United Marriage Encounter:
A Review from Our Experience
Recently, Andrew and I attended a United Marriage Encounter marriage retreat weekend together. It had been heavily advertised at our church as being a retreat where couples would learn how to bring more romance, spark, and communication into their marriages.
Ever been on a UME weekend?
Review it HERE!
This, together with the fact that it was being held at a nice hotel (meals included!) for a steal of a deal, convinced us that it would be totally worth going to... so we signed up and got excited!
After all was said and done, if we had to do it all over again, I really don't think we would go to United Marriage Encounter again. But to keep this review objective, and to help you decide if a UME weekend would be good for YOU, check out my list of pros and cons below:
This (and all the other pictures from here on down) are pictures of the hotel where our United Marriage Encounter weekend was held... pretty nice, eh?!
PROS of the
United Marriage Encounter Weekend
- The weekend was very well organized; we had a whole schedule of events waiting for us in our room when we arrived.
- The speakers at the conference had good intentions in their presentations and had put a lot of preparation into what they shared.
- The UME volunteers went to a lot of work to make sure we had a great weekend. Our hotel rooms were even decorated with plenty of romantic candles, confetti, heart-shaped bath-salts, etc. Nice touches.
- Andrew and I definitely got to spend PLENTY of time together that weekend. Always a treat as we love hanging out together!
- It was definitely the "right price." The way UME runs things is that couples on prior weekends make donations (kind of like "paying it forward"), which brings down the cost for the couples on the next weekend (us). We were then asked to make a donation at the end of our weekend, but there was no pressure or "suggested donation amount."
- The marriage conference was held at a fancy hotel, which was a nice change of scenery for us.
- The meals at the hotel buffet were FABULOUS! I think that was the best part of the whole weekend for us!
CONS of the
United Marriage Encounter Weekend
- The presentation method was boring! The six presenters basically sat at a table in front of us and READ their long speeches out of binders. No eye-contact, no props, no powerpoint. Maybe it's because Andrew and I are both teachers, but we have a LOT higher standards for presentations!
- The activities were extremely repetitive. The presenters would give us a topic and we'd both have to write a love letter to each other on that topic. When we were finished we'd have to read it to each other (out-loud in our hotel room), and discuss. This was a nice idea, except that after six times in a row, IT GOT OLD!!
- We were way too closely monitored. At one point Andrew and I didn't return to the next session in the conference room after reading our love letters to each other because our discussion got a little involved (and we thought it was more important than listening to them read out of their binders again!) The organizers kept phoning our room to ask when we were coming back to the conference room to join the next session. They called us about 3 times in half an hour... annoying!
- We weren't allowed to talk to the other couples at the conference. The point of this (understandably) was that the purpose of the weekend was to focus solely on your spouse and no one else. However, this went to the extreme of us being given a specific marriage topic to discuss at each meal, and this was the only thing we were to talk about with our table-mates. Everything else was code-named "strawberries." So, if for example, you turned to the person next to you and innocently asked, "So, do you have any kids?," they'd have to reply to you, "I'm sorry, but that's a strawberry." Very embarrassing if you slipped up and went off the assigned discussion topic!
- We felt guilted into staying the entire weekend. After we had written each other one too many love letters and had gotten the drift of the binder-read speeches, we really wanted to split a bit early (Sunday afternoon instead of Sunday night) since we were exhausted and had to work the next day. However, the organizers kept reminding all of us that, "This weekend has been generously pre-paid by another couple as a gift to strengthen your marriage." Who could argue with that?
- The whole thing seemed a bit sticky-sweet. For example, at the end of the weekend each couple was supposed to do a group hug with the organizers and say, "We love you!" in unison. I don't know about you, but I have trouble saying that to people I've just met (and who have been reading at me out of binders all weekend!).
I realize that the above cons list is much longer than the pros list, (and that's most likely why I don't think we would do a United Marriage Encounter weekend again).
However, all of the above being stated, there were still MANY couples there who seemed to get a LOT out of the weekend, judging by the testimonials that were given at the end.
Maybe it was just that Andrew and I hadn't been married for long enough at the time to have a lot of issues that needed sorting out. Or maybe it's because we spend so much time together because we work together that we have oodles of time to communicate, unlike many other couples who don't get to see each other as much. Who knows.
Our friends (another young couple) attended the same United Marriage Encounter weekend as we did, and had many of the same thoughts about it, so we are definitely not the only ones.
If you're considering going on a United Marriage Encounter weekend, or any kind of marriage retreat for that matter, I would suggest you take a look at my recommendations on whether or not a marriage retreat would be good for you.
Have YOU ever been on a United Marriage Encounter weekend? If you have, it would be great if you wrote a little REVIEW on it here!
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