Julie and Stephen are currently sitting on a sofa in their living room, or at least, they were when we visited last. After a day of being filmed for BBC One’s Songs of Praise as the subjects of a wedding day before and after piece, we caught up for a brew, to hear how they ended up on everyone’s mother’s favourite programme and ask why they see The Marriage Courses as "a tool for helping us make a marriage that lasts a lifetime”.
So, you're in love. Fast-forward and you’re planning the big day. How did you navigate preparing for more than just 24 hours of your life?
Julie: When you begin a relationship, you think that emotions will be enough for you to carry you through, that it will be effortless.
Stephen: But marriage is the most important decision you'll ever make - spending the rest of your life with one person. Most people complete a degree or qualifications to be empowered in your work, so why not do a course and to get the foundations in place for your relationship?
Julie and Stephen were approached by Songs of Praise for a segment about new beginnings. "This doesn't happen to everybody, and it was such a big blessing," says Julie. “JB, interviewed us and he had done The Marriage Preparation Course too so we had an instant connection because he had 'been there, done that' and we could talk about that”
S: To be honest we felt honoured. It was a massive privilege to have our marriage profiled, albeit brief or otherwise. It is very special.
What was your model of marriage growing up?
S: A lot of people grow up without a 'successful' model of Marriage, which is why this course is so important. They should pass a law saying that anyone getting married should do the course! If my parents gave it a go; who knows what the impact could have been.
J: Couples would have their marriages saved all over the planet if they actually understood tools the course teaches like the concept of ‘love languages’ which helps you to understand your partner better. We are all ultimately looking for love. To spend time discovering new ways to communicate and love each other isn't rocket science but it’s a massive revelation.
S: This isn't just for first-timers either. When my first marriage broke down, my whole world was turned upside down. But, after a while, you start healing and start thinking about the possibilities. I started thinking about relationships again.
It’s sounds like the content has had an impact on your everyday?
J: I wasn't surprised by the course, but I was pleased with the honesty of it and how what I experienced in just a few weeks has changed how I address challenges in our relationship. We talked about things we would have never talked about if we hadn’t been on the course. It is has been healing and just feels great to be going into marriage having shaken off some of that baggage.
S: Like Julie is saying, you address certain things that may have become an issue later on in the marriage, you talk through stuff and think, "Yeah, we do need to talk about that. What about this particular situation?" That was the major thing.
J: Plus, to discover more about your personality type and the way you express yourself. It's actually really encouraging to understand why you are the way you are.
S: Seeking first to understand before you are understood. You can do that when you know how you are wired. So rather than thinking, "Oh, she is doing that again, or saying that again or reacting that way" it's like, well, that's the way she is wired. Thinking why she responds that way and seeking to understand her point of view, totally helps you not respond in an equally negative or positive way.
The Marriage Preparation Course is part of a family of courses. Had you tried Alpha before this?
J: I was brought up in a Christian home but that’s as far as it went for me. After I had my daughter, I started going to church and went on the Alpha Course. After going along for a few weeks, someone offered to pray with me. I never felt a thing when I said the prayer, but I meant every single word I said, wholeheartedly. I carried on going to church and I made a lot of friendships there. it is only a few years later when I look back that I thought that's my actual reference point, that was the day my whole life completely changed.
S: Through Alpha, we heard about the Marriage Preparation Course.
J: I'd seen some of the videos on TV, so when we became engaged, we asked our church to run it!
When I had my daughter, I went to all the classes, made some new friends, and just thought 'I'm going to equip myself in something that I know nothing about.' I loved it! Similarly, with Marriage Prep - it is not a burden, it is not a chore. It was actually really fun and interactive. It birthed conversations between us that we never would have had otherwise and then that deepened the connection between us.
After this experience, would you consider doing The Marriage Course?
J: We absolutely would. It’s set up like a date night and you only sit with your partner. So even if you only did it for that reason - it's a night where you get to spend time together, a date night every week for seven weeks!
S: The Marriage Courses are practical. They can feed your relationship, your marriage, and teach how to bring out the best in each other and how to get the best out of your marriage. Who wouldn’t want that?
If you would like to attend or run a Marriage Course, click here to find one in your local area.