An open letter to future brides and grooms

By Elisa Tremblay | Special to the Compass | June 17, 2021

Recently, I was out to dinner with my son and a group of his buddies. I just happened to be sitting next to a young man who was getting ready to ask his girlfriend to marry him. We had a fantastic conversation, but much of what we talked about revolved around extended family.  

Since that evening, I have reflected on what I wish that young man and so many other young couples should know about marriage and extended family. So, in an effort to reach out to the many couples getting married in these busy months of the wedding season, I want to address an open letter to all the engaged couples out there.

Dear future brides and grooms:

Congratulations on your engagement and on finding the love of your life. I am sure your story consists of many small moments where you both realized that you were meant for each other.

These weeks leading up to your wedding are going to be fantastic. They will be filled with lots of joys as you dream about your future life together. You will have fun testing cake samples and choosing honeymoon destinations. Your love will grow in this season of engagement as you talk out what your future will be and share your ideas and opinions on many topics. All the focus seems to be on the wedding day, but take a moment in your engagement and relish in the life around you now. 

One thing you should pay special attention to is the family that surrounds your beloved. This family has been there from the start and, for better or worse, has loved your future spouse to this very moment. 

This family has shaped the thoughts, ideas, expectations and feelings your future spouse has now and will have throughout your marriage. As you met them, I am sure you were nervous (and so were they) and, as you grow to love your spouse, hopefully you will grow to love them also over the coming years. 

No matter what your current relationship with your fiancé’s family, know that they will be there in the years to come.

There is something you may have heard in your marriage preparation classes called “family of origin.” This topic is so important to understand because it is something you may not think about much as you are dating, but it will appear in so many ways in your married life. “Family of origin” simply means the people you and your fiancé grew up with. It is these people who strongly influence who you have become. 

Because marriage involves a lifetime of choosing to love one another daily, how you do that is strongly colored by how you were loved by the family around you. 

Your likes and dislikes can often mimic those of your family of origin. Your ideas on holiday celebrations, parenting styles and even how you navigate an argument are strongly influenced by those who raised you. Truthfully, you have been learning about marriage your whole life from the family and friends who surround you.

One of the best parts of your future marriage will be the thousands of choices you make to love one another daily. 

This act of free will includes deciding if you will keep some of the influences of your family of origin or if you will make your own new traditions. The sacrament of marriage will help you draw on the graces given by God to help you with things you want to continue, or to heal things you would rather leave behind. 

Just as every day is a fresh start, so will your future marriage be. You might be influenced by things from your family or past, but you are not destined to repeat them. 

“Adult awareness will help you not to repeat negative patterns modeled during the formative years. Once you become aware of the patterns of your family of origin, you can change them. It’s not easy, but individual and couple counseling can free a spouse from repeating destructive behaviors.” (foryourmarriage.org/family-of-origin)

Whether your extended family lives nearby or they are far away, their influence still remains. Pray about these things with your future spouse and have great conversations about these topics. 

One very practical way to begin to forge your own path and traditions together is simply to identify a specific issue and find a way to be on the same page about it together. 

When you come to decisions as a couple, shoulder to shoulder, you will own those decisions together. Your love and sacrifice for one another will create a path forward that is uniquely your own and not from one family or the other. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Gn 2:24).

Many blessings on your time of engagement and your future marriage together. May the Lord continually bless you and your own family to come.

Tremblay is the marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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