Published: Tuesday, Mar. 22nd, 2022
Professional wedding officiants are always looking for new skills and services to add to their offerings. By educating themselves on new trends, traditions, rituals, and best practices, officiants can create persuasive portfolios and attract new types of couples year after year.
That’s why many officiants seek additional training as a premarital coach or counselor. But becoming a premarital counselor isn’t always easy. This article explains what the job entails, and what you need to know to become one.
Premarital services are always in high demand, and some states even offer incentives to couples who choose to attend a few sessions of couples therapy before they apply for their marriage license. For example, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia (among others) offer discounted marriage licenses for couples who complete a multi-hour premarital preparation course with a registered provider.
Couples marrying in states without these incentives also seek premarital support. In many cases, these couples won’t need to find a registered provider, and will prefer to work closely with an educated peer, rather than a clinical professional.
These peer-focused counseling and coaching services are provided by friendly professionals with years of experience working closely with couples as they prepare to marry – wedding officiants and ordained ministers!
What is a premarital coach or counselor?
These professionals range from educated peers to clinical providers who help couples prepare for marriage. Coaches and counselors work with couples to develop strong communication skills, to decide whether or not marriage is the right decision for them, and how to approach this new stage of their relationship together.
Couples benefit from unique perspectives and understanding advice.
Of course, the terminology is tricky here. It’s confusing for officiants, ministers, licensed professionals, and couples alike.
In many circles, ‘counseling’ refers only to health services provided by trained individuals with a recognized degree and state licensing, such as a licensed Family and Marriage Therapist. If you’re a wedding officiant who also happens to be an L.P.C., L.M.H.P., Psy.D., D.Min. (or any of the other combinations of credentials), all the better!
In other circles, ‘counseling’ refers to support and comfort administered by clergy. Pastoral counseling services may be offered by clergy with a Doctor of Ministry (or with no professional training or licensing), to members of their congregation as the wedding day approaches, in order to prepare them for the responsibilities and joys of marriage.
And in still other cases, officiants who have completed workshops and curriculum on premarital coaching and communication also call their work ‘counseling,’ and themselves ‘counselors.’
To avoid confusion, many officiants call themselves a premarital or relationship ‘coach.’
To avoid confusion and misrepresenting themselves, many officiants and ministers prefer the term ‘coach’ instead of counselor. For example, a ‘premarital coach,’ ‘relationship coach,’ ‘communication coach,’ or ‘marriage coach.’
‘Coaching’ almost always implies a peer approach to these important conversations – rather than a clinical approach.
Questionnaires, journaling exercises, and worksheets can all be useful tools during a premarital or relationship coaching session.
At this time, AMM doesn’t offer training on premarital counseling or coaching – but we do offer many resources to help improve interpersonal communication, deal with stress, and increase connection with others.
You don’t need certification to offer coaching services, but continuing education and certification can demonstrate your skill (and credibility!) to couples.
Here are a few types of continuing education to consider as you get started.
There are currently dozens of websites online offering this type of training, but many of the programs we found don’t include any credentials or information on the quality of their materials – so be cautious! We strongly suggest you investigate any coaching programs you find thoroughly before choosing one.
One of the most well known training programs is SYMBIS, which bills itself as “The world’s most practical marriage assessment.” Founded by a husband and wife with training in psychology, SYBIS provides two distinct services: Assessments for couples as they prepare for marriage, and certification for wedding pros who want to become SYMBIS Facilitators.
The cost of SYMBIS certification is around $200, and is designed to enable facilitators to administer a couple’s assessment, interpret and present results, and discuss those results with the couple as a way of improving the health of their relationship and outcomes of their marriage.
You’ll need to be an incredible listener to offer helpful premarital coaching. If you’re already a wedding officiant, you probably know a thing or two about listening well, but there’s always room to improve!
Sites that offer online courses, such as UDemy, SkillPath, or others, almost always offer affordable classes on active listening.
Strong communication and the ability to diffuse a tense situation are assets in any profession, but they’re especially helpful when working one-on-one with families in high-stress settings (like while planning a wedding!).
Many universities, community colleges, and online course websites offer certificates and training in communication and conflict resolution.
These programs will teach you how to communicate your ideas clearly in writing, when speaking at events, and in interviews, and how to diffuse emotionally heated situations. You’ll learn skills to pass on to couples, but you’ll also learn tools to make you a better business person!
Healthy communication is the key to a healthy marriage.
Ministers can teach couples strong communication skills.
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!