Marriage preparation was often referred to as “pre-Cana” because the first miracle of Jesus was at a wedding in the town of Cana. Mary, his mother, was also present and noticed the wedding party had run out of wine. She then asked Jesus to help the newlyweds. Changing the water into wine was the first public miracle of Jesus. This miracle reveals both Mary’s loving intercession for married couples and Jesus’ presence and care for our needs. Therefore “Pre-Cana” refers to preparing for a marriage in which Jesus is invited to the wedding and into the marriage that follows.
Couples often ask how quickly they can get married in the Catholic Church. Due to the importance of the different elements, it is recommended that you allow at least nine months to complete all of your preparation. This is a reasonable timeframe to engage in the elements both practically and thoughtfully.
As you anticipate the joy of your wedding and marriage, we invite you to enter into this marriage preparation process in the Catholic Church as an opportunity to grow individually and as a couple rather than as a checklist of things you “have to do”. Preparing for marriage is so important that every diocese has required elements.
Steps to Receive the Sacrament of Marriage
Step 1: Parish Connection
As soon as you get engaged (and prior to making any other wedding plans such as reserving the reception hall, caterer, etc.) please contact your parish. If you are not actively engaged in a parish community, contact the parish closest to the residence of the bride or the groom.
Your parish will welcome you and set up a meeting for you with the pastor, priest, or deacon. This will allow you:
- To get to know one another better,
- To review these elements of preparation,
- And to discuss the necessary paperwork required by the Church and by the State.
The priest or deacon officiating at your wedding ceremony is responsible for your preparation and will journey with you throughout your preparation. He may delegate aspects to others however you should continuously be checking in with him regarding your experiences and completion of these elements
Step 2: Marriage Formation
Fully Engaged Inventory & Discussion
Fully Engaged is an inventory designed to help you identify and discuss your expectations for your future together in a number of areas (children, careers, roles, faith, finances, etc.). You will take the inventory at the parish when you first meet with the pastor, priest, or deacon. Afterward, you will meet with a trained facilitator (priest, deacon, or married mentor couple) at least three times to discuss your answers and expectations with each other.
Marriage Preparation Group Program (either Transformed in Love or Camino)
These are group programs, led by teams of married couples and clergy, that cover topics such as self-knowledge, communication, expectations, finances, Sacramental Marriage, marital sexuality, marital spirituality, etc. The priest or deacon overseeing your preparation will recommend one of the above for you. After you attend the group program you will want to follow up with the pastor, priest or deacon overseeing your marriage preparation process to present your certificate and discuss your experience together.
Natural Family Planning Class
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the general title for scientific, natural, and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies with just reasons. Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life- giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God’s design for married love. The Marriage Preparation Group Program will introduce you to what NFP is and why the Church supports it. These classes will teach you signs to recognize your own fertility. You can choose a live in-person class, a live online class, or a self- paced online class. Depending upon the method you choose, it will take 3-6 months to complete this element of your preparation.
Step 3: Faith Formation
We invite you to actively participate in a parish, attend Sunday Mass, and to make the sacraments and the Christian faith a foundation of your future together. Experience reveals, and research confirms, that “the rate of satisfaction in marriage is higher for husbands and wives when both regularly maintain religious attendance and feel that God is the center of their marriage.” 1
If you are Catholic and not yet Confirmed, then it is best to talk with your priest so you can start to get involved in a parish RCIA program (that you may begin but may not be completed until after your wedding date). The lack of the Sacrament of Confirmation is not an impediment to marriage.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also recommended prior to your wedding. Your pastor will discuss options for receiving this sacrament. Remember that there is no sin that God is not eager to forgive. Participation in this sacrament can become a significant moment of grace in your preparation to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony fruitfully.
Step 4: Liturgical Formation
When you have completed the other elements of your preparation, the pastor will review your experience with you and complete all the correct paperwork for the Church and the State. Having completed the elements, he will also discuss your readiness to enter into marriage and will confirm the date and details.
The various elements of your preparation thus far will have provided you with a greater understanding of the promises you will make to one another in the Celebration of Matrimony. You will also learn the options you have for making your Celebration of Matrimony unique to you as a couple (such as the readings and music you have, the people you have involved, etc.). If you have not already done so, this will be the time to thoughtfully and prayerfully prepare for the actual liturgical celebration.
Step 5: Marriage Enrichment
We encourage you to also be intentional in constantly enriching your relationship after your wedding day. Investing in your marital relationship is extremely important and should not end at your wedding.
Please continue to be active members of your parish by attending Sunday Mass and participating in the sacraments and parish life. Check your parish bulletin and the Archdiocesan website for a variety of marriage enrichment opportunities.
Marriage Preparation Guide and Checklist
Click here to download the content from this page in the PDF Guide, also including a checklist to help with your marriage preparation.