Weddings are important rituals -- but only as important as you put yourself, and your hopes for your marriage, into it. If the ritual becomes nothing more than an exercise in seating all the relatives in the right places and making sure that the flower arrangements are just perfect, then you've missed a golden opportunity.

Your wedding marks a transition you'll never experience again, even if you wind up remarrying. You and your spouse will be forever changed. All of the frantic things the Mother of the Bride wants done have very little to do with what really matters: building a shared life by starting on the right foot.

When Shannon and I were married, our pastor asked us to think long and hard about what we thought our marriage's mission was. This surprised me, but it made perfect sense later on. Marriage isn't something you are; it's something you do. Take the opportunity of your wedding to envision how you want to build your marriage, and how you want your life as a couple to benefit those around you. Lay the groundwork for it in your ceremony. Make a statement, before the deity of your choice, that this ceremony is a beginning, not an end. The hard work is just ahead.

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