Can you learn to wed? Law proposed for pre-marriage classes

By Eun Kyung Kim

Colorado couples could be required to take premarital education classes before tying the knot, if a proposed ballot initiative goes through.

The Colorado Marriage Education Act would mandate 10 hours of pre-wedding instruction for first-time brides and grooms. Class time doubles to 20 hours for anyone getting married a second time — and triples to 30 hours for individuals wanting to head down the aisle a third time.

Widows and widowers would be held to the same 10-hour standard as a first-timer under the law, which would not apply to civil unions.

The effort is spearheaded by the California-based Kids Against Divorce, which says the premarital classes would help prepare couples for success in their marriages and, potentially, in parenthood.

“Kids Against Divorce has taken a stand on behalf of all children. By making the necessary changes on the front end of marriage, we can prevent the lifelong effects of divorce on the back end," organization founder David Schel told by email. “If we can prevent even one child from experiencing the tragic event of his/her family being split apart, then this was well worth it.”

The group needs 86,105 valid signatures by the Aug. 4 deadline to put the initiative on the state's November ballot.

Should the initiative pass, the Colorado State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners would develop the curriculum for the premarital classes and oversee its administration, Schel said. He added that the organization would like to see money management, health issues, conflict resolution and domestic resolution be among the topics addressed in the class.

TODAY’s Willie Geist noted that similar classes are required for anyone who wants to get married in the Catholic church. He said he took such a “Pre-Cana” class before he and his Catholic wife got married, but doesn’t credit the course for the strength of his marriage.

Tamron Hall, however, thought that an education class would be useful, especially for people like herself, who fear the idea of marriage.

"I don’t want to fail at this thing. I want to get it right whenever I do it," she said. "That’s something that really I hold sacred and I think everyone does when you take those vows. But if you take a class, I think that helps. It maybe will give you some confidence.”

But Al Roker noted that classes don’t always help with self-improvement efforts.

“It's worked so well with motor vehicles,” he told Hall sarcastically.

“That’s true,” she acknowledged. “I am a terrible driver.”

Colorado was the first state being targeted by Kids Against Divorce because its ballot process provided the group the most time to meet initiative requirements. However, the organization plans to propose similar bills in dozens of states across the country.