Having seen the film License to Wed on its opening day, I am surprised to see a critical reference to it in the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal as unfair to marriage preparation courses. As a person who volunteers for an organization dedicated to marriage preparation, the tone of Christine Whelan’s article seems a little too defensive over a harmless bit of fun:
This week, Hollywood takes the focus off of “bridezillas” and puts it on marriage preparation courses. In “License to Wed,” which opened Wednesday, Robin Williams plays the “Reverend Frank,” a clergyman of unspecified denomination who puts his charges through a series of tests–including an exercise in the diapering of urinating robotic twins–to earn the right to marry. Off the silver screen, marriage preparation courses are about shared values rather than simulated disaster drills, and are increasingly popular. …
“License to Wed” paints a terrifying picture of marriage preparation courses as bizarre rituals that a couple must endure to prove their worthiness. Certainly rabbis, pastors and priests have the right to refuse to marry a couple they don’t believe is ready for marriage, but most courses simply reinforce a couple’s commitment to marriage.
This is a demonstration of why people think that conservatives and the devout have no sense of humor. Anyone who thinks that a Robin Williams farce about marriage paints any kind of picture about real life probably thinks that Down Periscope accurately portrays life in the submariner corps. Comedy is based on exaggeration, and the best comedies play on the fears and hang-ups of the audience and twists them into laughs License to Wed falls somewhere in the middle, but never once pretends to be representative of real marriage preparation.
The First Mate and I have volunteered for Twin Cities Marriage Encounter for the last eight years, the last two as president couple for its board. We have also volunteered for the Catholic Prepare pre-Cana counseling during that time. We have never seen ministers bugging couples, nor have we seen church choirs swing into a four-part harmony scolding parishioners who show up late. (We did have a pastor at one time who would have endorsed that, though, and I imagine that priest will have a good laugh at that part of the movie.) We still laughed all the way through the movie, and so would Whelan if she allowed herself to not take it seriously.
It’s just a movie — and one that, in the end, makes the case for marriage preparation, although I wouldn’t wish Reverend Frank on anyone.
The rest of Whelan’s essay gets it right, and she hits on one particularly good point. One reason why more Muslim marriages fail in the West, Whelan asserts, is because arranged marriages lack the societal support that used to exist in tribal communities. That’s undoubtedly true for most Western marriages over the last few decades, too. Our mobile and disconnected society reduces the cohesion that bolstered struggling marriages. It makes it even more incumbent on young couples to gain the communication skills necessary to make strong marriages and to discuss the issues that will arise before they become insurmountable problems.
If you’re inclined to have a few laughs, go see License to Wed. If you’re inclined to get married, go to Engaged Encounter or another marriage preparation course. If you’re already married, try Marriage Encounter to help make your marriage stronger. These options, fortunately, are not mutually exclusive.
Note: Twin Cities Marriage Encounter is a non-profit group that can always use a helping hand. If you’re so inclined, please toss a few dollars into their tip jar.