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Marriage Preparation
About the Book

The Southern Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years: How to Stay Sane Once You’ve Caught Your Man (NAL Trade Paperback Original, 2007) offers practical advice about everything from decorating and date nights to male-speak and mothers-in-law. It recently won the USA Best Books Award in the humor category.

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Watch Annabelle explain book

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The Southern Girl's Web Site

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the Pre-marriage minute

Marriage: Not Just a Ceremony

By Annabelle Robertson
Author, The Southern Girl's Guide Bridal Season is almost here. Are you preparing for a wedding or a marriage? That’s the question posed by Christian author and chaplain’s wife Annabelle Robertson, author of the award-winning book, The Southern Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years: How to Stay Sane Once You’ve Caught Your Man

Of the estimated 1.2 million couples who will tie the knot this year, as many as 65 percent won’t survive.What can people do to beat the odds? "A lot," says Robertson, who offers these tips:

1.  Don’t rush the wedding. “There is a time for everything,” wrote the Psalmist, and that includes your engagement. Like other seasons, it cannot and should not be rushed. You’re getting ready to take on the world as a couple, and that doesn’t happen overnight – especially if you’re busy planning the biggest party of your life. So set a wedding date that allows plenty of time to invest in your relationship.

2.  Be patient – and set good boundaries. We all experience sexual temptation, whether married or single.  It’s Satan’s way of trying to wreck the gifts God gives us, and he doesn’t give up after we’ve walked down that aisle. If you don’t resist now, however, you may not later. It doesn’t get any easier. Besides, anything worth having is worth the wait.

3.  Get to know his/her family.  In a highly mobile society, few people live near loved ones.  But marriage needs community – and family – to succeed. So visit. Call. Send presents. And don’t be afraid to mend fences. You need your family, now more than ever.

4.  Spend time with happily married couples.  Seek out those who’ve been married five, ten, twenty years – then watch, listen, and learn.  People who have successfully navigated this bumpy road know the hurdles, and will offer plenty of good advice.

5.  Invest in good premarital counseling.  It will help you understand patterns of relating, which are usually derived from family dynamics, long before you get bogged down. It will also uncover areas of potential conflict, giving you skills to cope.

6.  Pray and attend church together.  It’s the foundation upon which you’ll build your marriage. Prayer will bond you and allow you to share your hearts. So begin now.

7.  Think long term, when it comes to wedding costs.  A designer dress or multi-carat ring may seem fun but later, when you need a new car or a down payment, they will feel frivolous.  Debt also causes tremendous friction for couples. So spend wisely. 

The average couple stumbles to the altar years of free-fall dating, then spends the engagment period preparing for a wedding, not a marriage. But the decision of whether to add a groom's cake to the menu or engrave your invitations doesn't exactly train people to deal with the hurts and dashed expectations that can hit after the honeymoon.

Dating isn't much help, either. There's a lot that I wouldn't want to go back to, when it comes to the so-called olden days, but after years of searching for a decent guy, then bumbling my way through the newlywed period--mostly for lack of example--I long for that time when the most important decision of our lives wasn't made in isolation. I can't help but wonder how much easier it was to meet, date, and marry within the context of families, neighbors, communities, and churches, rather than bars and singles outings. And, while I have no doubt that some bachelors suffered the unjust scorn of snobby mothers or overprotective dads (as they still do), I'm also sure there were a lot fewer one-night stands when those same suitors were forced to reckon with dear ole dad at the dinner table.

Nowadays, we're lucky if we meet our in-laws prior to the wedding. (Mark and I met ours at the wedding.) With no one to hold us accountable, the whole dating period could be construed as false advertising. I liken it to a season of The Bachelor. You walk on the beach at sunset, loll around in the hot tub, dress up for the grand finale, and then, out of all the possible candidates, he picks you! You! You get the rose, the ring, the wedding, the party, and the honeymoon in Fiji. The only problem is, a few months after you get home, your handsome husband has turned into My Big Fat Fiancee -- without the million dollars in your bank account.

In an ideal world, couples would attend months of premarital counseling with qualified therapists, and they would go before the engagement--not after. After all, who better than professionals to tell us whether to get engaged? Mark and I did, and we've never regretted it. Even though he had already bought the ring when we began our premarital counseling, we decided to postpone the engagement until after we had worked through some of the conflict that counseling had unearthed.

Given the raging popularity of divorce in our families, we knew we needed a lot more help than six or eight discussions about who would be doing the dishes or talking out the trash (him, by the way, on both counts). As Mark said, "In my family, we don't disagree. We divorce." I replied, "In my family, we disagree--loudly, frequently and with flying objects--and then we divorce." Sometimes I think that instead of "Crown Him with Many Crowns" as our wedding processional, they should have played the music from Psycho.

So, anyways to offset some of our risk factors, Mark and I opted for a little disaster planning. Right before the wedding, we signed up for marriage couseling--the real kind. Yep, even though we were madly in love, caught in the throes of prewedding bliss, we tracked down a good counselor. A few weeks after the honeymoon, we went in to deal with our stuff. And, boy did we have stuff. You'd have thought we were moving to rural Appalachia, we had so much baggage. Suffice to say that when two odest children marry--especially when one is a Yankee from an all-boy family and the onther is a Southerner from an all-girl family--it's like two enemy monarchs trying to share the same palace. Welcome to the Middle Ages.

Purchase Your Copy of The Southern Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years

Contact Annabelle Robertson

Annabelle Robertson is an award-winning journalist, attorney, and military chaplain’s wife. Together with her husband, she has counseled dozens of newlyweds. She is a regular contributor to, has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, and her book has been featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines.

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