Preparing well for marriage before we walk down the aisle is one thing — but what about after the vows are spoken? Are we on our own to figure out the way?
I’d love to see more couples supporting one another in this journey called marriage. One way to be intentional about strengthening your own marriage and encouraging others to do the same is to plan a marriage enrichment retreat. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may sound.
Here are some basic steps to plan a meaningful weekend away:
1. Identify three other couples you’d like to invite.
Do you know other couples who recently got married? What about a couple you’d like to get to know better, but haven’t had the opportunity? Can you think of some people who might be blessed by a weekend away? Start thinking and praying about who to invite for your marriage enrichment retreat. Depending on your goals and preferences, I’d recommend about three or four other couples, just so you have the chance to get to know each other well and feel comfortable sharing in a group. Approach these couples with your idea and see what kind of response you get.
2. Invite an older, more mature married couple to join you.
Who do you go to when you need advice? Identify a husband and wife team who have years of experience navigating the marriage terrain. Ask them if they would be willing to join you and a few other couples for a weekend getaway, with the intention of building each other up and spurring one another on. They don’t need to be trained speakers or even have material prepared to share. They just need to be willing to “do life” with others for a weekend and chip in their input, advice, and experience when appropriate.
3. Decide on a reasonably priced venue and a date that suits everyone.
Depending on the size of your group, check out websites like vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) or airbnb.com. Try to find a house that everyone could share within a reasonable distance from your hometown. I recommend getting a place at least 45 minutes away so people feel like they’ve actually gone somewhere, but not so far that it becomes a challenge for couples to travel.
4. Brainstorm topics to discuss.
Make a list of three to five general marriage topics to chat through during the weekend. These could include categories like finances, communication, sex, gender roles, or parenting. Plan in advance which topics you will be intentional about discussing while you are away together. This can fluctuate, but it will make it more likely that you will have meaningful conversations that will enrich marriages, rather than spending the whole weekend talking about sports or the weather.
5. Designate someone to plan the menu and do the grocery shopping.
In any group, there will likely be someone who has an aptitude for cooking. If not, assign a team to tackle this responsibility together. The food doesn’t have to be fancy — just enough to feed the whole group for a few days. Divide the cost of the groceries (and accommodation) among all in attendance.
6. Create a loose schedule to follow for the weekend.
Take the topics you brainstormed in Step #4 and draw up a loose structure for your time away. For example, consider scheduling one intentional conversation for Friday evening, one for late Saturday morning, one Saturday evening after dinner, and a final session Sunday morning. The rest of the time could be deemed as “free time,” or you could plan some games, a group outing, or some other fun bonding activity.
7. Enjoy the weekend away and glean from the wisdom of others.
Don’t let the planning keep you from enjoying your time together! Sit back, soak in the conversation, cherish the fellowship, strengthen your marriage, and thank God for community. Commit to being an active listener, and think about how you can record or retain the information you learn while away.
That’s it! Not too difficult, right? You don’t need to be a marriage expert to plan a successful, edifying retreat. So … when are you going to take the first step?
Have you done something similar before? Share your story in the comments!