improve on our relationship! Especially our conflict resolution and division of household duties. I’m hoping we can start our own family in the next year as well, and I know that can lead to a lot of stress on a marriage. I’m so excited! Pick me! Pick me! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, NorCalRN! Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Our anniversary is June 16th!

      I love your proactive mindset and the realization that good relationships can be made even better with knowledge and action. Keep your fingers crossed! 😉

  9. Great article. My wife and I did an intensive pre-marital counseling course with our pastor before getting married and it really prepared us well for our first few years of marriage. Managing expectations is key! Highly recommended.
    .-= DJ Wetzel´s last blog ..Break Down Your Goals Into Bite Sized Pieces =-.

    1. Thanks, DJ! I love how you specified that a key is “managing expectations.” That is so true and so vital to a happy marriage…especially in the early years.

  10. As Dustin pointed out many marriage prep classes discuss interfaith marriage. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, where we prepare over 5,000 couples for marriage each year, about 20% are going to be in an interfaith marriage. Our workbook, A Marriage in the Lord, which has been used by over 500,000 engaged couples throughout the US includes information on interfaith marriages.
    Couples of all faiths are welcome at our marriage preparation programs. The vast majority have a great experience. Check us out at

    1. Thanks for your great comment, Frank! You guys in the Chicago Diocese are very busy compared with us in the Springfield, Illinois Diocese. 🙂

      I love the site you have as well!

  11. We are not Catholic, but our church required 4 pre-marital counseling sessions with the pastor who was to perform the marriage ceremony and they also offered a 12 week marriage prep class that we decided to attend where we were connected with a marriage mentor couple. At the time they had been married 25 years with 5 children. They were our mentors through our engagement period and through the first year of our marriage. So many people told us the first year of marriage is the hardest. Our first year of marriage was a complete blast and an utter blessing! We are currently in our 4th year of marriage and even though we have gone through (and continue to go through) tough times we don’t feel overwhelmed. We continue to cling to each other and God.

    1. Excellent, Sarah. Even within the Catholic Church, there are a lot of variations between Dioceses and even parishes. One parish where we help with marriage preparation uses the FOCUS program, and they assign mentor couples to meet individually with engaged couples as you noted. I have heard they get great feedback from that approach. Of course, it requires willing and dedicated volunteers to make it happen. God bless those mentor couples!

  12. When we developed Marriage Prep 101 ten years ago, we researched the major inventories: PREPARE, FOCUS and RELATE. We like all of them for different reasons, but we chose to use RELATE because it was the only one available online back then, and each couple could receive a 20 page report about their relationship highlighting their strengths and challenges. We encourage our Marriage Prep 101 couples to take an inventory-it is a great launching pad for many conversations. If you are looking for Marriage Prep or Marriage Education Classes nationally, please check out the directories at and Thanks again!
    .-= Michelle Gannon´s last blog ..Wellness: Make Time For You =-.

  13. I’m going to make a confession: my husband and I did NOT do marriage prep or take pre-marital counseling. We did have ONE (90 minute) session with the Father who married us. That was it. It was nice, but we could have used more prep, that’s for sure.

    My husband and I were married by a Father of the Episcopal faith. My husband grew up in that church, I did not. I grew up being exposed to MANY different religions, spiritual beliefs and what not. I am very thankful for that because it’s actually allowed me to be more steadfast in my own faith and personal values and beliefs, because I was given the freedom to choose for myself what I believed to be true. I have arrived at Christianity with a more spiritual slant, and while I do attend church 1–3 times per month, I don’t have a church that I attend 1–2 times weekly–neither does my husband. My husband grew up going to church every Sunday and doesn’t enjoy it now. That is totally fine with me.

    Anyway, religious or not–whether it’s a Christian Marriage Preperation Class or a general one, I sincerely believe that it should be REQUIRED that ALL couples who want to get married should HAVE to take a marriage prep course.

    It is my belief that if a person, or a couple, doesn’t want to put work into planning the marriage, thinking about it, getting to know the other person and how they work under pressure, discussing REAL issues and facing the reality that marriage brings–if a person or a couple doesn’t want to do that, than they shouldn’t be getting married at all!

    If a person isn’t willing to work on a marriage BEFORE it happens, chances are, they won’t be very willing to work on it AFTER it happens.

    I have always agreed with the whole “plan your marriage more than your wedding,” thing–it’s so true! That being said, my husband and I DO work on our marriage and I feel abundantly blessed that I have someone that WANTS to work on it and for the most part, is willing to. That’s a huge factor! But, unfortunately, he’s not that willing to go to martial workshops–and I find that sad. It’s not me trying to “fix” him or prove that I’m right (half the time, I’m really not) but I think that much like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to sustain a marriage.

    At the end of the day, it IS about the couple–what happens in a marriage is really only the business of the two people in it. However, it DOES help to have outside HELP, an objective ear, and workable tools! Marriage is wonderful and blessed–but it’s hard–learning to live with someone, communicate effectively, balance yourself with them, juggle schedules, personal habits, work life, children, family, finances–etc, etc, etc….it’s a job in and of itself. So I highly recommend a marriage prep course!

    I think that if my husband and I had taken one (beyond our 90 min. session) we would have an easier time today.We’re getting better at communicating and we absolutely love each other now more than ever before, but, our first year (we just had our first anniversary) was tremendously difficult. We both admitted to that, having a marriage prep course probably would’ve made it a little less difficult.

    I’m not saying that a marriage prep course will solve all your problems, because at the end of the day, it’s up to the couple themselves. But, it couldn’t hurt. And yes, it would definitely save a lot of marriages, I totally agree! If a couple goes to a marriage prep course and finds out they can’t or shouldn’t be married, than, while that would be very sad and certainly NOT the goal–it’s better to have a broken engagement than a divorce. Or, wind up a marriage that you had no clue about how to do. I know many people who have said to me that they wish they would have known then, what they know now, about their spouse. Personally, I’d marry my husband again and again, but not everyone can say that. A marriage prep course could save a lot of broken marriages and a lot of broken hearts!

    I like what Sarah S. said about how she and her husband had a “mentor couple,” and I love that idea! I think it’s absolutely terrific to have another (longer) married couple to look up to, lean on and heed advice from. Every person and every marriage is different, but surrounding myself with other married couples is definitely good for my own marriage. Support of a marriage is so vital, as so many today don’t take it as seriously as they should.

    Anyway, my brother-in-law is getting married in August, and his fiancee is Catholic, they are taking a 12 week marriage prep course before their wedding and when I found that out I said “That is awesome! You will not regret it and it will probably end up helping you more than you can possibly imagine!” I’m all for marriage prep and marriage upkeep! This is a great post, Dustin, thanks!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz

    1. Thank you SO much for your honest and very thoughtful comment, Sarah Liz! I TOTALLY agree with you, and I think this sentence summed it up best for me:

      “If a person isn’t willing to work on a marriage BEFORE it happens, chances are, they won’t be very willing to work on it AFTER it happens.”

  14. Congratulations to EMO (Erinne) who was the lucky winner of this giveaway! And thank you to everyone who participated in the comments. This is a wonderful discussion about the importance of marriage preparation.

    I have some more resources (and another great giveaway) coming soon on the topic of Marriage Preparation. If you are not already signed up for updates, please do so now in the upper-right corner of the site so you don’t miss future updates!

    Thanks Dr. Gannon!

  15. Pingback: First Comes Love, Then Marriage, Then the Mother In Law! | Best Relationships
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  17. Wedding prep, what an ingenious consideration. To prepare ourselves for the married life, we first purchased a premarital counseling type of book. We are looking for workshops and premarital classes just to ensure that we really understand the dynamics of marriage and all the things that come with it that you don’t think of in the beginning.
    However, my friend went to several weekend workshops with her hubby to be, and they went through a rigorous courtship and premarital counseling routine, but it turned out he was zoning out on all of it apparently, b/c he decided she was too religious for him. Even though all the sessions they went to were about God’s view on marriage. So, I do think premarital preparation is super important, but you have to make sure to talk to your mate and communicate DURING it also, to ensure they are paying attention and want to be there with you


  18. I love how you mentioned the divorce rate is reduced by 30% when a couple attends a skill-based marriage preparation class first. People who are engaged and who plan on getting engaged should take these classes so that they can have a better chance of a long-lasting marriage. Thanks for sharing this statistic about divorce and marriage preparation class.

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