FAQ’s about the Marriage Preparation Process
Why is preparation required?
Because of what marriage is—a life-long covenant and sacrament of love in which couples experience and embody the grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the Catholic Church, marriage is a “vocation,” a calling as holy as that of the priesthood. Just as those who become priests need intentional education in the nature and duties of the priesthood, so engaged couples need education in the nature and duties of marriage.
In considering the years of preparation spent forming men for the priesthood, the demands of marriage preparation don’t seem as daunting. Besides, with divorce rates rampant, even among Catholics, the need for more thorough marriage preparation is obvious. That’s why Pope John Paul II urged his fellow bishops to develop marriage preparation programs which are “serious in purpose, excellent in content, sufficient in length, and obligatory in nature.”
What if we can’t afford the cost?
Scholarship funds are available for those with legitimate needs. Send an email for inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
What if we live in different cities or can’t coordinate our schedules adequately?
We’d recommend the Christian Marriage Weekend, in which you can complete the “God’s Plan” and “Married Life” components in one opportunity. In extreme circumstances (military deployment, for example), your pastor may know other creative ways to fulfill the preparation requirements.
What is Natural Family Planning?
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is term for certain methods used to achieve and postpone pregnancy. These scientific methods, 98% effective when practiced faithfully, are based on the observation of the natural signs of the fertile phase of a woman’s fertility cycle. Couples using NFP to achieve pregnancy engage in intercourse during the woman’s fertile phase. Couples wishing to postpone pregnancy simply abstain from sexual relations during the time of fertility.
No drugs, devices or surgical procedures are used in the practice of NFP. NFP also reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of every child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP enriches the bond between husband and wife.
What if one of us is not Catholic?
Have no fear. If the non-Catholic is baptized, the priest/deacon can provide the necessary permission for the wedding to be valid in the Catholic Church. If the non-Catholic is unbaptized, you must get special permission from the Bishop of the diocese. This is known as a “dispensation.” You can discuss this during your initial meeting with a priest, deacon, or preparing minister.
Can our wedding be held in a non-Catholic Church, or outdoors or another setting?
The normal location for a Catholic wedding is at the local parish of one of the engaged persons. This helps ensure and protect the sacramental dignity of the ceremony. Special permission must be requested from the Bishop to have the wedding in a non-Catholic Christian church (and is usually approved), or a non-church setting (which is sometimes but more rarely approved).
One of us has been married before. How will this affect our preparation?
In your initial meeting with your priest or deacon, you will need to provide documentation to indicate that your previous marriage has been declared null.
If so, your priest or deacon may ask you to complete an alternate or additional preparation program.
If the previous marriage has not been annulled, it is important to clearly understand Catholic teaching on this difficult issue. Jesus taught that true Christian marriage is indissoluble, which means that in the eyes of God, divorce is a spiritual impossibility. When an annulment is pursued, the Church investigates to determine if what looked like a Christian marriage (which ended in civil divorce), in actuality, was not—meaning that God did not join them together in the first place.
Declarations of nullity (the official term for annulments) are never guaranteed. Therefore, the previous “marriage” must be declared null (it never truly existed, in the Christian sense) before the persons involved are free to seek a Catholic marriage with someone else. If you need to seek an annulment, contact your pastor.