I performed an Internet search for topics related to marriage and specifically the term “marriage” and the vast majority of the pictures were of weddings and all of the things we associate with weddings, like engagement and wedding rings, cake and cake toppers, wedding gowns, bouquets, bridal parties, etc. I decided to do a little digging through social media and blogs to see what people are saying about marriage and what they seem to be focused on when the topic is addressed. Interesting enough the focus is overly directed towards the engagement ring, wedding ring, ceremony and reception, bridal party, and then there’s a gloss over of the actual union of marriage. Even when I typed in “same-sex marriage”, nothing but pictures of weddings appeared. I really had to dig to find content that focused on couples and family, not on the pomp and ceremony that leads to marriage. 

Which means that wedding industry professionals have done an awesome job of marketing and selling the wedding to us, while the embarrassing divorce rates prove that our families and society as a whole have done a lousy job of embedding the principles, practices, and expectations of marriage—so that we don’t enter and exit it so casually. 

Ring the alarm! Weddings versus marriage. There is a huge difference folks!


Pictures 1 through 4 above represent weddings. While pictures 5 through 8 reflect the layers of marriage. 

Some of you are overly consumed by the wedding ceremony but aren’t ready for the long-term commitment of marriage. It’s not the ring, it’s the union. It’s not the cake, food, dj, choreographed dances, bachelor and bacherlorette parties, or the gifts. It’s about the union. It’s not the titles you will earn as a “husband” or “wife”, it’s the union. Some of you want the glitz and glamour but don’t plan for or want to put in the work required for marriage. You want romance novel cookie-cutter, special, dynamic, and/or unique, but think it’s going to be effortless. 

Disillusioned are we? 

Spend some quality time (several months) in premarital counseling (and checkups every few months after you’re married) and work out the kinks, connect the dots, explore the possibilities and unknowns, and dive deep into what you BOTH need and want in marriage. It’s important to discover how you both see and define marriage and your respective roles within it. 

Prepare yourselves for the biggest commitment of your life. Walking blindly into it is one reason why millions of us are now divorced. 

Don’t take the stance of “we’ll figure that out when we get to that bridge”. The problem with that is you may find yourselves not able to even cross the bridge when that time comes, or at least, not together. Put everything out on the table upfront, before you say “I do”. 

Want kids or not? If so, how many and when? What are the expected household and career roles you two will assume? What will your social life be like as a married couple? What are your views about relocating to another state/country? Do you expect your family to follow your religious beliefs? What’s the rules about in-laws? Who’s the best money manager between the two of you, and how will your money be managed? How will you deal with infidelity? 

Get it all out there so you can truly see if you’re compatible, equally yoked, and have what it takes (and are willing to invest what is needed) to thrive in your marriage. Don’t just rush for a bridal magazine or zoom over to your dream store to set up a bridal registry. Sit down and have a partners meeting with the person who you’re planning to be a life partner with, and plan for your future together, not just obsess over a 1-8 hour event that will put most of you in debt and fighting!

And if marriage isn’t a partnership in your opinion but it is to your significant other, the two of you need to seriously sit down and talk because that’s a recipe for a short and/or extremely painful marriage. If you don’t want children but they do, neither of you will win trying to convince (or manipulate) the other to change their mind. If your significant other refuses to show you how they are doing financially, show you their debt and assets, then something is wrong. That’s a red flag pointing you in directions that you surely don’t want to explore. If you’re big on monogamy but your significant other thinks that it’s not normal to be faithful in all ways to one person, Houston you have a problem. If you’re expecting to receive an engagement ring and/or wedding ring that costs and looks like the amount spent to purchase a luxury car or house, but your significant other thought it would be more symbolic and romantic to give you an heirloom ring their mother or grandmother wore, you may not see eye to eye about this and other financial matters. 

Address it now. 

I see people starting their marriages eyeballs high in debt from a wedding that both of them probably didn’t even eat at because they were too busy entertaining everyone else to really enjoy themselves. That’s ridiculous. Guess what? It’s usually one of the first huge fights you have as a married couple. That’s because from the very beginning you both weren’t on the same page, thinking and planning as partners, and preparing for a long future together. You got caught up in the wedding storm and lost your everlasting mind. 

Those magazines, wedding registries, wedding vendors, and your twenty-plus member bridal party will still be there after the two of you have had some serious grown folks conversations. Remember, the magazines, registries, vendors, and your bridal party members won’t be there to build your marriage—and they can’t do anything to save it when it takes a hit. It’s going to require the two of you to fight for your marriage, and that first starts with you defining what marriage means and will be for you as a couple. 

We need to learn to take marriage seriously, enter it with our eyes wide open and fully aware and fully informed, and committed to whatever terms that we agree to with our significant other. If we can’t or won’t do that, then what’s the point in getting married? If all you want is the image of marriage (the material and symbolic things) then play house (the adult version to our childhood game) but don’t get married. Let’s stop making a mockery of something so powerful and beautiful. 

~Natasha 

The day that changed my life…

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The day that I married my husband, John Hope Bryant, changed my life.

The wedding is easy (hence why I wasn’t a bridezilla)…it’s the vows, decluttering your lives and meshing parts of it together, coming together as one, being loving even when you don’t want to, thinking for two not just one, truly being ride or die…it’s all WORK!

For some odd reason, even if you lived with the other person for years before marriage (which we did), matrimony changes certain dynamics. Maybe because while dating you always had an exit strategy, nothing truly kept you there. But as a married couple, there’s a bond that’s not easily broken (or shouldn’t be). You have made vows that you didn’t have to make while single. Is your word worth anything? Or are you all talk?

I took and take my vows seriously. People who attended our wedding walked up to me and said, “wow I could feel those words as you recited your vows. You truly meant what you said!” I don’t play with the commitment that I made to God, my husband, and our families. If you recite marriage vows and have some hesitancy or absolute repulsion, then save you and him/her the grief, and don’t say them.

If you’re lazy or self-centered, then don’t take this leap. It truly isn’t for everyone. Marriage takes work, you have to be actively engaged. Marriage is about being self-less NOT selfish, unless of course you’re preserving your marriage from outsiders…then that team selfishness is acceptable—it just can’t be a solo experience, both of you have to take part in that preservation.

Some people are quick to marry, desperate for the image and appearance of marriage. But if you aren’t putting in the work NOW as a partner, then how do you think you will mystically, magically alter yourself once you become that person’s spouse?

If you don’t have his/her back now, being married to them won’t change that, and if they don’t have your back, guess what? Yep, marriage won’t change that. If they can’t come to you and lean on your shoulder and back, and whatever else they need in order to stand back up on their feet…then guess what? You won’t let them do it once you’re married. If you can’t lean on them, being married to them most likely won’t change that for the better. If the two of you aren’t willing to share the responsibilities of a union now, you won’t be inclined to do so as a married couple.

If the two of you aren’t willing to toss away some of your bad, nasty, ignorant habits and behaviors now, you most likely won’t toss them away once you say your “I Do’s”.

If the two of you struggle to live together (or spend several days in the same place), then how can you possibly live under the same roof as a married couple?

If you don’t make the time for your significant other now, when in the world will you make time for them as a married couple?

If you don’t want children (or you don’t want anymore), but they do, then why subject the two of you to the pain of a battle? Marriage isn’t going to change either of your minds.

Look folks, it’s more than ‘putting a ring on it’. It’s more than sharing someone’s name. It’s more than the public perception of marriage.

Heck, if you want a ring, then you can go get one. Call it a commitment or promise ring. Are you really obsessed with changing your name? Ask yourself “why?” What does it really mean to you? Is it the public appearance and perception that sharing the name guarantees that you’re married to each other? There are a lot of married people who chose not to change their last names, probably because of the headache it causes trying to change it professionally and through the numerous government agencies, etc. They are secure within themselves to not get hung up on a name.

As far as public perception goes, if you’re overly concerned with what other people think, say, and do, then you really should not get married. Marriage is about two people. Your decisions should be made by and for the two of you, not others. No one should have a say in your marriage, not even family. The union is supposed to be supported by your loved ones. They are the ones who are supposed to figuratively (and sometimes literally) smack you upside your head and remind you of your vows and how you don’t have the right to slack in your marriage. They are the ones who are supposed to keep you and your spouse prayed up.

Your bridal party (no matter how big or small) is assembled to be your foot soldiers, not just super cute models for one day. Your bridal party is supposed to be made up of the people who are sworn to protect your marriage and family from all attacks, even when the attackers are you and your spouse. Your bridal party members are supposed to be there to help lift you and your spouse up in your time of need. So why in the world would you be concerned about public perception? Who cares what other people think and say about you? It’s supposed to be the two of you side-by-side, looking out for each other, like a positive Bonnie and Clyde (please no shooting sprees and robberies…please!).

Here are some other things to consider:

Are you willing to sacrifice all for this other person? Would you give your life to spare theirs? Would you do whatever it takes to care for them in sickness, and/or if they lost their job? If the answer is “no” then back away from the altar.

If they are close to their parents but you can’t stand their parents, just leave the marriage thing alone. They aren’t about to choose you over their parents. Marriage isn’t going to make them like you or you like them. If anything, it will pull you farther apart.

If you don’t bring out the best in him/her and they don’t bring out the best in you, don’t even consider marriage. You’re bound to end up in divorce court, wasting money on legal fees, and contemplating changing your name back to the one you had for so many years.

Marriage takes work. It’s labor intensive. But when you truly love, value, respect, and appreciate each other (and your union), then it’s all worth it—and you will do whatever it takes to protect it.

I work each day to protect my husband, our marriage, our family, and our legacy. I can’t risk being lazy or casual about our lives together. We both have the power to lift each other up, or tear each other down. We have a responsibility to each other. I don’t take this responsibility lightly. If you’re also married, you shouldn’t either. If you’re contemplating marriage, please don’t do so casually. Take your time to understand the commitment, the bold as well as the fine print, layout the ground rules and expectations about everything that matters most and least to you, and get plenty of pre-marital counseling so that you both know what you’re getting into before you jump into the deep end of this pool.

With love,

Natasha Foreman Bryant                                                                                                                             (or you can just call me “Mrs. Bryant”)