Being a newlywed is great! I’m quickly turning into one of “those people”–the people who think marriage is bliss and want everyone else to hurry up and get married, too. So far, though, married life hasn’t been all play and no work; there are things to do and habits to start as we begin our family together:
1. Changing my name–what a hassle!
Most Mormon brides (in the United States, that is) change their last name to their husband’s last name. I wasn’t exactly sure why women do this–answers I found range from “It’s traditional” and “It’s a symbol of your marital unity” to “It’s an archaic tradition symbolic of the wife being her husband’s property.”
Changing one’s last name at marriage is not required by The Church of Jesus Christ, and many other women may choose to retain their last names for personal or professional reasons.
But I do know that changing my name is a mess! So many offices to visit and forms to fill out! I’m doing it not because of tradition, or because my husband is dominating my life, but because I believe it is symbolic of the two of us creating a family. When we got married, we created our own family, and I want our last name to reflect that.
2. Writing thank-you notes
President Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ, said of gratitude, “When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism; you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley 250).
We received numerous gifts for our wedding, and it was great fun opening all of them. Now we want to express our gratitude–after all, we really are thankful for those new towels and the checks. Writing thank-you notes, though, is a very time-consuming project. We have barely scratched the surface, and I can already tell it’s going to take forever. Thank-you notes are usually handwritten, and somewhat personal. But I guess it’s worth it, because I wouldn’t want all those nice people to think we were ungrateful.
3. Getting a joint bank account
Church leaders have advised couples to work together as equal partners in all aspects of their marriage, including finances. We merged our two bank accounts so all of our money goes to the same place and we both can check to see when and how much money goes out. Having a joint bank account also further cements the two of us as a family unit–being united in our finances is just another aspect of becoming one as a couple.
Elder Whitney L. Clayton, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ, emphasized the importance of financial transparency and cooperation in a marriage. He advised that marriages be “based on mutual respect and transparency,” and have “no secrets about relevant matters . . . Husbands and wives make all decisions about finances together and both have access to all information” (“Marriage: Watch and Learn,” Ensign May 2013).
4. Using a crock pot for the first time–with great success
Mormons sure love their crock pots. Many Mormon homes have more than one crock pot, and any ward (congregational) social will almost always showcase crock pots and the yummy stuff they contain. Predictably, we received a crock pot as a wedding gift, and I used it for the first time the second Sunday we were married. And I realized why they are so awesome! We put the dinner in before church, went to church, and came back to a delicious meal that the crock pot basically cooked for us. It was great! One reason this method is so useful is because, as Mormons, we attend church for three hours each Sunday, giving the crock pot nearly enough time to cook our dinner. When we get home, the house smells wonderful!
5. Going to a family ward–yikes!
Latter-day Saints have a couple of different types of wards, or congregations. The most common kind is a family ward, or a regular ward, where there are members of all ages and from all walks of life.
But the Church also has Young Single Adult (YSA) wards for adults ages 18-30. When we were dating and engaged, we attend a YSA ward, with other young adults like ourselves.
Now that we are married, we attend a family ward. In the family ward, there are members of all ages. There are also more people in our family ward than there were in our YSA ward. Going to a family ward is what we will do for the rest of our lives, but the transition from YSA to a family ward has been a bit abrupt. The biggest difference is having children in Sacrament meeting. Young adults sit and reflect during the Sacrament (Eucharist), but kids haven’t learned that yet, so it’s a bit noisier. But they’re just so cute, we can’t be mad!
6. Having family home evening
Prophets have counseled us to have weekly Family Home Evening, which is time set aside each week for us to be with our families and learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Family Home Evening (FHE) was first introduced, then-president Joseph F. Smith gave the following promise: “If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth” (Improvement Era, 1915, 733-43).
Even though we don’t have any kids, we are still a family, and want to follow the prophet’s counsel. So we had our first FHE on our honeymoon, and have continued the tradition since. During our FHE time, we take turns teaching the lesson, and talk about gospel principles that are important for our marriage and future family. We believe it’s very important for us to have FHE so we can learn from each other and establish the practice of weekly FHE for the future.
7. Going on dates
Our marriage relationship is vitally important to us, and we want to keep it strong and happy. We have continued to go on dates since our wedding, even though dating is usually reserved for people who aren’t married. Going on dates lets us have some fun, and will become even more important when we have children, because we’ll be able to have some time for just us to talk and reconnect. Establishing the habit of dates now, while we have time and flexibility, will be important later when our lives get progressively busier.
8. Attending the temple
Because we were married in the temple, we want to continue to return to the temple often. Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ are holy buildings dedicated to the Lord where members in good standing may enter to participate in sacred ordinances and make covenants with God. Attending the temple often gives us the opportunity to remember the covenants we have made, feel the Holy Ghost, and grow closer together as a couple. Right now, we live quite close to a temple, and have set a goal to attend weekly. Prophets have instructed us to attend the temple often. In the future our circumstances will likely change; however, we will strive to continue to attend the temple because of the wonderful blessings and strength we receive there.
A Christ-centered Life
Each of these 8 things is really only a small part of what we’re doing: merging two lives together and establishing a Christ-centered home. We believe that the early months and years of our marriage are the best time for us to establish the patterns, habits, and feelings we want to have in our family. Now, when we have time to focus on each other, is the time for us to decide how we want to live our lives. It’s also a time to cement our relationship with each other, and build our marriage on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We won’t always be newlyweds, but our hope is that these months and years of excitement and happiness together will prepare us to face the future with strong love for each other and faith in Jesus Christ.