I have seen weddings from a number of viewpoints. I usually officiate them. Sometimes I even get to photograph them as a second shooter for some incredible wedding photographers. I have done premarital counseling for a host of couples and stood at the altar hundreds of times by a nervous groom. After countless wedding scenarios, I have discovered one thing that I think could potentially and drastically improve every wedding. Here it is…

As soon as two people get engaged, their parents should go through at least one session of premarital counseling.

I’m not suggesting that they go through counseling with their potential in-laws or with the bride and groom. That would be a mistake. But they almost always need counseling. For the sake of the wedding ceremony and the future marriage of their children, there are just some things that need to be said to parents.

I’m assuming that a lot of you have kids who are way too young to be thinking about marriage. So you can just file this away for another day, but please don’t forget to pull it out when your daughter comes home and tells you she said, “yes.” Because if you don’t think hard about what’s actually happening, that same daughter who was ecstatic about getting married may be crying on her wedding day. No, I’m not talking about the warm fuzzy moment of tears because her dream is coming true, but the frustrated crying that happens because of the chaos that can be created by well-intentioned parents or parent-in-laws. I cannot count the times brides-to-be have said to me in tears, “this engagement process is nothing like I thought it would be. Could you talk to my parents?”

So this week we are going to give a little advice to parents of the bride and groom, along with a few pictures of weddings to remind you of the importance of that day as a milestone in your family’s life.

Lesson #1 to parents: This is not a about you, it’s about their marriage.

Sure you made a major investment up until this point, and yes, you’re going to be paying the bill. But remember the part of the ceremony when the pastor says “who gives this woman to be married to this man” and the father of the bride says “her mother and I?”At that point something very symbolic happens. The father steps back and takes a seat, while the bride and groom take each other’s hand. There is actually a reason for that moment. It signifies that from this point on, their marriage is more important than their relationship with you as their parent. No, it doesn’t mean they love you less. But, yes it does mean that you are letting go. There is a new boundary and relationship between you and them. You are actually only stewards of your children’s lives. You knew all of their life the day would come when you would have to release them, so why weren’t you prepared? I am amazed at how many parents unknowingly turn their children’s wedding into a power struggle.

We worry so much about our kids being ready, but maybe the question should be, “Are we ready?” What are you doing now to get ready for that day? You can never start too early parenting with this end in mind, and realizing that one day your child’s spouse will and should be a more important priority than even your relationship with them.