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Real-ationship Advice

Don’t Forget to Plan Your Marriage

By Jenna Parks, Publisher of Heart of NC Weddings 

Everyone shows up to their wedding day with love in their hearts and a desire for success – so what takes couples from that, to a lifelong marriage? 

Our entire lives, we are taught that love is about “finding the one.” It’s so powerfully embedded in our culture, it’s hard to prevent the deep seeded effects. I grapple with this as a mother – sure, I know that the messages in “The Little Mermaid” and “Cinderella” aren’t the best, but I can’t bring myself to deny my daughter these classics. Next thing I know, my preschooler is lining up her princess dolls and having Mickey Mouse dance with each, one by one, in order to select his wife (yes, that’s right, a three-year-old invented the storyline of The Bachelor). 

Rose-Colored Social Media Relationships

The rise in blogs and social media over the past decade has paved the way for an obsession with one anothers’ lives. Even as thousands of influencers and friends alike now invite us into their relationships, the “real talk” is only so real. The bravest of the bunch admit that we’ve overcome a troubling time with our partner, or that behind the smiling date night snapshot was an argument over where to park the car. I see this as a quasi-positive development, because it reminds us that we all struggle, and encourages us to keep striving. But I do hope that couples realize that these rose-colored posts are only surface-level. 

The Real Journey of a Marriage

The real journey of a marriage is so much deeper than can be put into an Instagram post. It’s morning breath to night-time giggle fests. It’s saving pennies and spur of the moment road trips. It’s holidays with in-laws that drive you bananas. It’s holding your partner’s hand as your child is born. It’s standing by your spouse after the death of their mother. It’s having the strength to take care of yourself and fight depression after your unexpected job loss – because you have a family who needs you. It’s thank you’s and apologies. It’s experiencing the everyday, as well as the great joys and sorrows of life – expected and unexpected – and, with love and patience, finding a way to grow together through it all. 

Yet it’s also simple: it’s a choice of commitment. And as a divorced wedding magazine publisher, I can tell you that this choice cannot be one-sided. And, it does not end the day you say yes, or I do. Both partners have to wake up and make the choice to be a team, every single day. 

Setting Intentions

If you are engaged during a whirlwind romance, it might be hard to listen to the relationship veterans. They’ll tell you that passion will come and go, and that friendship, support and partnership are the true elements of lasting love. More likely, you are one of the majority of engaged couples today who dated for more than two years before becoming engaged. This is a great thing, as making it past this euphoric period of falling in love, and into the normal relationship groove, makes your expectations for marriage that much more realistic.

Even if you’ve been partners for a decade before you take those vows, get ready – marriage might still feel different, because it is different! So how do we prepare for uncharted territory?

Identify Your Core Values and Spiritual Principles

My humble thoughts – which I hope to put into practice one day – are these: as you prepare for marriage, try to dive deeper than the visions of how your life together will look. What’s real and lasting are the core values and spiritual principles that define you – as these are the guide to your behavior alone and as part of a couple. This can be hard to identify and discuss. But understanding these truths in one another, and making sure they are in line is crucial to a successful partnership.

“It’s hard to know how to navigate your marriage until you’re in it. There’s not a road map included with your marriage license,” says Heidi Gessner, a local wedding officiant and relationship coach. “That’s why it can be helpful to hire a certified coach.”

Heidi says that she often coaches couples she is already working with as the wedding officiant – she offers bundled packages, and of course they go hand in hand. She helps these couples to cope with the stress of planning their wedding, while also building the foundation for marriage.

Premarital Counseling 

“By creating a safe space, I help couples honor their unique relationship, learn more about themselves, get clear and set intentions about what they want, and develop the necessary skills that make for a successful marriage,” she explains. “And yes, couples who have wonderful, loving relationships thrive in this atmosphere! It makes them that much more excited, and prepared for their lives together.” 

One more note: many couples of faith do premarital counseling through their church, and this is a wonderful thing. This does not exclude you from gaining more insight into your relationship with a coach like Heidi, who does a lot of deep diving into how to mesh your personalities and work together as a team. 

Out of all of the things you’ll be spending time, energy and funds on during your engagement, there’s no better investment than on the two of you!

Heidi Gessner Best NC Wedding Officiant and Certified Relationship Coach Marriage Coaching in Raleigh, NC Joe Payne
WEDDING OFFICIANT Weddings by Heidi | PHOTO Joe Payne Photography

Heidi Gessner Weddings

Heidi is an Ordained United Church of Christ Minister who’s been officiating weddings since 2007. If you are looking for an officiant for your ceremony, I cannot recommend Heidi enough. She is warm, engaging, kind, and passionate about spreading love and positivity through her work. Heidi’s speciality is in creating personal, meaningful ceremonies for couples regardless of sexual orientation and spiritual beliefs. She is also a certified life and relationship coach, and offers guidance for both engaged couples and newlyweds. Her approach includes a combination of a marriage enrichment inventory, personality assessments, and discussions about both the couple’s current issues and their strengths that can be celebrated. In the end, this communication is all with the goal of having a life-long marriage.

Learn more about Heidi by visiting her website or following her on Instagram @weddingsbyheidi.

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