Read any bridal magazine or blog, and you’ll find an epic, chronological punch list to complete before the big day. But what about that first week after the honeymoon? What about 10 years down the road, or 50? We reached out to MCL supporters, Christian counselors, and folks who’ve been featured in MCL to get their biggest tips for engaged couples — both for the wedding and the marriage. If you’re engaged or know someone who is, we hope this article will provide some wisdom to balance out all the to-do’s!

But first…

Make sure you’re marrying the right person.

Leona Bishop






     “Tough decisions are sometimes required when principles and values are not aligned or respected. I have noticed too many couples try to ‘repaint’ their partner just to get down the aisle.” – Leona Bishop, owner, Count It All Joy Counseling and Consulting Services

Antonio Mack






     “Marrying someone who is not in alignment with your beliefs can turn you away from God. In various places in the New Testament, we see that marrying other Christians was taught as the wisest practice and was to be expected (such as in) 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 9:5. (Make) sure that you are embarking upon this journey with another follower of Jesus.” – Antonio Mack, founder, Seekers Gate ministry


Why go to counseling?

So many folks strongly recommended counseling — for individuals and couples, premarital and marital — and we agree! If you think counseling is only for people on the brink of a breakup, here are some reasons to reconsider:

Dr. Alyssa Killebrew





“I grew up Episcopalian and (Keath) was a Southern Baptist. I am so thankful that we went to six sessions of pre-marriage counseling to get all our differences and similarities out on the table. We covered religion, finances, sex, family, children, roles, communication styles, and so much more. I would strongly suggest this as a first step.

     “Over the years we sought out professional counseling when we couldn’t agree on hard topics. Premarital counseling set the stage for almost 20 years of counseling during hard times for us both. … Having a third party in the room turns your ears on in a different way.” – Dr. Alyssa Killebrew, owner, Essential Touchstones Psychological Services

Lisa Owens






     “One thing that comes up over and over again in marriage counseling is the impact of unfulfilled expectations. Oftentimes these are driven by each partner having different assumed and expected ‘right and wrong ways’ of seeing things and doing things … ‘This is the way my family did it.’ (Exploring) and discussing family of origin patterns before marriage can head off many conflicts.”  – Lisa Owens, counselor, Cornerstone Counseling

Mandy Bufkin






     “Get individual therapy in addition to premarital counseling. There are so many things in you that marriage will bring out, and chances are you will want professional support in order to navigate these issues in the context of your marriage.” – Mandy Bufkin, ministries director, CityHeart Church

Beth Cowan






     “Take the time for premarital counseling (from a trained therapist, not just your pastor). RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary) is a great resource for this and so affordable!” – Beth Cowan, photographer

Tracy Grenfell






     “Just expect to go to marriage counseling after 15 years. There is nothing wrong with your marriage, you have just hit a new phase.”  Tracy Grenfell, MCL reader


Wedding planning wisdom

Executing the “perfect” wedding can be so stressful, at least three people submitted a simple, one-word tip: Elope. If that isn’t an option, here’s some more wisdom for the wedding planning process.

Cindy Townsend





“Engage in forgiving each other. Engage in serving each other. Engage in focusing your hearts on loving God first and then each other.

     “Extra: As you are focused on each other as an engaged couple, don’t forget to include both of your parents in some aspects of the planning. And remember to express thanks to them in meaningful ways as you prepare to marry, and they prepare for a new normal too.” – Cindy Townsend, women’s minister, First Baptist Jackson

Courtney Ingle





“Honestly … keep the engagement short. We scrapped everything wedding-wise and started over with six months to go. Shorter engagement, less time for wedding planning stress.

     “(Also,) if you’re going to get married RIGHT after college, (consider getting) married during college, apply for married housing, (and) qualify for better assistance because you’re broke. … We would have had less than half the debt (if my husband and I had done this).” – Courtney Ingle, MCL columnist, “Modern Motherhood”

Laura Grace Nash






     “The bride and groom need to sit down with the bride’s parents on one occasion and the groom’s parents on a separate occasion and have a very frank conversation about planning expectations and budget! This needs to happen BEFORE the planning begins!” – Laura Grace Nash, fifth-grade teacher, Madison

Jarred Couch






     “Wedding cakes are so expensive! So for our wedding, the bottom three tiers are Styrofoam. We got them at Michaels and I tooth-picked them together. We got generic icing (for those layers) and then the top layer is real, and we used that for our cake cutting.

     “Then we took the big cake away and brought out Sam’s (Club) sheet cake! We saved over $900!” – Jarred Couch, director of customer experience, Main Street Media

Trinity Kennedy






     “I totally recommend a first look with private vows. We did it, and it’s something I’ll remember and cherish forever. So intimate and gets all those (jitters) out.” – Trinity Kennedy, intern, Ole Miss Sports Productions


Relationship advice

Whether you’re engaged, newly married, empty nesters, or just entered a serious romantic relationship, this advice is evergreen. Tips that showed up more than once? Schedule regular date nights, and be quick to forgive your significant other.

     “Listen to the counsel of parents; many times they can see things you can’t.” – Anonymous reader

Kellye Smith






     “Let it go. If it’s not worth divorcing over, it’s not worth fighting about. Some people fixate on tiny things their spouse does that just irritate the daylights out of them, and they make it into a huge thing. Meanwhile, that spouse has a million other fantastic qualities that matter more.

     “On the other hand, if your spouse is kind enough to tell you the things you do that bother them to no end, be kind and loving enough to stop doing those things … Never lose the respect for your spouse.

     “Also, the thought process ‘What have they done for me?’ is a zero-sum gain. Marriage is about service for always and ever. If each person shows up with the question ‘How can I serve this person today?’ you win every time.” – Kellye Smith, resource consultant, Ross & Yerger

Chrissy Sanders






     “Be the person you want to marry. If you want someone kind, you be kind. If you want someone patient, you be patient. If you want someone forgiving, you be forgiving. If you want someone generous, you be generous.” – Chrissy Sanders, social media marketing specialist, Rich Perspectives

Debby Eubanks






“I would keep it simple with putting God first, honesty, mutual respect, kindness and a sense of humor.” – Debby Eubanks, MCL reader (and Editor Katie Eubanks Ginn’s mom!)

Deborah Simmons






“Just be kind to each other. Strive for the standards God gives us and not what the world entices us (with).” – Deborah Simmons, Master Wedding and Event Planner, Signature Occasions

Sandy Jones






     “Continue to intentionally grow together in the Word, in life habits, in as many ways as possible, so that when trying times come, you have a tri-cord bond — the true covenant of man, wife, AND God — to get you through. Remember you must be intentional in creating your own happily-ever-after, and it’s always easier when God is at the center of it all.” – Sandy Jones, publisher, Christian Living magazine, Boise, Idaho

Joe Ragland






     “A kiss and prayer of thanksgiving before each meal! A habit to be continued even in restaurants.” – Joe Ragland, attorney, Ragland Law Firm


“It is so important to know just who you are and Whose you are.” – Anonymous subscriber


“Find a good therapist and learn how to pray together.” – Hayley Canoy, pediatric service coordinator, University of Mississippi Medical Center