How Much Is Pre-Marital Counseling Worth?

coupleFor the last several years my wife and I have conducted pre-marital counseling for engaged couples. It has been a real joy to spend time with these couples and coach them toward healthy marriages. Most – but not all – of these couples have come to us through our church.

A staple in our pre-marital coaching has been Life Innovations‘ “Prepare.” In the last few years we have used Jason Krafsky’s “Before I Do” to supplement Prepare. We have found these two resources to be very compatible and provide for a very thorough experience for the couples. Recently, Life Innovations upgraded their material by customizing it for each couple. The inventory that they provide and the reports that are produced are now customized for each couple. This has been a great improvement. Life Innovations reports that their research indicates a benefit to couples just from taking the inventory – even if they never have an opportunity to process it with a facilitator! If you are not familiar with Prepare I would encourage you to take a closer look at this tool and pursue certification to become a facilitator.

Krafsky’s “Before I Do” is a well-balanced workbook for couples from a Christian perspective and is filled with great readings and exercises for the couples to do separately, together, and with the facilitators. We have found this resource to be very helpful in getting couples to talk about relationship aspects that they may not have talked about yet. With other materials we have often had to apologize for portions of the material or skip a number of chapters. Not so with “Before I Do.” We typically work through the entire workbook two chapters per session.

Altogether, my wife and I will meet with couples 8-10 times, usually in our home, for 90 minutes to 2 hours per session. While we have required each couple to cover the costs of the materials, we have not charged for the coaching sessions. Today I was reading some material on Krafsky’s website where he posts a very thorough and well-written pre-marital education sample agreement that includes the discussion of fees. This is something that I had never considered formalizing in this way. Occasionally we have had couples ask us what we charge and we have usually just replied, “Nothing.”

What do you think? I am a full-time staff pastor at a local church and not a professional counselor. Should we continue to see this as an extension of our ministry? Or should couples be expected to pay for this service like they pay for wedding expenses? What would be an appropriate amount? How much have you paid for pre-marital counseling? Was it ‘worth it?’ I would appreciate hearing from you.

7 thoughts on “How Much Is Pre-Marital Counseling Worth?

  1. Amy J.

    Priceless, priceless, priceless. I think that it is a great investment. I understand that for couples starting out any cost can be prohibitive, but there are some creative ways to work it out. I liked the way that our church promoted it and supported it. They told us it was part of their prep program (which we read as requirements) and told us the cost. Then quickly added that they would provide matching funds for the cost. That helped us invest in the process because we had some literal investment and because our church family had invested in us. We have often referred to our marriage prepwork in the last 6 years. The only time I have “referred” to the white dress that cost more than the marriage prep, is when I need room in my closet…although, it is a pretty dress!:)

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  2. Jason Greene

    My wife Nicola & I work in the marriage education world through a grant funded program. We have been using Life Innovations Prepare/Enrich for close to three year & have found considerable growth in our own relationship by using the evaluation & working through the skills; I would highly recommend Life Innovations to anyone. We have seen hundreds of couple benefit from P/E and the work goes on!
    As far as fee for service; we do not currently charge anything, although we are experimenting with some options. The main cost being the inventory. I haven’t read Jason Krafsky’s article yet, but I will. The buzzword for our present climate is ‘sustainability’ – having the couples partner with us by covering the lessor portion of the cost is little to ask given that the facilitator’s time & skill provides the most value to the couple! & would enable the facilitator the means to reach more couples!
    Whether charging a fee of any amount will reduce the number of couples taking premarital coaching is another question! However, ‘the labourer is worthy of his hire’ & we should not be ashamed to expect some accountability from those we serve; where our treasure is there our heart will be also. Then if our couples wish to have a heart for the success of their marriage, they will invest in it!

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  3. Brenda Bible

    It is a wonderful ministry to be able to provide for your parish. I too am in parish ministry and provide marriage preparation using the Prepare/Enrich and the Together in God’s Image program, which is a Catholic based program. I feel it is important for the couples to pay for their preparation. First, it allows me to continue the ministry. Over that last year we have had over 100 couples come for marriage preparation and the cost for the supplies would be difficult for us to provide. Second, I feel that they are making a financial investment into their future, the future of their children and possibly generations to come. When someone is paying for a service there is greater buy-in, they are more dedicated to getting something for their money. Most couples that I have worked with do not hesitate to pay the fee we charge. They see the benefit that is in it for them. I will be honest; there have been times when I have had to gently remind couples that the thousands of dollars they are spending on the wedding day will not have the long lasting benefits as premarital counseling will have. These couples typically end up coming back because they realize the truth to this statement. Those that don’t come back regretfully are looking for a wedding day not a life long marriage. We try to not make it a burden on the couple; I allow them to pay the fee over a course of the program. If a couple could not pay the fee I would never refuse them, some scholarships are offered. Interestingly, couples that were offered a scholarship paid the full fee; they always seem to find the funds. I think they realize the value of the counseling.

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  4. Ben Reed

    I see it as an extension of your ministry. Charging for materials is understandable, but not for the counseling sessions. I handle premarital counseling payment just like I handle wedding payment: there’s no charge, I’m not doing this for the money. If you want to give, that’s up to you.

    I see this as the responsibility of the pastor, and since I don’t get paid extra to answer emails (also part of the pastor’s responsibility), I don’t feel obligated to get paid for things like premarital counseling.

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  5. secondchair Post author

    Thanks, Ben for your insights. Since I’m not the sr pastor pre-marital counseling is optional and not part of my “job” per se but it is and has been part of our (my wife’s and mine) ministry together. We have met and counseled some great couples and are grateful for the experience. Part of the question resides in not the cost but the value. Do couples value the counseling as much as they do the dvd, or flowers, or cake?

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  6. Ben Reed

    Good point, Joe. There’s definitely more value in premarital counseling than in those other things.

    So is the question, “How do we raise the value of premarital counseling?” or “How do we raise the PERCEIVED value of premarital counseling?”

    I guess your point is that charging for premarital counseling raises the perceived value of it.

    I’m not opposed to charging for things like counseling. After all, “The Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

    But does charging for this service raise the perceived value, or would it be better for us to capture stories from those we’ve counseled, emphasizing the impact that premarital counseling had on their lives?

    Just thinking through this with you, Joe. Love the dialog!

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    1. secondchair Post author

      Ben, you have really nailed it here! It is all about raising the perceived value of pre-marital counseling. In this case I don’t think that is achieved by putting a big price tag on it. I would love to capture those stories (maybe there’s an unmet need here?) and then discover the best delivery system to get those stories to couples early enough for them to include counseling with all of their other preparations. We have watched this tectonic shift over the years where most couples we see are already having sex and/or living together regardless of their spiritual background. Since they are already defacto married at this point it seems that they are only interested in having a showcase wedding event that costs more than a new Prius!

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