Congratulations on your engagement. This is a very special time in your life. There is much for you to do and to consider. You are preparing for a marriage as well as a wedding. A wedding is a day, marriage is a lifetime. Our preparations are focused on the wedding celebration but the Catholic Church also looks at this time as a time to prepare for your marriage which is the rest of your lives.
You must make arrangements for your wedding at least six months prior to the proposed wedding date. Formal preparation should be completed thirty days before their wedding date. However, contacting the pastor 9 to 12 months before your wedding date is not too early for the initial contact. Pre-marriage instructions are required for all Catholics whether they are marrying another Catholic or a person of a different faith. Preparation with a Catholic priest is required even when the marriage will take place in a non-Catholic church.
Elements of Marriage Preparation
- Contact the pastor 9 to 12 months, minimally 6 months, before your planned wedding date. This is required for all Catholics wherever they plan to be married.
- Discernment process helping couple to prepare for a sacramental marriage includes the following:
- Review of purpose and goals of marriage policies of the Diocese of New Ulm.
- Faith development – Catholics planning to marry at one of our churches are expected to be registered, active members of a Catholic parish. In the case of inter-faith couples, couples are encouraged to attend each other’s churches and to learn about one another’s faith.
- Completion of all required diocesan forms. Copies of baptismal certificates must be provided by both parties. Catholics will need to get a copy of their baptismal certificate (made out within the last 6 months) from the parish where they were baptized. In the case of an interfaith marriage, the Catholic is also asked to agree to a statement promising that they intend to continue practicing their Catholic faith and to do all they can to have their children baptized and raised Catholic.
- Administration, evaluation, and feedback of a premarital inventory called FOCCUS. (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study) helps engaged couples learn more about themselves and their unique relationship.
- Participation in a diocesan approved pre-marriage workshop.
- Plan for wedding liturgy involves meeting with the pastor. The first element will be discussing whether the wedding liturgy will take place within Mass. This is the regular practice for weddings where both the bride and groom are Catholic. The priest will review the planning booklet and liturgy planning form with the couple.
- Interfaith couples may wonder how the church will respond to their desire to marry. Let us assure you that we are just as interested in helping you to prepare for this sacred commitment. Whether you want your ceremony to take place in a Catholic church or in another church, both partners should go to visit with the pastor. He will offer much help as you face the challenges of an interfaith marriage. We suggest you allow extra time for the marriage preparation so that you can learn more about one another’s faith and consider how to share spirituality in your new home.
In an interfaith marriage, the Catholic party is expected to actively participate in the Catholic faith. He/she must agree to do everything possible to share that faith with their children and to have them raised as Catholics.
An interfaith marriage may take place in a non-Catholic church provided that the necessary permission has been obtained from the bishop of the diocese. The pastor will assist you in obtaining this permission.
- Teenage marriages are a particular concern because of statistics of failure. If you are a teen considering marriage, we want to do all we can to strengthen your union. The pastor may refer you to a premarital consultant if either of you is less than twenty years old. When either individual is less than eighteen years of age, a marriage in the Church should not take place.
- Pregnancy in itself will not be considered a determining factor in proceeding with or delaying a marriage. The primary goal must be to evaluate the couple’s readiness for marriage exclusive of the pregnancy. When a teenager is pregnant and wants to marry, professional counseling is required. Oftentimes, a pregnancy constitutes grounds for proceeding with care.
- Cohabitation - Some couples today are making a choice for an engagement lifestyle that can affect their marriage in ways they had not guessed. Cohabitation or genital intercourse before marriage is really a block to good marriage preparation, and is linked with problems after marriage.
If you decide to live together before marriage you should be aware that you choose to live in contradiction to what we believe, as Catholics, about the sacrament of marriage. We believe that marriage is a permanent and exclusive commitment of a man and a woman to one another, begun by wedding vows and expressed through complete sharing of their bodies and souls, a union that reflects Christ’s love for us his people. Cohabitation before marriage pretends to be this union, but it is not.
As a faith community our first concern is for you and your future marriage, and for that reason you ought to live apart until your wedding. Engagement is a special time, and preparation for your wedding and marriage holds plenty of excitement of its own. Reserve genital intercourse and moving in together until after your wedding. Then we can all truly celebrate the beginning of your marriage!
- Previously married – Those who have suffered the trauma of a marriage ending through death or divorce deserve special consideration and support in their marriage preparation. The unique complexities of past marital histories, blended families, and step-parenting can strain a new marriage relationship. Therefore, it is important to provide specialized marriage preparation focused on helping remarrying couples identify ways to nurture their new marriage.
A person who has been married previously and their former spouse is still living will need a declaration of nullity or an annulment before they can enter a marriage recognized by the Catholic Church. A person whose previous marriage was a valid marriage must get an annulment from the Catholic Church after the civil divorce and fulfill the requirements specified in the declaration of annulment before they can plan for marriage.
- Delay of marriage – If serious difficulties become evident during the course of marriage preparation, a couple may decide (or the priest may recommend) postponement of the wedding date. Professional counseling may be helpful or the couple may just need more time to be ready for marriage.
- Place – Diocesan policy is that the wedding liturgy must take place within the church building.
2. Date/time – This can only be scheduled during a meeting with both the bride and groom with the priest. Weddings can be scheduled on Friday evening or Saturday. Saturday weddings can be scheduled no later than 3:00pm (2:00pm during the months of November through March). Other guidelines regarding time available to use the worship space will be given to the couple. It is customary and parish policy that weddings are not celebrated during the season of Lent.
3. Liturgy – Music selections must be approved. Selection of scripture readings, vows, and prayers will be reviewed with the priest.