The Catholic Church rejoices when couples decide to give themselves to each other in a loving, life-long commitment that enriches the church and the world through their marriage and family. The church wants to give engaged couples the support necessary to have the best marriage possible. Couples are encouraged therefore during this immediate preparation time to take advantage of every opportunity the church provides to help prepare them for this new phase of their spiritual journey - getting each other to heaven. Let it not be said that more time was spent on physical preparation for the one day of the wedding than the spiritual preparation for the lifetime of marriage.
A Diocesan-approved marriage preparation program includes:
- Every engaged couple, regardless of age, will contact their parish priest as soon as they decide to marry, at least six (6) months before the desired wedding date. This time is to be viewed as a time for preparing for marriage, not as a time of waiting.
- Instructions and formation should include sessions by a priest, as well as sessions by others trained to assist with pre-marriage preparation.
- The priest of the parish has a serious moral obligation to provide pastoral care by meeting with the couple and assisting them in their immediate preparation for marriage. He should be particularly concerned that they understand and appreciate the sacramental, liturgical, moral and spiritual aspects of marriage. The use of instruments like FOCCUS is highly recommended.
- The pre-marriage sessions should cover themes such as spirituality of marriage, finances, communication, sexuality, in-laws, careers, prayer as a couple, etc. These sessions may be given to couples separately or in groups. They may be stretched over a number of months, or condensed into an intense weekend format.
- Marriage preparation should also include information on Natural Family Planning in which:
- Couples learn how to appreciate their gifts and the dignity of sexuality, love and life;
- Couples are taught to understand fertility and sexuality as aspects of the total person; and
- Couples learn how the personal relationship of a husband and wife is enriched.
It is strongly recommended that couples take the introductory session of Natural Family Planning as part of their marriage preparation.