The Catholic Church has a long history of helping couples to prepare for marriage. It has learned a great deal that can benefit any couple, regardless of religion.
Because the Catholic Church wants couples to form strong, lasting marriages, couples who wish to marry in the Catholic Church are asked to:
- Contact and meet with your parish priest as soon as you are engaged.
- Take at least six months to intensively prepare for your marriage. This goes beyond choosing a date and church, reserving a place for the reception, and picking out dresses. It means using this time to delve more deeply into your relationship and approach this momentous day with prayer and reflection.
- Attend an approved marriage preparation program. There are many different formats for marriage preparation programs ranging from intensive weekends, to a weekly series, to “in home” mentor couple programs.
- Check out the most common national programs.
- To find what programs are available near you contact your diocesan family life office.
- Catholic marriage preparation programs are usually presented by a team of lay married couples and a priest or deacon. They are not restricted to Catholics, but they are always in keeping with Church teaching.
- Most dioceses ask couples to take a marriage preparation inventory (such as FOCCUS, PMI, or PREPARE). These are not “tests” to determine whether you can get married in the Church, but rather discussion starters to assess what issues you already agree on and what you might need to discuss further.
- Many parishes offer Mentor Couple Programs in which a trained married couple meets with you in their home to discuss common marriage issues. Sometimes the Mentor Couple will also administer the marriage preparation inventory and follow up on it with you.
Most importantly at the time of your engagement, the Church welcomes you to this sacrament of Marriage in the spirit of Jesus who said:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.