Almanac Life: Pre-Marital Counselling

Smokie and Margaret at a Footy Almanac function a few years ago



Because it was cricket season and getting married on a Saturday in summer was simply out of the question, we had decided on a Sunday wedding. But the old priest in our local parish had refused point blank to perform the ceremony on the sabbath, claiming that after the weekly Sunday services were completed, the afternoon was his to rest. His mind was not for changing, even when I offered him a bottle of Johnnie Walker as a bribe token of gratitude.


One saving grace was that my wife-to-be and I were advised that we could use the church, but that we would have to find another priest to perform the service. Following an anxious period of uncertainty, we were fortunate to locate a Parkville-based Maltese priest who agreed to marry us on the planned Sunday. However, because he did not know us, the proviso was that he asked would we mind attending a couple of “pre-marital counselling” sessions prior to the big day. My response was immediate: “If they are held on Saturdays, I am unavailable, due to cricket work commitments!” Sometimes, being a shift worker came in handy as far as excuses went.


We arrived at some sort of community centre in the middle of nowhere St Albans. I knew this was all a terrible mistake from the moment the priest suggested it we walked through the door of the hall and were greeted by thirty chairs arranged in a circular formation. Fearing that we would be asked to close our eyes and belt out our best version of ‘Kumbaya’, I considered turning on my heel right there and then. “Keep walking in and do not say a word,” Marg whispered, in what was a frighteningly early display of her ability to read my mind. “You have two days of this!”


When the fifteen couples were seated, the facilitators introduced themselves. They were a couple in their late-40’s, as strange as the Manson family sweet as pie, and commenced the proceedings by announcing that they had been married for over twenty-five years. (Yes, that old line about not getting that many years for murdering someone did come to mind). Slowly, around the circle, one-by-one we introduced ourselves. Glancing from face to face, I furtively searched for any sign from my fellow grooms-to-be that they were as appalled curious as I was about this whole enterprise. But I was disgusted surprised to sense only eagerness.


“What do you appreciate most about your partner?” asked the facilitator. Wow, a tough simple question to start with, I mused. A woman not much older than twenty raised her hand, and her answer was as fake as a three-dollar coin sincere as a mother’s love. “My partner is caring, considerate, understanding and genuine,” she blurted out. Just as I was about to burst out laughing stand and applaud this gentleman with the most virtuous of qualities, I looked to her left and was shocked to see a bloke who barely looked intelligent enough to tie his own shoelaces. But he spoke next and provided a similarly heartfelt spiel. They will be headed for the divorce court within two years a match made in heaven, I decided.


Around the circle it went, with similarly cringeworthy candid words being spoken by all participants. Then, it was my turn to express my appreciation. “Well, I just love the fact that Margaret irons my shirts for me – when I was single my shirts were always creased”. There were audible gasps, particularly amongst the females in the group. Were there other things I appreciated about her, I was asked. “Yes, but I am not going to sit here and tell a bunch of people whom I don’t even know”. The facilitators shook their heads in disgust sadly and moved on. But I did have the feeling that Marg would not forgive me for saw the humour in my response. A new question was asked of the group: “How will you resolve future conflicts?” I began preparing a few cracking answers for this question but, displaying timidity common-sense, the facilitators bypassed me when it came my turn to answer. I pretended to be elated crestfallen.


When we broke for lunch, I took my beloved’s hand and looked into her eyes. “If you really love me, you will not force me to walk back into that hall”, I said. She acquiesced…maybe she thought it was as big a load of hogwash unimportant in the scheme of things as did I.


A few short years later, Marg now heavily pregnant, we found ourselves in a pre-natal class. I watched, nauseous fascinated, as a birthing video played out on a big screen before us. When we paused for a tea break, I turned to my wife and said “If you love me…”




More stories from Smokie can be read HERE.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Daryl Schramm says

    I wonder where all participants (including the facilitators) are now.

  2. Rulebook says

    Absolute gold,Smokie I particularly enjoyed the crossed out lines and yes a lot of nodding – likewise Emma had picked summer no way we were top and a correct choice as we won the premiership.I missed round 2 of the footy season

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Ripper Smokie, one of your best!

  4. In fine form, Mr Dawson. Very fine form. And none of it possible without Marg.

  5. Omg, iid love to know how many of those facilitators are still married.

    Love it Smokie.

  6. craig dodson says


    How did pre wedding cricket go by chance? I once had a mate with a 4pm sat arvo ceremony, who opened the batting at 1pm..struck the best form of his life and simply couldn’t get out as the clock ticked closer to 4pm..eventually holled out, got into the penguin suit in the car and arrived with seconds to spare..

  7. Great yarn. So I take it that Sam told Alastair to go iron his own f’in shirts.

  8. Ha! Great story Smoke. I remember going to a number of those sessions. Ours were held in someone’s house. They used to bring the teapot around at regular intervals with a tray of Monte Carlo biscuits. I ate my body weight in biscuits. Can’t remember much about the sessions.

  9. DBalassone says

    Gold, Smokie, gold!

  10. All,
    Thanks for all your comments.
    They are greatly appreciated.

  11. Kevin Densley says

    Deft, fun piece, Smokie – enjoyable and containing more than a few highly worthwhile insights!

  12. Superb. Spot on.

  13. Very amusing Smokie. I wonder if folks in other countries have such a difficult time finding a wedding date that doesn’t clash with sporting commitments? I’m still surprised that the bribe didn’t get the priest over the line.

  14. george smith says

    Went for Pre-marriage counseling in the Philippines in 1998. We were already married, but if I gave them lip or objected in any way they would arbitrarily cancel the church wedding. Listening to the lectures it occurred to me that as an Australian in his early 40s i knew 100 times more about love and sex than anyone in that room.

    Prior to this I had to endure personal and abusive questions about my previous sexual and relationship history from an arrogant priest, fortunately not the one who married us in the end.

    The hold of the Opus Dei cult and the Spanish Church is strong over there, leading to misery within marriage because of their war on contraception and divorce. I saw condoms displayed in a 7-11 window there recently and I did the dance of joy, only to discover later that Philippine condoms are crap and not fit for purpose.

  15. Peter Fuller says

    I think I preferred your first draft! I had achieved the status of RC (retired Catholic) by the time my date with destiny rolled around, so I escaped this ritual. The Uni chaplain was completely relaxed about counselling, considering it a matter for our initiative. The spouse and I were in accord that we would forego the opportunity. The concept of group counselling would have been terrifying.

  16. Luke Reynolds says

    Absolutely hilarious Smokie! We had a May wedding to completely avoid cricket. As for the weddings of others during cricket season, I’ve rarely attended a ceremony and rarely missed a reception!

  17. Roger Lowrey says

    Marvellous story Smokie. Loved the reference to the ante natal classes too. As one of our friends remarked curiously as we did ours, “a bit late to be against it isn’t it?” Doh! RDL

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