Christian authors Randy Alcorn and John Piper have written blog posts, articles, and books with Biblically-based counsel for engaged couples in the pursuit of marriage.
Engagement is an exciting period in a couple’s journey, a time for deepening their relationship and for intentionality in their preparation for marriage. In a recent video about engagement on his blog, Alcorn strongly advised engaged couples to seek counsel from married couples. He emphasized the wisdom in learning from those who have been married for a long time, rather than from newly weds or other engaged couples who have yet to experience married life. He also encourages couples to attend engagement seminars, to read books on marriage, and to listen to the “Focus on the Family” radio show for further insight into the covenanted relationship.
Alcorn also advised couples to ask honest questions of one another in order to help get to know each other more deeply prior to marriage. “Talk these things through now and really work it through, pray it through…marriage is going to bring a lot of surprises, but don’t make it bring more surprises than it needs to. Talk it out, think it through, pray about it, get wise counsel from people in advance.”
John Piper, a renowned Christian author and former pastor, also recommends honest, specific communication for a couple during their engagement period. He has written a free eBook for download on the topic, “Preparing for Marriage”, and also wrote a list of questions for engaged couples to discuss as well.
Piper noted that the couple should also ask one another how they plan to handle any differences in opinion without harming their relationship as they go through these questions:
What do you believe about . . . everything?
Perhaps read through the Desiring God Affirmation of Faith to see where each other is on various biblical doctrines.
Discover how you form your views. What is the reasoning-believing process? How do you handle the Bible?
Worship and Devotion
How important is corporate worship? Other participation in church life?
How important is it to be part of a small accountability/support group?
What is the importance of music in life and worship?
What are your daily personal devotional practices? Prayer, reading, meditation, memorization.
What would our family devotions look like? Who leads out in this?
Are we doing this now in an appropriate way: praying together about our lives and future, reading the Bible together?
Husband and Wife
What is the meaning of headship and submission in the Bible and in our marriage?
What are expectations about situations where one of you might be alone with someone of the opposite sex?
How are tasks shared in the home: cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, yard work, car upkeep, repairs, shopping for food, and household stuff?
What are the expectations for togetherness?
What is an ideal non-special evening?
How do you understand who and how often sex is initiated?
Who does the checkbook—or are there two?
If and when, should we have children? Why?
How far apart?
Would we consider adoption?
What are the standards of behavior?
What are the appropriate ways to discipline them? How many strikes before they’re . . . Whatever?
What are the expectations of time spent with them and when they go to bed?
What signs of affection will you show them?
What about school? Home school? Christian school? Public school?
Own a home or not? Why?
What kind of neighborhood? Why?
How many cars? New? Used?
View of money in general. How much to the church?
How do you make money decisions?
Where will you buy clothes: Department store? Savers? In between? Why?
How much money should we spend on entertainment?
How often should we eat out? Where?
What kind of vacations are appropriate and helpful for us?
How many toys? Snowmobile, boat, cabin?
Should we have a television? Where? What is fitting to watch? How much?
What are the criteria for Movies and theater and video/DVD? What will our guidelines be for the kids?
What makes you angry?
How do you handle your frustration or anger?
Who should bring up an issue that is bothersome?
What if we disagree both about what should be done, AND whether it is serious?
Will we go to bed angry at each other?
What is our view of getting help from friends or counselors?
Who is the main breadwinner?
Should the wife work outside the home? Before kids? With kids at home? After kids?
What are your views of daycare for children?
What determines where you will locate? Job? Whose job? Church? Family?
Is it good to do things with friends but without fiancé, or without spouse?
What will you do if one of you really likes to hang out with so and so and the other doesn’t?
Health and Sickness
Do you have, or have you had any, sicknesses or physical problems that could affect our relationship? (Allergies, cancer, eating disorders, venereal disease, etc.)
Do you believe in divine healing and how would prayer relate to medical attention?
How do you think about exercise and healthy eating?
Do you have any habits that adversely affect health?
The Village Church in Dallas, Texas, also recommends several books and sermons that will help engaged couples prepare for marriage as well:
“Catching Foxes” by John Henderson
“The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller
“When Sinners Say I Do” by Dave Harvey
“What Did You Expect?” by Paul David Tripp
The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission (Note: link no longer available)
What God Has Joined Together, Let Not Man Separate (Part 1) (Note: link no longer available)