Wanaka's Alison and Peter Southwick are among 12 couples
participating in The Marriage Course. Photo by Catherine
The Combined Churches of Wanaka are offering a series of
free candlelit, dessert, date nights, with complimentary
childcare, to help give ''happily ever after'' a little boost.
The only catch - deep and meaningfuls are on the menu.
The Marriage Course recognises that romance may need
rekindling, especially after children, and has started seven
weekly sessions, in the Wanaka Presbyterian Community Church.
The church's family connections manager, Kathy Dedo, said the
course was for any married or long-term couples. Their
relationship did not need to be ''in trouble'' to benefit
from the information provided.
''It's just really basic, practical tips that cover a variety
of topics - good communication, managing conflict and good
Although the material comes from a Christian perspective, the
course did not assume everyone shared that perspective, Mrs
The format is as follows: each couple sits at a table
(covered with tablecloths and adorned with candles and
flowers); they watch a segment of a DVD created by a London
church, the Holy Trinity Brompton, which produced the
''Then they have a private conversation about what they have
seen. There's no group sharing,'' Mrs Dedo stressed.
A manual is provided to guide conversations but the focus is
on giving couples quality time together and encouraging
Mrs Dedo, who facilitates the course with Anglican vicar
Damon Plimmer, has even convinced her husband Phil Smith to
come along to the first three sessions.
''Definitely there were very reluctant men who were clearly
dragged along but you look around the room and they are all
chatting away with their partners,'' she said.
Wanaka couple Alison and Peter Southwick, who have been
married 28 years and have a 9-year-old daughter, had attended
two sessions and found them both challenging ''but useful for
our marriage'', Mr Southwick said.
''I don't think there is any marriage that wouldn't benefit
from coming to it,'' he added.
The course seems to have struck a chord in the community,
with a dozen couples registering for the current set of
sessions and many more indicating they would like to attend a
Church volunteers provide the free childcare and dessert.