Premarital counseling usually falls under the responsibilities of the pastor or leader of a local congregation, though it might also be performed by a staff member of a pastoral care department or another Christian counselor. Some pastors will not undertake to perform a marriage ceremony unless the engaged couple submits to a series of counseling sessions. Pastors are aware of the blessings and challenges of marriage and want to help those they join in marriage to have successful ones. They see premarital counseling as an important part of helping couples enter into the marriage covenant with open eyes and well-equipped to build and maintain a strong union.
The apostle Paul in his pastoral instructions to Titus tells him to equip others who will in turn teach the younger generation (Titus 2:1–6). This is counseling that has at its core the teaching of biblical truth, standards, or absolutes in one’s relationship to others. This is especially important in a premarital situation. We cannot use what we do not know, and adulthood is no guarantee of maturity. The couple who intend to form a union must be instructed in God’s viewpoint concerning marriage.
Premarital counseling based on biblical principles outlines the roles of the husband and wife as they relate to each other and to their prospective children (Ephesians 5:22—6:4; Colossians 3:18–21). Premarital counseling is an excellent way to clear up misconceptions about marriage, set goals, and distinguish between God’s standards and those of the world. It is crucial that the pastor, elder, or counselor doing the premarital counseling be doctrinally solid, secure in his own marriage and family relationships (1 Timothy 3:4–5; Titus 1:7), and living in obedience to God’s Word. Such a counselor is equipped to impart God’s viewpoint clearly and without equivocation.
Premarital counseling is also an excellent venue in which to raise issues the couple may not have thought about such as how they intend to manage finances, how they might split household chores, how they plan to handle holidays, how to discipline the children, and the like. The counselor can also guide the couple in identifying what they saw in their parents’ marriages and what they want to imitate or not imitate in their own marriage.
Solid, biblical premarital counseling may well be the difference between a couple who knows how to work through their problems successfully and a couple who struggles with nothing more than human viewpoints and worldly standards to guide them. A prospective bride and groom should commit to premarital counseling in an effort to model their marriage after God’s order.