Some weddings are more fun than others.
And in what I still consider one of the biggest wedding whoopsies of all time, we didn’t hire a photographer to capture the memories when my mother married John 17 years ago. You’ll just have to use your imagination when I tell you that a gorilla kidnapped Mom off the dance floor and whisked her away in a boat, whereupon John–looking every bit like James Bond in his spiffy tuxedo–jumped on a jet ski and gave chase.
Gorillas on the guest list or not, the union of husband and wife is, as we’re often reminded at weddings, “intended by God for their mutual joy.” God wants us to have fun together! And laughter, as it turns out, really is good medicine: According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and soothes tension through improved circulation. It combats depression and anxiety and increases self esteem. And the positive thoughts that trigger laughter also release neuropeptides that improve our immune systems.
Not only that, but laughter can help us connect and “make it easier to cope with difficult situations.”
What marriage couldn’t use more of that?
Get serious about having fun
Having fun together might sound like something that happens naturally in a marriage (why would you marry somebody you didn’t enjoy?). But even the most upbeat, well-matched couples will go through hard seasons–months or years, even–when we need to guard against joy stealers like stress and fatigue.
So what do we do? How do we intentionally make space to play, to enjoy one another, to laugh?
You could order a book of dad jokes. I did that one year for Robbie (Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl going to the bathroom? Because the “P” is silent), and we shared a few groans. In retrospect, a better idea is to talk to our actual Dad–the one who wants us to have fun and be joyful–and ask him to help. We can borrow King David’s words to shape our prayer: “Make known to us the path of life; fill us with joy in your presence.” (Psalm 16:11)
As we pray, we can also ask ourselves a few questions:
What would it take for us to be more intentional about having fun?
Are there things we need to let go of in order to make space to play? Do we need to get away together?
What does fun look like to you?
Having fun looks different for everyone. For instance, Robbie has fun anytime that he’s on a boat. Me, I have fun anytime I can talk my man into pretending he’s happy to be in a picture with one of my books.
Don’t yuck each other’s yum
As you think about what you and your spouse might want to do–take a dance class, attend a music festival, or embark on some unexpected adventure–take turns making plans. And try to make twice-a-month date nights a regular part of your marriage routine. According to a new report from the National Marriage Project at UVA and the Wheatley Institute, regularly dating your spouse is linked to a happier and more stable relationship–one marked by better communication, less stress, more satisfying sex, and a stronger commitment to their marriage.
(All of which sounds fun to me!)
And as our daughters told us when they were teens, “Don’t yuck each other’s yum.” Just because something doesn’t sound fun to you doesn’t mean it won’t be fun if you try it–at least once–with your spouse. Robbie rolled his eyes when I bought a pickleball net and handed him the sidewalk chalk to map out a court in our driveway. Maybe it’s because the driveway slants a bit and is ringed by some particularly prickly holly bushes, but when we invited another couple to join us, we laughed ’til our stomachs hurt.
Brainstorm some ideas and give them a try. Be intentional about creating a climate in which laughter can thrive. And whether you’re naturally funny or not (and if not, that’s okay; the world needs regular people who appreciate the fact that other people invite gorillas to show up at their wedding), ask God to help you rejoice.
Jesus came, after all, to tell us how to live so his joy would be in us and our joy, as John 15:11 puts it, would be “full.”
P.S. There’s a whole chapter on having fun together in the new book. And when you pre-order a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Marriage, you can get immediate access to a set of printable conversation cards, a collection designed to help you connect with each other (and with God!) about all sorts of topics.
And while I have no idea who snapped this photo, I’m forever grateful to the guest who had the presence of mind to take a pic on the dance floor, moments before the D.J. started playing the theme from King Kong…