Premarital Counseling Questions:
How Much Does Premarital Counseling Cost?
Once, during a bridal show at a Denver-area convention center, packed with young, beautiful couples all glowing and holding hands, I conducted a premarital counseling workshop with fellow Growing Self counselor Jessica Small where we went over some skills and strategies that couples need to keep a marriage happy, healthy and strong.
We basically gave them a mini-rundown of what we teach in our Lifetime of Love premarital course, things like: communication strategies, how couples can help each other feel loved and respected, and some of the ways couples can come together around important topics like managing finances as a couple, parenting, teamwork, priorities and more.
After our premarital counseling presentation, many of the couples came up to talk to us and ask us some common premarital questions. One couple, in particular, stood out.
“Your presentation was really eye-opening,” said the male partner, nervously taking a class flyer. “I think we have a lot to learn!”
His fiancé, nodding and giggling, said, “We sure do!”
“I don’t know, talking about things so openly, especially some things,” the groom-to-be said, cryptically, looking at his partner for signs of understanding, “might cause more problems.”
“Yeah,” the woman said, agreeing again, but noticeably looking at the ground. “Might open a can of worms.”
Then, suddenly, she perked up and said to him, “Don’t forget, we’re going with the larger table arrangements now and adding a third entree choice, so premarital counseling could put us over-budget!”
Putting down the flyer and looking relieved, her partner said, “Yeah, premarital counseling is expensive! Especially if we’re going to be paying more for flowers now. So… probably a bad idea.”
They then wandered off to taste some wedding cake.
Affordable Premarital Counseling
Jessica and I were left dumbfounded. Remember, we’re marriage counselors. We sit with couples on the brink, and try to help them repair their relationships after things have gotten bad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished couples came for help years earlier, while they still had a chance. Here’s a secret: Relationship problems are like cancer — the sooner you deal with it, the more likely you are to have a successful outcome (like avoiding a divorce). In fact, research shows that premarital counseling can literally make or break a marriage.
So, Jessica and I were so sad for this couple. Here was a young, engaged couple acknowledging on some level that there were significant issues in their relationship, and very deliberately choosing not to address them. They weren’t prioritizing fancier flower arrangements over the long-term health of their marriage, were they? I hope not! (Except that in this case…. Yeah, they were.)
The irony here is that not only is premarital counseling affordable, it’s also one of the most valuable things you could possibly do. Really good premarital counseling has far reaching positive impacts on so many things: Successful, satisfying marriages. Strong, healthy families. There are associations between marital satisfaction and health outcomes, and… wait for it… marital success is also associated with higher lifetime earnings and wealth accumulation.
But this couple was not thinking about the cost of premarital counseling that way. They were thinking about fancier flower arrangements vs. paying for this premarital counseling thing that they maybe didn’t really want to do. So, they went for the flowers. I get it!
Let’s Talk About The Cost of Not Doing Premarital Counseling
My guess is that the couple was nervous about premarital counseling because they didn’t really understand what it was about and the difference it could make in their future lives together. Or perhaps they were afraid to talk and “get real” about important premarital questions that could impact their shared life together. Issues like, how are you going to manage money as a couple? Or, what are your expectations for your relationship? (That last one is an especially important question for couples in cross-cultural relationships). They also clearly didn’t know that even the best premarital counseling is not expensive at all, and probably wouldn’t make a dent in their overall wedding budget.
To put it all another way: I don’t believe they understood the true value of premarital counseling, which has been shown in numerous research studies to have a significant impact on marital satisfaction and the longevity of marriages.
If you and your partner, on your way toward a marriage, seem to think in ways similar to this couple, might I ask: “When is a good time to talk about the things you’re avoiding?” On the honeymoon? After you’re pregnant? On the marriage counselor’s couch when you’re on the brink of divorce?”
Looking back, I wish I could have talked to that couple a little longer, and helped them understand that good premarital counseling is only there to help them strengthen their relationship, and get on the same page in order to prevent future fights — not to cause trouble.
There’s so much at stake in building a marriage. To be successful in one, you and your partner need to learn how to communicate, establish and perhaps continuously repair trust, create expectations and boundaries for family (especially in blended family scenarios), and plenty more to plan and discuss — really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
We spend decades in school learning about everything from geometry to history, literature to the sciences. But we get zero formal education about how to talk so people will listen, how to listen so people will talk, how to understand the nature of love, how to create compromise and agreement, and how to avoid relationship problems. But sessions with a licensed, experienced premarital counselor — who knows what questions to ask and what topics to broach when there’s still so much positive energy built into the relationship as it nears a wedding — will help you and your partner work through it all.
I never wanted to be a breakup expert. I actually hate being a breakup expert! I don’t want to watch people rip up their wedding photos as part of a cathartic “releasing ritual.” I would much, much rather devote my life to helping couples avoid all of this heartbreak and tragedy, and just have happy lives and happy families.
That’s why, over the years, I have become increasingly passionate about early relationship intervention. In my practice, we have doubled down on premarital counseling services and relationship education, while being mindful of burgeoning couples’ budgets — though there cannot be any price fixed upon the strength of your relationship.
The Cost of Premarital Counseling: Let’s Talk Turkey
If you are one of those super-organized wedding planning wizards you probably already have a color-coded spreadsheet to keep track of all the matchbook-printing and color-coordinated balloon costs you’re starting to incur. Here are some premarital counseling cost figures to factor in, if you’re thinking (wisely) that this might be an important investment for your future:
Our Lifetime of Love Premarital (and Relationship) Class is our most affordable premarital counseling alternative. Lifetime of Love (or “LOL” as we like to call it around here) is a six-hour class that meets in person at either our Denver or Broomfield offices, and we also offer premarital counseling online. Our “LOL” class covers the most important relationship skills, like how to keep your love strong, how to fix communication problems, how to rekindle the passion and keep your romance alive, how to create agreement, how to resolve conflict, and how to build a marriage that lasts a lifetime together. Typically, the class meets for three, two-hour sessions or one six-hour session. We have both evening and weekend options available.
Your class will be taught by either Meagan T., MA, LMFT or Brenda F., MA, LMFT. Both Meagan and Brenda are experienced marriage counselors and premarital counselors, who have helped countless couples have healthy, happy relationships.
Because both Meagan and Brenda are “advanced clinicians,” they typically charge $135 per 45 minute private session, or $175 for a 60 minute session. However, they charge just $265 per couple for Growing Self’s entire Lifetime of Love class. That’s a savings of over $700, compared to the cost of six, 60 minute private sessions with one of them. The Lifetime of Love is a bargain.
Believe it or not, private, structured pre marital counseling is the second-most affordable option for premarital counseling. A structured program is intended to assess your relationship, and provide targeted coaching around any areas that could cause possible problems in the future.
The first step of this program is to meet for a free consultation session with the premarital counselor of your choice to make sure it feels like a good fit for work together. Then, you’ll take our free premarital relationship assessment to identify the strengths and “growth areas” of your relationship. After reviewing the results of your assessment with your premarital counselor, depending on your needs you’ll typically meet for a total of six to eight private premarital coaching sessions to build the skills you need to succeed together. (Learn more about how long premarital counseling takes, right here).
The cost of this program varies a bit on who you work with, how many sessions you need, and whether you choose to meet for 45 or 60-minute sessions. If you work with one of our “advanced clinicians” you’ll pay about $135 per 45-minute session, possibly lower if you qualify for our income-based sliding scale rates. If you work with one of our “master’s level clinicians” or “early-career clinicians” you will pay either $115 or $105 per 45-minute session, or lower if you qualify for their sliding scale rates.
Lastly, we offer unstructured private premarital counseling. Couples often choose this option when they have some things to work out in their relationship prior to getting married, or have specific issues they need to achieve agreement around. It is more difficult to estimate the cost for this work, because different couples may need more (or less) intensive services to resolve their problems so they can move forward with confidence.
This kind of premarital counseling is more like couples therapy or marriage counseling, just for couples who are not yet married. This type of deeper work can help you resolve issues, work through things that need to be addressed, and create a genuinely healthy and strong relationship that will endure for decades to come.
The cost for this type of premarital counseling depends on who you work with (a doctoral level clinician, an advanced clinician, a master’s level clinician, or an early career clinician) how long your sessions are, whether you qualify for sliding scale rates, and how many sessions you need. You can look through these related articles on our site to get a better idea of the costs and what might be involved: “What to expect in premarital counseling” and “The average length of marriage counseling.”
Your best option for getting an accurate picture of the cost of premarital counseling in these cases is to schedule a free consultation session with the premarital counselor you’d be working with, and talk it through.
In closing, I hope that you consider private premarital counseling as an important investment in the quality of your marriage, your family, and your life together. While some people get over-focused on the cost of couples counseling, they do so at the risk of not considering the alternatives: The cost — both financially and emotionally — of divorce.
We specialize in evidence-based, short term approaches for couples counseling that get results, and all of our premarital counseling programs are a crucial investment in your future together.
I hope you take advantage of at least one of them, and remember:
The value of premarital counseling — like so many genuinely important things in life — cannot be measured in dollars and cents. How do you put a price tag on a relationship?
Your wedding might cost tens of thousands of dollars before the lights come on and the cleaning crew moves in to sweep up the rice and cake crumbs. That diamond ring that costs thousands could get lost in the sand on your honeymoon, after your third fruity cocktail. Those things don’t matter. (I say this from experience. I’ve personally been married over 25 years and my engagement ring came out of a bubble gum machine. It was not the power of the diamond that kept our marriage together.)
Smart couples know that investing in their relationship with each other is the most valuable thing they can do to ensure a bright, happy, and secure future together.
That advice is my wedding gift to you!
With love and respect,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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