It’s the holiday shopping season and if you have engaged friends – or newlywed friends, or someone is about to pop the question – in your life on your shopping list, chances are you have their marriage in mind. Good, because so do they!
At the time of this writing, I’ve officiated at fourteen weddings and counting and in each case, I’ve met with the couple before the wedding to prepare for their marriage. Wedding vendors are great, but for me, it’s about the marriage – all those days that come after “the big day.” In the process of meeting with couples preparing for marriage, I’ve observed patterns in what gets them sharing, what makes them hold each other accountable, and what has them challenged. I want couples to succeed, and I do my best to put the right tools in front of them.
It’s no secret marriage isn’t easy, but it’s no secret that doing the work pays off. What follows is a list of five ideas for what you can get a couple who is about to take the plunge or who recently did. Each is a product I’ve either used with couples in premarital sessions and/or I’ve personally used in my own marriage. And the price ranges from under $10 to $35 – a reminder that you don’t have to break the bank to do good work on your marriage!
And don’t worry if the people you have in mind are already married. Newlyweds need all the tools they can get, too. Remember, it’s not just about leading up to “the big day,” but all the days that come after it.
Five practical gift ideas for your engaged or newlywed friends.
1. It’s a classic: get them two, yes, two copies of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts!
Over the years I’ve found the ideas behind The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman come up again and again in premarital sessions. Sometimes the couple has already read it, other times I ask and when they hadn’t, I offered them ideas from it. Now, I just assign it to read as a prerequisite to our getting together, it’s built into the package. It’s just plain good. And if you’ve read it, you know it’s true. You even know that the five love languages – words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch – transfer to many aspects of life.
So why two copies? Because they chances of them sitting down and reading it together like its story time are minuscule. They each need their own copy so they can take read it on their own time, jot down their own notes and marginalia without being influenced by their partner, and to have it handy when they need to refer to it down the road (“What was that all about?! Hmm, where’s that book?…”). When I order couples this book as a prerequisite to our premarital sessions, I get them two. No complainers yet.
2. Every couple needs a really good calendar!
Get them a good wall calendar to put on the fridge, because every couple, and I mean every couple, needs a shared calendar. Use an app, use a notebook, use a wall calendar. Whatever, just use one! I’ve worked with several couples who were having some tough communications challenges.
As I would probe further, it would often be a lack of knowing each other’s schedule and holding each other accountable.
Then I’d ask, “Do you two have a calendar?” Responses were varied.
“Well, we have one on the fridge, but we don’t use it.”
If you own a calendar but you don’t use it, you don’t have a calendar. You have a decoration.
Eventually, every couple should settle on the calendaring system that works for them. We use the Google calendar system pretty well, though we have a wall calendar, too, that fits our family’s taste very nicely. That’s my recommendation to you: give this couple the gift of a wall calendar that suits their taste. Sports team, music artist, their honeymoon destination, etc. Whatever it is, it can be fun and supportive for good communication.
3. Pay the bill for their Prepare-Enrich Assessment.
I don’t officiate weddings where the couple hasn’t done premarital education, and good premarital education has a foundation to it. There are a few options out there, but I have to be honest, I keep coming back to the Prepare-Enrich Assessment. If you’ve never done this, here’s how it works:
Couples sign up to each take an assessment on their own. They respond to tons of questions, and their responses are compared and calculated with each other to determine where they have the most agreement and disagreement. Then, they meet with their facilitator to explore their strength and growth areas by going over the results and trying some exercises together. Couples get their results processed, assignment sheets, and a workbook they get to keep. That’s a pretty good deal for only $35. Not only that, in Minnesota when a couple participates in enough premarital education they get a $75 break on their marriage license. Prepare-Enrich can be the foundation of doing that work.
These days, I throw this inventory into the cost of the wedding package so it’s just taken care of, but I’ve also worked with couples who had someone purchase it for them as a gift. All you’ve got to do is get their facilitator’s unique code inputted to receive the results. Taking care of this expense can show a couple you believe in their marriage. Check out this sample inventory.
4. Give this new couple a good book about their favorite topic: being together!
Journaling is good for you. Journaling about your marriage with your partner is good for you, too. That’s why there are dozens of options out there for recording all the moments together, from the silly to the sweet, and from the crucial to the meaningful. One I’ve experienced is Our Q&A a Day: 3-Year Journal for 2 People and there’s lots out there, take a look. Even if this couple receives four or five as wedding gifts, it’s nice to have options and they’re typically inexpensive gift options that can play a vital role in keeping close together in their hearts.
5. The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage by Rob Bell & Kristen Bell
My last suggestion is a book about marriage. Like calendars and couples’ journals, there are lots of options out there. But I have a soft spot in my heart for The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage by Rob Bell and Kristen Bell. I think it’s thoughtful, vulnerable, non-judgmental, funny, and practical. It has a theological slant to it, and I would name it as centrist to progressive. I think the Bells would perhaps not want to put a label on that, I don’t know. I’m going to, though, because there are many, and I mean many, overtly-conservative Christian books on marriage out there.
If that’s your thing, good for you. This is not that. And there is a major lack of progressive theology materials on marriage. So when one pops up, even when the theology is more a facet than the backbone, we’ll take what we can get.
Plus, it has pictures!
Okay, that’s five ideas for what you can offer to your friends who are engaged or newlyweds. We all know Idea #6 is cold, hard cash. But if you need a blog to know that, I don’t know what to tell you. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!
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