What are Premarital Conversations?
Premarital Conversations are now available to couples newly engaged or in the process of planning their wedding. Unlike many marriage preparation programs that utilize online surveys and other standard assessments, Premarital Conversations are guided by your needs as individuals, and as a couple.
Premarital Conversations offer a supportive container for you to explore yourselves and your relationship in a fun, relaxed and collaborative process. With me as guide and facilitator, together you will develop a better understanding of your strengths and challenges – individually and jointly – discover emergent possibilities and discern opportunities for growth in relationship to yourself and with each other.
The basic Premarital Conversations package includes 3 hour-long sessions with homework exercises to complete on your own between sessions (don’t worry…not that kind of homework!). We'll move from discussion of your relationship to exploring your feelings about the wedding to envisioning married life beyond the big day. Additional sessions can be added as desired.
How do Premarital Conversations work?
Ideally, Premarital Conversations occur between the most intensive ends of wedding planning: after you’ve gotten engaged, but before planning ramps up again as the day approaches. If this is not possible, adjustments can be made to work within most time frames.
Sessions are held in-person at my private office in Northampton, MA, or via FaceTime/Skype. The span between sessions depends on the total time frame we’re working within, ability to complete your homework exercises and both our scheduling needs.
The cost for the Premarital Conversations 3-session package is $225, or $75 per session. However, during the time I am working to fulfill my certification as a Psychosynthesis Practitioner, the total cost will be $105, or $35 per session. Additional sessions can be added at the discounted rate. During my internship period, the couple gives me permission to discuss our sessions in confidentiality with my supervisor as part of completing my training at The Synthesis Center.
Premarital Conversations are based upon my seminary education at The New Seminary including pastoral care, spiritual and premarital counseling, my Psychosynthesis training at The Synthesis Center, and my own experience in professional marriage counseling using the Imago model.
Premarital Conversations are not counseling or psychotherapy, nor is it an appropriate substitute for those struggling with deeper psychological issues or diagnosed mental health disorders. Click to read my Disclosures and Code of Ethics.
The following is an interview with Maggie Reyes,
published on her site, Modern Married.
Dear Modern Married Family,
One of the unexpected blessings of starting this blog has been getting to meet amazing, inspiring people (like you!) and today’s featured guest, Rev. Hannah Grace from GraceCeremonies.com
She has such a deeply heart-felt approach to helping couples celebrate their wedding, I thought she was the perfect guide to teach us what to do if we are writing marriage vows for a wedding, vow renewal or just want to recommit to each other with a sacred ceremony of two.
In this interview, she shares her approach to helping couples discover what their hearts want to say and how our wedding vows can establish the foundation for the choices we make as a couple for years to come.
MM: Tell us about yourself and Grace Ceremonies in 5 sentences.
REV. HANNAH: After 10 years working in retail (specifically handcrafts and fine jewelry) I experienced a very unexpected calling to become a minister. I listened to the call and decided to attend an Interfaith Seminary, even though I had no idea where this new path would lead! During my training it became clear that I wanted to minister (literally, to serve) people during major life transitions like birth, death and marriage. It’s an amazing honor to be with people during these times…every day I’m grateful I heeded the call to do such meaningful and fulfilling work.
MM: You perform wedding ceremonies all the time. What advice do you find yourself giving to couples over and over again?
REV. HANNAH: I’m consistently reminding couples to be themselves.
For instance, almost every couple I meet with starts by saying they have no idea what kind of wedding ceremony they want. But, without fail, within an hour of conversation we have the whole ceremony sketched out.
They thank me for figuring it out when all I’ve done is make space for them to tell me who they are…and from that place their desires and preferences, their visions and hopes become clear.
It comes up again and again and again, especially when it comes to writing their wedding vows. I remind couples, “This is your wedding. This is your life partner. Don’t worry about what other people think. What do you need to say?”
I feel like sometimes people just need permission; to be told that who they are is perfect.
MM: Why are ceremonies so powerful?
REV. HANNAH: We’re all here on the journey of a lifetime, passing through various milestones that change and shape our identities.
Ceremonies help define and sanctify the chapters of our life, providing an important opportunity to nurture our connection to each other, our families, communities and ourselves.
Sadly, many people think ceremonies only belong to religions, but that’s not true at all! I’m consistently amazed to see how ceremonies, even something as customary as a wedding ceremony, create a potent container within which the meaning of life passages can be experienced, witnessed and honored.
MM: Tell us about modern wedding vows. How are they different? The same? Are there some popular ones you use over and over again?
REV. HANNAH: As modern weddings have gotten more unique and personal, so have the vows.
Couples no longer feel like they “have” to do it a certain way, or that they must use the same vows.
Many of my couples don’t even share their vows with one another until the actual wedding. (And then there’s my husband, who spoke his from the heart, on the spot!!)
I’ve had a few couples that initially said they wanted to use traditional wedding vows (“For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…”) but once I provide them with samples of alternative vows, they all have chosen to either write their own or personalize one of the samples.
I have yet to have two couples use the same vows.
One thing that’s stayed the same, I think, is that the vows are the most intimate part of the wedding. Looking into your partner’s eyes, pledging yourself to them for life…it doesn’t get much better than that!
MM: Most of our readers are already married and might want to renew their vows – what is your advice for them?
REV. HANNAH: If a couple had a traditional ceremony, they likely used standard wedding vows.
Renewing your vows is the perfect time to speak from the heart, from knowing each other so deeply, and from staying together through good times and bad. It’s easier to allow for honesty (Yeah, there were some hard times in there!) and for humor.
Sometimes couples can be challenged by how to encapsulate their feelings about their partner in wedding vows. I’ve found this simple, 5-minute exercise is a great way to help them get started:
For the first minute of the five, find a spot – preferably outside or somewhere you feel relaxed, undistracted and grounded – and simply breathe.
For the second minute, ask yourself, “What 10 things do I appreciate and admire most about this incredible human being I am about to marry/I am married to”?
Breathe some more.
For the third minute, write them down, smiling with a full heart.
For the fourth minute, look at that list and see if there’s anything else that comes to mind. Offer gratitude. You’re both so lucky!
For the fifth minute, let go of the list and surrender to the moment. Breathe.
Okay, you’re done!
MM: Why do you think the vows we declare are so important?
REV. HANNAH: The wedding vows are truly the heart of the ceremony. Sure, everyone the couple loves is there and I get to say important things about marriage and there are beautiful poems and music and great clothes and flowers and hair… But if you take all that away and leave only the vows, it’s still a wedding. Even with my formal blessing and their family and friends as witnesses, it’s really about the exchange between those two people.
I tell couples that when they take their wedding vows, they actually marry each other.
It’s where they take ownership of the marriage they will create together.
The vows are the foundation of the choices the couple will make, every day for the rest of their lives, to stay married.
I was so excited to see Hilary and Isaac's December elopement ceremony at The Montague Bookmill featured in the wedding blog, Offbeat Bride! Offbeat Bride is all about authentic weddings that reflect the couple's personalities and desires...not what their family, friends or society tells them a wedding should look like.
And nowhere are those desires more clear than in an elopement ceremony.
When I first met Isaac and Hilary, they were pretty fuzzy on the details...the how, when and where they wanted to be married. But they did know one thing: the ceremony mattered. Even though they were planning to elope - just the two of them and no other witnesses - they knew they didn't want to go to the town hall or hire a Justice of the Peace. They wanted a real wedding...dress, flowers, ceremony and all.
I was amazed by how quickly and effortlessly it all came together. We landed a date and a venue, and by sitting down with Hilary and Isaac for an hour or two, I was able to write them a completely personalized wedding ceremony telling their love story and including two poems they had chosen, along with their own wedding vows.
"Hannah was truly a godsend, and we later joked that if she could get the
Poetry and Musings of an Interfaith Minister on the Journey of a Lifetime.