It is an exciting time when you meet the one you love and look forward to the rest of your lives together. The Church earnestly desires to assist all engaged couples to be fully prepared for a lifetime of love and joy together.
Below are the process and requirements to be married within the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Madison. But preparing for your marriage must be more than meeting a set of requirements! The marriage prep program is meant to help couples understand more about one another and about the beautiful vision of marital love that is the heart of Christian marriage.
Contact your parish as soon as possible--at least six months before your wedding date, preferably one year before your wedding.
You will need to discuss the marriage preparation process, determine canonical and civil eligibility for marriage, and explore the possibility for the sacrament of Confirmation if needed. You will also be able to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have, e.g. about a prior marriage, differences in faith (Catholic and non-Catholic), or if one of you may be from a different diocese.
Please remember, it is essential to have this meeting as early as possible to have enough time to resolve any particular issues, obtain necessary documents, and attend the marriage preparation programs offered.
Your parish may require you to complete the FOCCUS marriage preparation inventory. FOCCUS is a series of statements designed to assess each of your habits, expectations, and values; it will provide you with a personalized profile of your relationship's strengths and weaknesses. The inventory is an important starting place for couple discussion and a map of the area that may need affirmation, attention, or problem solving.
FOCCUS is facilitated by a trained parish priest or married couple and is completed at the parish. Inquire about this step when you meet with your pastor.
The God's Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage seminar offers engaged couples a complete understanding of God's glorious plan for marriage and sexuality. Based on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, this program explores Church teachings on marriage and what it means to live out the vows of matrimony--free, total, faithful, and fruitful love. Resources provided include Christopher West's book, The Good News about Sex & Marriage, and a student workbook. The God's Plan seminars follow a Saturday, Sunday, or two-evening format.
The Real Life, Real Love seminar involves married couples sharing their experiences on issues important to long-lasting marriages: self-awareness, communication, sexuality, and faith. Each couple is provided significant time for personal reflection and couple dialogue. The Real Life, Real Love seminars follow a Saturday, Sunday, or two-evening format.
One of the most important things you can do for your marriage is learning NFP. Not only is it a morally acceptable way to plan your family, it also benefits a couple's relationship with a nearly non-existent divorce rate among NFP-practicing couples.
Two different methods of NFP instruction are available in the Diocese. Classes are available at several different sites and vary in length and cost by method.
If you're new to NFP, consider NFP 101--a 75-minute presentation that explains the basics and assists couples in choosing the best NFP method for them.
The Church invites all Catholics to prepare themselves spiritually prior to their marriage through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Haven't been to Reconciliation in awhile? Not to worry! Here is what you need:
After you've completed the marriage preparation seminars and other parish requirements, you should have additional meetings with the priest or deacon that will witness your marriage. You will have the opportunity to discuss the seminars, finalize liturgical plans, and address any additional needs that you have.
The above process may vary slightly from parish to parish, so please check with your priest or deacon to find out their specific requirements. If you have any questions, or if there is any way we can help, don't hesitate to contact the Marriage Preparation Coordinator at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be assured of our prayers for you, and may God bless you as you prepare for the rest of your lives together!
In Perfect Union: Living the Sacrament of Marriage is a booklet for engaged couples, available free online in English and Spanish. It is a resource to guide you through the marriage preparation process and also includes a basic overview of the Church's vision of Christian marriage with discussion questions for you and your fiancé. Hard copy editions available at your parish.