Relationships

Should You Go To Premarital Counseling Before the Big Day?

Premarital counseling offers couples a transformative journey of self-discovery, growth, and preparation for marriage. Whether seeking guidance, tools for effective communication, or an opportunity to strengthen their bond, couples can benefit immensely from this proactive approach.

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on May 13, 2024

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Preparing for marriage is an exciting time – but it can also be a time that causes stress, raises uncertainty, and maybe even gives you “cold feet.”

If you’re engaged or soon-to-be engaged, you may wonder if you have the right information and tools to enter a healthy marriage and set your partnership up for life-long success. This is where premarital counseling comes into play – and it can be a game changer for couples looking for support during this time.  

But how do you know if you should consider premarital counseling? How can it benefit your relationship? Is it worth it? Read on to learn more.

Introduction to Premarital Counseling

The American Psychological Association defines premarital counseling as “educational and supportive guidance to individuals planning marriage.” Depending on the couple’s wants and needs, they may seek counseling from a licensed therapist or counselor or decide to go a faith-based route, seeking counseling from religious leaders at their place of worship. 

While many married couples head to couples therapy to work out existing problems in their marriage, premarital counseling gives couples a jumpstart to set their life-long partnership up for success before the big day, before those marriage problems set in. 

“[Premarital counseling] is not problem-based – it’s more proactive learning about yourself, about your partner, and how to navigate the differences between you,” says Tami Zak, a licensed marriage and family therapist and premarital counselor with Grow Therapy.

The Importance of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling plays an important role in establishing a strong and healthy foundation for a relationship between partners before tying the knot. Not to mention, it provides you with a chance to decide if you absolutely want to follow through with the marriage, Zak says. 

This counseling will give you plenty of insight into your and your partner’s compatibility and what life could look like as a married couple. Zak says even couples who aren’t officially engaged yet can seek premarital counseling to decide if engagement and marriage are what they definitely want.

A premarital counselor can help you and your partner identify potential areas of concern early on and equip you both with valuable tools and skills to help you overcome most challenges. This work will help set the stage for a healthy, fulfilling partnership in marriage. 

Premarital couples counseling provides you and your partner with an opportunity to have deep conversations you might not have otherwise while dating, such as getting to know each other’s childhoods, traumas, and habits you might get annoyed with later in life, says Kristina Anzell, a licensed clinical social worker and premarital counselor with Grow Therapy.

A qualified therapist or counselor will help facilitate discussions on various aspects of married life, including difficult topics that you and your partner may typically shy away from, such as family dynamics or financials. Additionally, you will learn healthy and effective ways to communicate and manage conflict. Counseling is a safe space for you and your partner to talk through anything with a therapist’s support and non-biased help.

The Benefits of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling covers many topics, resulting in numerous benefits, and giving you a leg up before you say, “I do.”

Some examples of these benefits include: 

Building a Strong Foundation for Marriage

Premarital counseling is an excellent way to build a solid foundation and start your marriage off on the right foot.

“You’re both expressing a commitment to [the marriage] as you get started and with that kind of commitment on board, you’re probably going to want to keep investing in your relationship,” Zak says. “That’s the key to a good relationship – you have to keep investing in it. You have to keep giving energy to it. And if you’re starting off that way, more than likely, that’s something you’re taking into the marriage.”

Additionally, one popular form of couples therapy, The Gottman Method, says friendship is the foundation for a successful relationship. Anzell says therapists who are trained in this method can help you work on building and maintaining a foundation of friendship, along with trust and commitment.

Having Realistic Expectations and Understanding Each Other

Premarital counseling offers a unique chance to dive deeper and understand each other fully before getting married. By discussing your desires, needs, and where you stand on certain topics and hearing your partner’s answers, you’ll have realistic expectations for your partnership and how your marriage may look.

Your counselor will ask probing questions and encourage you both to share to get to know each other on a deeper level, talking about things that you may not have been discussing when you were just dating.

Identifying and Addressing Potential Areas of Conflict

Couples may stay quiet on certain topics to keep the peace – but this isn’t doing you any favors. In line with understanding each other and having realistic expectations, you should have an idea of what potential problems could arise in your marriage. For example, if you’re on different pages about wanting to have kids or family dynamics in general, it’s important to be aware of this and talk about it before you get married.

“A lot of things that go on between two people in a relationship are very implicit. They’re never spoken. It’s just assumed,” Zak says. “Good premarital counseling will make those [topics] explicit. You will actually talk about them, and there are no assumptions. You’re going in with open eyes and a clear head.”

As you identify these potential problems that could come down the line, you and your partner can decide if these are things you can work through or compromise on or if they are truly deal breakers that may impact your decision to spend your life with the other person. 

Improved Communication Skills

Communication is key in relationships. Successful marriages require both partners to have effective communication skills

Zak notes many people do not grow up with positive examples of healthy communication. A premarital counselor can examine your unique communication styles and teach you how to communicate properly, respectfully, and effectively. For example, you may learn active listening skills, non-verbal communication tips, how to display empathy, and how to communicate your feelings non-threateningly. 

Conflict Resolution and Problem-Solving

Every marriage – even the most healthy ones – will have conflicts. Life throws us curveballs, and it’s important to be equipped with healthy conflict-resolution skills.

Premarital counseling will give you and your partner valuable problem-solving capabilities to address any problems that may come your way.

“You can have those conversations about, ‘How do we handle stress?’ and ‘How do we handle conflict?’” Anzell says. “If you learn the skills before you need them, you’ll be able to use them when you need them.”

Having problem-solving skills before encountering major conflicts will set you up for success in a healthy relationship

Enhancing Intimacy and Sex Life

Many couples therapists believe when you enhance emotional intimacy, you will, in turn, enhance your sex life, Zak says. All the conversations you have in premarital counseling and the vulnerability you both exhibit will certainly help to build emotional intimacy and trust, which can benefit your sex life.

Furthermore, Zak says premarital counseling is an opportunity to address any questions or concerns about your sex life – such as if there are mismatched sex drives where one partner wants sex every day while the other is fine with sex once a month.

The Different Types of Premarital Counseling

Depending on you and your partner’s specific needs, there are various types of counseling you can opt for. Here are a few examples:

Professional Counseling Services

Professional premarital counseling services are provided by licensed mental health professionals, such as: 

These professionals undergo extensive schooling and training to help people struggling with mental health. Some of these therapists/counselors undergo additional training in couples therapy and premarital counseling – and these are the ones you want to opt for here.

Faith-Based Counseling

There are two approaches to faith-based premarital counseling. The first approach is working with one of the aforementioned licensed mental health professionals who also identify as faith-based. The therapy process will be similar, but your faith will be intertwined into your sessions. For example, Anzell says a faith-based counselor can help you both determine how your faith aligns with your marriage and tips for turning to faith when things in the relationship get tough.

Alternatively, faith-based premarital counseling is available through many religious institutions, Anzell says. Instead of receiving counseling from a licensed mental health professional, your counseling will be from religious leaders, such as priests, pastors, or rabbis. Inquire with your place of worship to see what kind of premarital counseling they offer. 

Premarital Education Programs

There are many options for premarital education programs, which may be conducted through therapists or religious organizations. There may be virtual workshops or group meetings. The goal is to educate and give couples the tools they need to navigate challenges that accompany marriage, such as communication tips and healthy conflict management techniques. 

Some states in the U.S. incentivize couples to undergo premarital education programs, such as by providing a discount on marriage licenses to those who complete the programs. 

While these programs are better than nothing, you’ll get more personalized attention when you and your partner work directly with a premarital counselor where the therapy is tailored just for you versus a broad course made for the masses.

Questionnaires and Assessments

You can find plenty of questionnaires and assessments online regarding compatibility and marriage. While these can give you insight into your partner and relationship, they don’t necessarily serve as counseling or education. However, they can certainly be a tool to bring along with you to a premarital counselor and then you can work through the findings with them, where you can learn about how to manage these differences.

How to Find a Premarital Counselor

You can easily search for premarital couples counselors online. When looking through therapists, make sure you opt for ones who have specialized training in couples therapy and experience with premarital counseling. You can directly ask them this. Zak says you may also look for specific qualifications, such as certified Gottman Method therapists or professionals certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples. 

Your compatibility and rapport with the counselor are just as important as the counselor’s qualifications. It’s crucial that both partners feel comfortable opening up to the counselor and you have a good rapport. Ask the therapist for a quick consultation to determine if they are the right fit for you. 


When it comes down to it, premarital counseling can benefit any couple that’s serious about starting a life together. It is an excellent opportunity to confirm whether you 100% want to move forward with your marriage while also learning important skills for a healthy relationship. Whether you’re seeking guidance, tools for effective communication, or an opportunity to strengthen your bond, premarital counseling might just be exactly what you need to feel more confident before your wedding, building a solid foundation for a life-long happy marriage.

FAQs

  • There is no “perfect” time to start. However, if possible, both Anzell and Zak suggest starting premarital counseling with a licensed professional even before engagement to ensure this is the path you truly want to take with your serious partner. Of course, it’s still okay to start after you’re already engaged – especially if you’re noticing struggles you want to address ASAP. Premarital counseling is better late than never.

  • This varies from couple to couple, but typically it’s at least a few months' worth of sessions. A common timeline is three to six months of sessions every other week. However, it really depends on the therapist, the couple, and how much work there is to be done. If there is underlying trauma or unhealthy patterns in the relationship, counseling may take longer.

  • In the first session or even before the first session, expect questionnaires and assessments. An initial evaluation will help your therapist better understand you, your partner, and your overall relationship. From there, they will determine the best course of action and help you set goals for your time in counseling. In subsequent sessions, prepare to get vulnerable, dig deep, and talk – and of course, listen to your partner talk as well. Expect your counselor to help facilitate difficult conversations and teach you useful skills. There may be “homework” outside of sessions, too.

  • There’s no limit to what you can talk about in premarital counseling, but some common topics to cover include: - Stress (daily life stressors and family life stressors) - Family dynamics - Relationships with in-laws - Money and finances - Parenting and kids - Household roles - Dreams and goals

  • Both Anzell and Zak believe premarital counseling can help prevent divorce. This isn’t foolproof, but the solid foundation you build and the skills you learn in counseling can help your relationship thrive long-term. One study found that premarital education resulted in a 31% decrease in the risk of divorce.

  • Unfortunately, insurance does not typically cover premarital counseling, so you’ll most likely pay out of pocket. Cost varies greatly depending on your location and your counselor’s training. However, Anzell says you can likely expect to pay $150 to $300 a session – but it could be more or less. If finances are a concern, look for marriage counselors with a “sliding scale” for private pay clients.

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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