Beginning October 2019, engaged couples in Utah will be eligible to receive a $20 discount on their marriage license, as well as additional discounts on a variety of wedding products and services, when they complete approved premarital education or counseling. It’s money that could both save marriages and taxpayer dollars.

This Marriage Education Discount (MED) is designed to give Utah couples a strong foundation as they begin their life together. Nine other states have similar policies with promising outcomes including Florida, Texas and Tennessee. The Utah Marriage Commission, which championed the change, is dedicated to strengthening marriage relationships before couples tie the knot.

Research shows that premarital education or counseling strengthens marriages during the early and most vulnerable years and can reduce divorce rates between 20-30%. Increased participation in premarital education or counseling not only benefits couples and their children, but also reduces the economic costs of divorce throughout Utah. According to calculations by Alan Hawkins, director of the BYU School of Family Life and a nationally recognized scholar, higher rates of participation in premarital education or counseling result in fewer divorces for a projected savings of $2.2 million annually to Utah taxpayers. In addition to monetary savings, the people of Utah will enjoy stronger families and marriages.

To qualify for the marriage license discount, engaged couples must complete at least six hours of approved premarital education or at least three hours of premarital counseling. Premarital education must be facilitated by a licensed or ordained minister or clergy, a certified family life educator, a family and consumer sciences educator, or other approved instructors. More information on these requirements are found at the StrongerMarriage.org website.

Couples can also qualify by completing an online premarital education course approved by the Utah Marriage Commission. Engaged Utah couples can receive a code to take a free online course by emailing utahprep@utah.gov. Community classes can be found at StrongerMarriage.org. Another option is premarital counseling provided by mental-health professionals licensed in Utah.

Qualifying education or counseling must include information on important factors associated with strong and healthy marriages, including commitment in marriage, effective communication, problem-solving skills, and avoiding violence and abuse in the relationship. Counseling or education must be completed not more than one year before but at least 14 days before the marriage license is issued.

In order to receive the $20 discount, couples must apply for their marriage license online and submit a completion code form their education provider or counselor. Currently, Utah County is the only county that offers a completely online system although the marriage license will be valid in any county in the state. To learn more about this opportunity, visit the Utah Marriage Commission website at StrongerMarriage.org or email marriagecommission@utah.gov.

Saving $20 while strengthening a marriage is the kind of bargain couples should seize before they wed.

Paul Schvaneveldt, Ph.D., CFLE is the chair of the Utah Marriage Commission and the Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor at Weber State University.

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