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Newlyweds In The Golden Years January 24, 2017

When they tied the knot on April 9, 2016, Wendell Rockey and Ruth Fender were not typical newlyweds, as they exchanged their vows at the ages of 92 and 86, respectively. The couple married in the Commons building at Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Community (QPRC), where they are residents. As both Wendell and Ruth were married previously, they brought a wealth of marriage wisdom to their new union.

Wendell is a former U.S. Navy man and pastor. He has three children with his first wife, who died in 1962, and one with his second wife, who passed away three years after the couple moved to QPRC in 2008. Ruth, who was formerly employed as an activities director at a skilled nursing facility, moved to QPRC in 2012. She had been previously married for 25 years and has one child. Ruth had been a widow for 40 years before she and Wendell tied the knot.

Several months after their wedding day, The Wedding Planner checked in with the Rockeys, who were happy to share their insights on life, love, and marriage, drawn from decades of living and the first few months of their union together.

"Enjoying life together is beneficial at any age and arguably even more so later in life," Wendell said. His new bride concurred, saying, "When you get to this stage in life, love and marriage prove there is hope for companionship, regardless of your age or circumstance."

Ruth and Wendell first met in the Windows on Park Dining Room at QPRC when Ruth was looking for a place to sit and, always the gentleman, Wendell offered her a seat at his table. During their ensuing courtship, the couple realized they share many interests, and they incorporated a main one - music - into their wedding ceremony. As for planning the wedding, Wendell said, "I pretty much yielded to Ruth but offered some suggestions and she honored them. We planned our wedding ourselves. At a certain level, you probably need the help of a planner. It would save an awful lot of stress!" To that end, Wendell had one more piece of advice for couples embarking on planning a wedding: "Keep it simple. Simple can be beautiful."

The new marriage was not something Ruth entered into lightly. "I spent a long time thinking about getting married to him and thinking, 'Is this the best plan for these years of my life?'" she recalled. While being married again has been an adjustment, Ruth noted that she doesn't regret her decision at all. "Has it been worth it? Indeed! It's definitely better to be married," she said.

"Realize there are differences and you have to respect that and work through them," Wendell said. "Even in our advanced age, we're working through that." He noted that conflicts can sometimes arise over even simple things like what kind of music to listen to or what to watch on TV. "You're not going to change a person's tastes, but you have to make accommodations," he stressed.

No couple can expect to travel through life together without facing conflicts. "You have to talk about it," Wendell advised. "You have to identify what the other person is doing that upsets you and discuss the differences. Sometimes it is helpful to have an outside person give their perspective."

Ruth noted that the importance of compromise is something she's been adjusting to after being single for 40 years. "I was completely unaware that I made all of my decisions; I was just used to doing it," she explained. "Now someone else has input into our lives. Something I was surprised to learn when I married Wendell that I didn't know is that there are two right answers: mine and his," Ruth noted.

When asked what is important for couples - of any age - to know as they contemplate marriage, Wendell remarked, "Hopefully you know one another. To know a person is different than having information on them. You could have two people who are married but don't really know each other." He noted that truly knowing your spouse-to-be involves thoughtful, honest discussions of hopes for the future, as well as fears and anxieties.

Ruth said, "Be daring. Take initiative. Believe that you have something to offer somebody else. It's having a mindset that it's not what's in it for me but that I have something to contribute."

"Some people marry for what they get out of it, but marriage should be about serving each other," Wendell explained. "You should make your mate a better person and they should make you a better person. (Good candidates for marriage are) people who enrich one another and make each other better. You fill a need in each other's life and desire to make another person's life better."

Photos by Dale Brady.

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Wedding Budget 101 January 24, 2017

Couples engaged to be married have a lot on their plates as they begin planning their weddings. Whereas tradition once held that the parents of the bride paid for a couple's wedding, nowadays more and more engaged couples are completely or partially financing their own nuptials. That means prospective brides and grooms must develop wedding budgets that will ensure their first act as Mr. and Mrs. is not paying down debt.

In its 2015 Real Weddings Study, online bridal resource The Knot found that many couples still receive substantial financial support from their parents to pay for their weddings. The survey found that, on average, the bride's parents contributed 44 percent of the overall wedding budget in 2015, while the couple financed 43 percent. The remaining 13 percent was financed by the groom's parents and additional sources. Couples who hope to follow that formula or pay for their weddings on their own can heed the following tips to build wedding budgets that will not break the bank but will still ensure a day to remember forever.

· Examine your collective finances. Few couples know all of the details of each other's finances before getting engaged. While some may still hesitate to share their personal financial information upon getting engaged, an open and honest discussion and examination of each person's finances is the only way to develop a realistic wedding budget that both partners can live with. Once couples know what they can contribute, they can consult their parents to determine if their families intend to contribute.

· Develop a preliminary guest list. A preliminary guest list can give couples an idea of how large and expensive their weddings will be. According to the Real Weddings Study, the average cost per wedding guest in 2015 was $237. While that cost can vary greatly depending on geography and other factors, couples should keep that figure in mind when drafting their guest lists. If need be, keep costs down by trimming the guest list so it includes only close family members and friends.

· Don't count on gifts. Many couples justify runaway wedding budgets by telling themselves that they will ultimately get the money back in the form of wedding gifts. While many guests will give financial gifts, counting on such windfalls is a recipe for accruing debt. Do not build potential wedding gifts into a wedding budget. Couples that do so could be facing considerable debt upon returning home from their honeymoons.

· Gather quotes before choosing a wedding location. Where couples get married will have a great impact on how much money they will spend on their weddings. For example, the Real Weddings Study found that, in 2015, the average wedding in Manhattan cost couples slightly more than $82,000, while the average Alaskan wedding cost just over $17,000. Even within the same city, venues can vary greatly with regard to pricing and offerings, so couples should give themselves ample time to gather quotes and find an affordable venue they like.

· Research the average costs for vendors. Couples can conduct preliminary investigation to determine about how much they can expect to pay the vendors that provide photography, cake, music, and other services. Don't forget to budget for tax and gratuities.

· Build extra costs into the budget. When creating their budgets, couples must remember to include a little extra for unforeseen costs. Building such costs into the initial budget will make these unforeseen circumstances easier to handle.

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Money Matters And Merging Finances December 1, 2015

Getting married means accepting change and combining two lives into one. After couples tie the knot, certain decisions and discussions are easier than others. Money may be one of the hardest topics for newly married couples to discuss.

On average, couples are heading to the altar later than they did in generations past. In the United States, the average age of a first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men. That means couples are bringing several years of life experiences to their marriage and individuals are possibly leaving behind entirely autonomous lives. Many people have had a few years in the workforce and may have accumulated savings or, conversely, debt. Upon getting married, couples may have some questions as to how to handle financial issues, particularly if one person is contributing more to the household account than the other.

There's no one-size-fits-all scenario that works for all couples when it comes to money management. Similarly, what worked for parents or grandparents may not necessarily be the right fit for couples today. It may take some time and trial and error for couples to find a system that appeals to them. The following are a few ways for couples to approach their finances.

Separate But Equal

Some couples opt to continue on just as they did before they got married. That means maintaining separate banking accounts and pooling resources toward bills and other expenses. As long as the bills are getting paid, then maintaining separate accounts can work for some, particularly those who do not want to account for every purchase and want to maintain some financial freedom. This scenario can become problematic when couples are saving toward a larger goal, such as a vacation, home, or car. Each person may have different ideas about how to save and contribute toward the goal.

Yours, Mine, and Ours

If a couple decides to pool their resources, there are still a handful of ways to can go about it. One way is to pool all assets and pay for everything out of a joint account. Another option is to maintain separate accounts but create a joint account for larger, shared expenses. For example, a couple may open a house account, out of which housing and child care expenses are paid, but maintain separate individual accounts for personal expenses.

This situation may work but only if the ground rules are established right away. Decisions on how much money to put into the shared account can be stressful. Does each person contribute equally or are contributions contingent on salary? Which purchases will be shared jointly, and which ones will individuals take care of on their own? Lots of questions arise, and it may not make money management any easier.

Combined Accounts

Combined accounts used to be the norm for married couples. The "what's mine is yours" approach may not be so easy to adopt, especially when individuals have spent so much time independently before the marriage. Couples who pool their resources should learn to accept each other's spending habits.

According to past census data, 32 percent of wives in 1960 were in the labor force, so combined accounts were common and very often managed by husbands. But today the majority of homes are two-income households, so making all purchases out of a single joint account may not make as much sense as it did in decades past.

Decisions about money turn up as relationships take new turns. Married couples may need to modify their spending and saving habits as their relationships change.

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Money Matters January 5, 2015

Planning a wedding is a collaborative effort for couples. But the decisions do not end when the wedding reception wraps up for the night. Although couples spend months choosing everything from wedding bands to registry china patterns, even more decisions are on the horizon. These include decisions on housing, when to start a family and how to merge bank accounts, bills and investments that comprise each person's financial portfolio.

Many couples discuss finances before they tie the knot. Establishing a financial plan will shed light on how much you can afford to spend on your wedding. Even after saying "I do," newlyweds should make a list of financial matters that concern them, as these concerns can initiate discussions about finances. Unfortunately, many couples are hesitant to discuss their personal finances because of past financial indiscretions or fear of being chastised by their spouses. To avoid conflict, consider these ways to merge newlywed finances.

* Be forthcoming with information. It may be embarrassing to have a low credit score or substantial amount of debt. But it's still best to share this information sooner rather than later. Openness with regard to finances allows couples to work collectively to improve their financial standing.

* Pay off any debts. The cost of weddings has increased over the last several decades, and many newlyweds find themselves in a considerable amount of debt upon returning from their honeymoons. When merging finances, couples should prioritize paying down such debt, as debt is a significant source of stress for newlyweds and long-married couples alike. Newly married couples with little or no debt should avoid spending above their means in the months after they get married. Such spending is commonplace, as newly married couples often want to fully furnish their new homes or reward themselves for pulling off their weddings. But new debt can be just as stressful on a marriage as debt from the wedding, so couples should avoid this pitfall by paying down existing debts with their newly merged finances.

* Begin slowly. After so many years of financial self-sufficiency, some newlyweds find it difficult to blend finances. Couples with vastly different salaries may struggle to determine equitable contributions to joint accounts, so it can be beneficial to take things slowly. For example, open a joint account shortly after tying the knot, using the account to pay for home and living expenses. Keep separate accounts for discretionary purchases.

* Create a savings plan. Budgets that worked before you got married likely won't be realistic once you have tied the knot. Expenses and/or income may have increased, so examine your finances to get an honest assessment of them. Once you know how much money is coming in and going out, you and your spouse can begin to map out your short- and long-term financial plans.

* Establish a family CFO. Many couples opt to split responsibilities equally, while others realize one person is better suited to managing money. Whatever your decision, it should be mutual. Financial conflicts are one of the biggest contributors to marital dissatisfaction. If one person is the primary account manager, the other spouse should have open access to bank accounts, credit cards and passwords. The couple must recognize that responsibilities are not static; changes to these processes can be made if things are not working out.

* Make concessions for one another. When merging finances, couples often discover that they don't see eye-to-eye when it comes to spending money. Couples who successfully merge their finances often note the importance of making concessions with regard to their spouses' spending on certain hobbies or luxuries. As long as those hobbies are not putting couples in debt or jeopardizing their financial goals, each member of the partnership can make concessions so their spouse may continue to enjoy his or her favorite activities.

* Kids change everything. Plans may need to be revised as children enter the equation. Separate accounts may have worked before, but usually it makes more financial sense, especially come tax time, to completely merge accounts when children are in the picture. It may also be time to think about life insurance and disability insurance. Additionally, couples must update investment paperwork and retirement accounts to include new beneficiaries. Each spouse should write a will once children are born. This may require another assessment of assets and some additional financial decisions.

Merging finances is an issue that looms for many newlyweds or couples about to tie the knot. Though it's not always easy, merging finances early and discussing goals can ensure newlyweds get off on the right foot financially.

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The First "Season" of Marriage October 9, 2013

Someone once said that "Love is blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener." How true! Too often couples spend hundreds of hours thinking about their wedding ceremony - the dress, the church, the reception, the photographer, the honeymoon - and not enough time thinking about all of the changes that are going to occur once they say "I do"!

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is a "time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (NIV). At House on the Rock Family Ministries, we help couples understand the "seasons" their marriages will go through. Each season has its own set of "tasks" that couples need to grow through in order for their relationships to mature. When these tasks aren't accomplished, couples get "stuck," and growth is thwarted.

The first season of marriage has six significant tasks, or challenges, that couples must tackle to establish a strong foundation for their future years together. They are as follows:

Leaving and Cleaving - Marriage counselors suggest that too many couples have not been successful in leaving their fathers and mothers to cleave to their new spouse. Moving out of the house is easy, but leaving the influences of one's upbringing is a different story! It is important for each partner to be ready to break the old habits and patterns of their single days (and this is becoming even more important with the current trend of couples marrying later in life). Decisions about whose family traditions will be carried into the future, who will manage the finances, and what roles each partner will play in the marriage need to be clarified. Leaving and cleaving also means saying "move over" to parents in order to create a new number-one priority - your spouse.

Balancing of Power - Even when two people are "in love," conflict is inevitable. Each partner has to overcome their desire to be the one in control. Couples need to understand that conflict isn't always bad! Learning how to resolve conflicts and fight fairly is a vital skill in marriage. When couples resolve conflicts, they reveal their true selves and allow each other to talk though issues and feelings, which will deepen intimacy. It is only when couples avoid conflict that they run the risk of losing the feelings of intimacy.

Building a "More Perfect" Union - We don't think that newlyweds will have trouble in the area of physical intimacy. But this new dimension of life brings a number of challenges and expectations. Partners bring preconceived attitudes from their childhood, adolescence, or other past experiences into their marriages. Many of these can be harmful if they are not openly discussed and resolved. While these conversations may be a little awkward, they are critical if couples are going to experience the true joys of their sexual union.

Making Good Choices - There are thousands of decisions that couples need to make in the first year of marriage. Often these decisions will mean that one or both partners have to adjust, change, or compromise. But the most important decision couples must make is to stay and work things out instead of running. They must choose to be open and honest with each other and fix what isn't working. Ignoring or denying the problems and unresolved issues will lead to frustration and emotional explosions. Partners will sometimes need to choose to be the one who makes the first step toward change.

But the most important decision couples need to make is to stay together. Couples should never threaten each other with divorce. Successful marriages are built on unbreakable commitment. By doing this, they also commit to growing together in unity and purpose as individuals and as a couple. This early pledge will reap great rewards, in that the greatest gift parents can give their children is the promise to stay together.

Empty Parental Baggage - Everybody brings "baggage" into their marriages. Partners may have experience with divorce, abandonment, or abuse (physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional), either firsthand or through their parents' relationships. This baggage can cause deep wounds and fears about relationships and marriage. It can cause partners to stereotype each gender and plant unresolved feelings about the opposite sex. Couples need to talk through this baggage and make sure that whatever failures occurred in their parents' marriages aren't repeated in their marriage.

Building a Spiritual Union - Building a spiritual union together as husband and wife must be a priority. This is often the most difficult form of intimacy for a couple to attain. Couples need to develop a workable plan that will include setting aside time for devotions and prayer together. Couples will find encouragement and support when they find a church where they can fellowship and worship together with other believers. No marriage can be all that it can be if a couple's relationship with God is out of sync.

As couples work through these tasks of the first season of marriage, they need to do a great deal of communicating! While the first year can be tough, it can also be tremendously rewarding, as couples grow closer than they ever imagined. That's the great thing about marriage ... it gets better with age!

House on the Rock Family Ministries is committed to enriching marriages through Fan the Flame Date Nites, weekend retreats, and other workshops. Visit the website at www.hotrfm.org or call 717-299-8969 to learn more about House on the Rock Family Ministries' vision for helping men, marriages, families, and churches.

As seen in Weddings Year Round Bridal Magazine, www.weddingsyearround.com

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A Tip from a Pro - The Real Meaning of the Day September 4, 2013

"It's easy to get caught up in the many details of a wedding, but never lose sight of the real meaning of that day. The day will come and go, but your family and partner are here to stay. Always remember to treat everyone with the love and respect they deserve."

Jessica Finch, manager of Finch Jewelers, Lancaster

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A Tip from a Pro - Look at the Big Picture September 4, 2013

"Don't let the little things overwhelm you. Relax, enjoy the day. Treasure the memories!"

Terri L. Morton, food and beverage manager, Four Seasons Golf Course, Landisville

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Tax Tips for Newlyweds September 3, 2013

A change in your marital status can affect your taxes. Here are several tips for newlyweds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

-It's important that the names and Social Security numbers that you put on your tax return match your Social Security Administration (SSA) records. If you've changed your name, report the change to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get this form by visiting the website at SSA.gov, calling 800-772-1213, or visiting your local SSA office.

-If your address has changed, file Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service if your address has changed. You can ask to have your mail forwarded online at USPS.com or report the change at your local post office.

-If you work, report your name and/or address change to your employer. This will help to ensure that you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.

-If you and your spouse both work, you should check the amount of federal income tax withheld from your pay. Your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.

-If you didn't qualify to itemize deductions before you were married, that may have changed. You and your spouse may save money by itemizing rather than taking the standard deduction on your tax return. You'll need to use Form 1040 with Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You can't use Form 1040A or 1040EZ when you itemize.

-If you are married as of Dec. 31, that's your marital status for the entire year for tax purposes. You and your spouse usually may choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately in any given year. You may want to figure the tax both ways to determine which filing status results in the lowest tax owed. In most cases, it's beneficial to file jointly.

For more information about these topics, visit IRS.gov. You can also get IRS forms and publications at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Counseling for Healthy Marriages August 28, 2013

A marriage doesn't have to be in distress to bring in the help of a counselor. Marriage counselors can help newlyweds start out on the right foot or help established couples fine-tune their marriages.

Counseling can help in a number of ways:

* Decrease conflicts that lead to fights

* Provide communication strategies for men and women

* Suggest new ideas for reconnecting

* Identify potentially problematic areas that may be easily resolved or require further attention

Couples should interview prospective counselors to determine the best fit and choose the one they feel most comfortable with. Not all counselors are the same, and some have specific areas of relationship expertise. There also may be counselors who work with both couples and families. A lot of churches have premarital programs for couples to gain understanding about life together beyond the big day.

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Discussing and Solving Debt with Your New Spouse August 28, 2013

To be sure, it is not very romantic to gaze deep into the eyes of your future spouse and talk about outstanding debts. So it's no surprise that the topic isn't high on the list of priorities when making wedding plans. However, it makes good sense -- and good cents -- for couples to sit down and make a plan for managing their finances and any existing debts long before the ink is dry on the wedding invitations.

Take charge of your debts

If you're not sure of the exact status of your debts, a credit report will provide a detailed history of what you currently owe and if any payments have been late or are missing. Your first and perhaps most important job is to ensure that the report is complete and accurate. Inaccurate or incomplete information can damage your credit rating -- and it is up to you to document the errors and make sure they are corrected. Managing your debts and credit history is extremely important and all too often overlooked.

Create a plan

Determine what your financial obligations are and, together, create a strategy to reduce and eventually eliminate your debts. Expect the unexpected and have contingencies in place should you become unable to continue your payment plan due to a job layoff, an unexpected major expense or medical emergency. Be aware that your current debts may limit your ability to make major purchases and determine how that will impact your future needs.

Reducing or eliminating debt

Determine a realistic amount you can afford each month and a timetable for paying down your debt. Evaluate every few months how well your plan is progressing and make necessary adjustments to pay off as much as you can without adding undue stress. Even though some strategies to reduce your debt seem obvious, they shouldn't be overlooked. First and foremost, don't make purchases that will add to your debt. Contact your creditors and try to negotiate a lower interest rate. This may or may not be possible, but couples won't know if they don't try.

When paying down debts, eliminate the debts that boast higher interest rates first. See if you can transfer card balances to a card with a lower interest rate. Find ways to cut spending by living on less. This should leave more room to enjoy your new life together, and enable each person in the relationship to improve their credit rating as well. The first step to financial success is to make a plan. All steps thereafter should adhere to that plan.

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What Could Be Bigger Than Your Big Day? August 23, 2013

You're making thousands of decisions; some as detailed as the color of the toothpicks that will serve your savory meatballs. You're spending countless hours and energy on a ceremony, reception and honeymoon that's only going to last a few hours in comparison to the years of real life ahead. So how are you planning to "live happily ever after," hoping to beat the odds of divorce?

Now there's a word you don't want to hear as you're planning your wedding! But statistics sound the alarm. About half of all first time marriages will end in divorce. Couples who have lived together before their weddings are no better off statistically. And if you're in a re-marriage scenario ... let's just say the odds are not in your favor. So I ask you again: "Have you made the most important plans for your wedding? Have you planned to participate in some sort of pre-marital or re-marital education?"

If you think "love will keep you together," or that luck will help you beat the odds ... then, good luck. But I want you to know that a good skill-based pre-marital / re-marital educational program can reduce your risk of divorce by as much as 30 percent! Research also suggests it can help reduce stress during this pre-wedding period. So a few well-spent hours planning and preparing for a lifetime together can be the best wedding plans you'll ever make.

So let's get started. You want to look for a program that covers these areas:

Communication Skills: Communication is to your marriage what blood is to your bodies. Blood carries the nutrients that feed our bodies and hauls out the waste to keep us healthy. In our world of quick tweets and texts, we've lost some of the ability to have conversations that will maintain relationships and build intimacy.

Financial Issues: Money issues are one of the top two causes of divorce. It's important to begin thinking about and planning your new family budget. Who will manage the checkbook? How do you feel about spending, saving, giving and going into debt?

Conflict Resolution: Don't be naive ... you and your future spouse will have conflicts. John Gottman, a marriage expert, says that a couple's ability to resolve conflict is a great predictor of marriage success. So this is a skill that you want to master. Let's be honest. If the two of you are having trouble resolving conflict now ... what makes you think it will get better after you're married?

Faith and Values Compatibility: For some, this is no problem. For others it can be a big issue. Few things drive us more than our core values and beliefs. So, it's important that you're aware of what really drives who you both are. The wise adage "Do not be unequally yoked" is worth thinking about for those who hold strong beliefs.

Family of Origin Issues: News Flash! You're not the only ones getting married! Years of family "baggage" waits at the altar and walks down the aisle too! You've learned most of what you know about being married by watching your parents' marriages. If they're strong and healthy ... you're fortunate. If they weren't ... you have potential obstacles to overcome. These are good to deal with before the "waiting and walking."

Role Expectations: What are you expecting from your new husband? Is he aware of those expectations? Have you talked through them? What is he expecting from you? Don't wait until you've tied the knot to have your expectations shattered.

Goal-setting and planning: The couple who fails to plan ... plans to fail. What do you want your life as a couple to look like in 1, 3, 5, 10, 25 years? How many children do you want to have? What about careers or future education? What are you going to do to maintain and enrich your marriage?

Hopefully you see the value in planning for your "happily ever after." Pre-marriage preparing isn't a long process, especially if you feel you're both starting out with solid foundations and only need some clarifications and goal-setting. If there is "baggage," the process could take more time. Regardless, be sure to make the time to invest in your marriage. The return on this investment has the potential of being be lifelong!

House on the Rock Family Ministries can help you find a good program. Contact us at info@hotrfm.org.

As seen in Weddings Year Round Bridal Magazine Winter 2012, weddingsyearround.com

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