Your beloved popped the question or maybe you popped the question — hey, it is 2015 — and now you’re ready to begin planning your wedding…right? Not so fast. Before you prepare an engagement announcement for your local newspaper, before you begin creating a Pinterest board of your favorite wedding gowns, before you go crazy posting a gazillion pics of your engagement ring bling on Facebook and Instagram, Triple B highly suggests you do one thing.

Seek pre-marital counseling.

Yep, that’s right. Sit down with your partner and talk about the type of pre-marriage counseling you want to engage in and then actively begin putting a plan in place to begin that counseling. You can get information on various options here. (Individual counseling might be a strong consideration as well.) Counseling is not a sign that your relationship is in trouble. It is a sign of maturity and signifies that you take the major commitment you’re embarking on seriously.

Huh? What’s that? Black people don’t do therapy? Your grandparents have been happily married over 60 years and they never sought out counseling? Well, your great-grandfather might have also raised a family of ten with a sixth grade education but I don’t think any adult in their right mind is encouraging a child in 2015 to drop out of school at the age of 12. We have access to resources those before us didn’t and we should take full advantage of them.

One of my girlfriends got engaged last fall and I was so proud of her when she shared that she and her fiance were looking forward to not only pre-marital counseling but annual “check-in” counseling sessions as a married couple. How wise, right? I think most of us underestimate how much emotional baggage we bring to a marriage from simply living fairly normal lives. (I know I did.) Can pre-marital counseling guarantee a long, happy marriage? Absolutely not. But it is likely to open up dialogue about your views on everything from money, sex, children, religion, household chores and more — factors that often are tangled into how we were raised, previous relationships and outdated societal standards. Counseling can help an engaged couple sort through it all in a non-confrontational setting.

Remember whether it is your pastor or a clinical therapist of some sort (or even both), seeking professional guidance from an objective third party to help you plan for your marriage trumps any — yes, any — planning you will ever do for your wedding. Start there. Selecting the “perfect” venue or DJ can wait. The wedding is a day, the marriage is hopefully a lifetime.

P.S. — This is the extent of the relationship “advice” that will ever appear from me on Triple B. I have no desire to become an expert on anyone’s marriage but my own.

Bookmark Triple B’s Wedding Planning Timeline Here. But please tailor it to meet your needs, taste and budget. I only did a fraction of the items on this checklist for my own wedding.

Do you have tips for seeking a pre-marriage or marriage counselor? Share them in the comments!