The Church requires that you notify the priest of your intended Catholic marriage at least six months prior to the wedding, so as to allow adequate time for assessment and preparation.
The Purpose of Marriage Preparation
You are asking for a Catholic marriage, a sacrament in the Catholic Church. The purpose of this time of marriage preparation is to prepare you (the couple) to enter into a lifelong commitment of love. This will be a time to reflect on the true meaning of marriage-- its beauty, its commitment and permanency, its unity of love and openness to life, and its responsibilities.
The Marriage Preparation Program at St. Mary's
Marriage preparation at St. Mary's is conducted by the priest. A summary of the typical marriage preparation program is given below:
Phase 1: Initial interview with the priest.
Phase 2: Premarital Assessment.
FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study) is a is a pre-marital inventory assessment tool that helps identify strengths / weaknesses in your relationship. It covers a range of elements necessary for a successful marriage including: inter-personal communication and problem solving skills, religion and values, parenting, in-laws, sexuality, and finances.
Phase 3: Instructional / Formation.
This phase covers the spiritual and practical issues of marriage. A video series entitled "God's Plan for a Joy Filled Marriage" deals with spiritual issues (God's plan for marriage), while the practical issues are dealt with via an Engaged Encounter, which is a weekend for engaged couples to discuss their relationship in a prayerful atmosphere. Alternatively, the practical issues can be dealt with via another video series entitled "Your Marriage." The videos series are watched and discussed with the priest. An online Marriage Preparation program is also available for couples to use, if they can't meet together with the priest on a regular basis.
Natural Family Planning Sessions is part of this phase. These sessions introduce the couple to Natural Family Planning, the Church approved method for the regulation of births.
Phase 4: Planning the liturgy for the wedding.
Priest’s Role in Marriage Preparation
The role of the priest is to help you grow in your Christian faith, especially in regards to marriage and family life, to help you under-stand the true meaning of sexuality and marriage, and to challenge you to live according to this true meaning and teachings of the Church.
Your Role in Marriage Preparation
Your role is to be committed to this time of marriage preparation, to be open and honest, to attend, as a couple, the agreed upon meetings and to give evidence that you are reflecting on and taking seriously the things talked about. Prayer also needs to be part of your preparation. Part of your effort will be to recog-nize: (1) the essential characteristics of marriage (unity, fidelity, permanence, openness to children) and (2) characteristics of Christian faith (primacy of your relationship to God, fidelity to the teaching of the Church, and growth in the spiritual life).
Guidelines for Ceremony
1. Music. The ideal music for a worship service is music for a worship service. “Secular” music is prohibited during the ceremony.
2. Pictures and Videotaping. Most of the formal wedding pictures should be taken before the ceremony. You are welcome to videotape the ceremony and take pictures during the ceremony.
3. Decorations. Keep it simple. If candelabras are used, use dripless candles. It is inappropriate to place objects on the sacred altar. Rice, wheat, flower petals or similar materials are not allowed before or after the ceremony.
4. Set-up and Clean-up. You are responsible for decorating before your wedding and for cleaning up both the Church and your dressing areas afterwards.
5. Dress. The wedding dress and brides-maid dresses should be modest. Strapless gowns would generally be inappropriate.
6. Scheduling. Because of confessions at 4:30 p.m., weddings on Saturdays are to begin no later than 3:00. Weddings are not allowed on Sunday, Holy Days of Obligation or during the Season of Lent. Rehearsals are held the night before the wedding.
Cohabitation (i.e., living together in a sexual relationship without marriage) clearly violates the Church’s teachings regarding the purpose and true meaning of marriage, as well as God’s commandments regarding chastity. We under-stand that our society and culture seem to approve of it, but as Catholics and Christians we stand firm for what is right.
The cohabitating couple will be challenged to live according to the Church’s teachings by separating during the time of preparation. If it is not possible to separate because of particular circumstances, the cohabitating couple will be asked to live chastely as brother and sister. The couple is reminded that they are preparing to receive a sacred sacrament of the Church. It is a requirement of the church that all sacraments must be received with proper intentions and in good faith.