Preparation for marriage is a requirement for couples intending to marry in the Catholic Church.
As well as the required preparation with a priest, who will witness the marriage, there are several programmes designed to aid couples in thinking about their relationship as they move towards marriage.
A number of studies suggest that quality marriage preparation improves marital stability by up to 30%. The links on this page feature the main programmes currently available through the Catholic Church in England and Wales. These ‘proximate’ programmes usually take place some months before the wedding ceremony as contrasted with a more immediate, canonically required, programme of preparation carried out by the priest with a couple.
In autumn 2016, the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship released the publication “Guidelines for the Preparation of Couples for Marriage”. These guidelines express the goodness of marriage and richness of Catholic Church teaching.
The Committee for Marriage and Family Life surveyed Catholic Marriage Preparation in 2010, following this with a national conference for marriage preparation providers in 2011. In 2012, two reports were commissioned, from One plus One and from INTAMS, to examine the data collected through both consultations. During 2013 the Committee will be supporting dioceses as they reflect on how they wish to respond to the recommendations of these reports.
Catholic Marriage Preparation Survey 2010
Some observations, reflections, and recommendations from a theological and pastoral perspective
Marriage Preparation Catholic Community
An independent assessment of evaluation data from a variety of sources to assess the current picture of marriage preparation in the Catholic Church
Reports and Recommendations
A digest of our 2012 reports into marriage preparation in England and Wales with recommendations and points for reflection
You can read more about the survey here: celebratingfamily.org.uk/catholic_marriage_survey_2010.htm
You can find your diocesan coordinator of family ministry here: catholicfamily.org.uk/diocesan-work/find-a-diocesan-coordinator
Marriage Care is the biggest provider of formal marriage preparation in England and Wales through a network of volunteers working from centres across dioceses. Marriage Care offers a complete one-day course for couples wishing to marry in the Catholic Church which explores the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage and gives participants the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the vows they intend to make. Marriage Care trains facilitators in this programme and offers its volunteers opportunities for supervision and continuing professional development. Income from the marriage preparation service makes it possible for Marriage Care to also offer a counselling service to couples who need extra support.
For more information please visit: marriagecare.org.uk/how-we-help/marriage-preparation
An Engaged Encounter weekend is a form of marriage preparation designed to give couples preparing for marriage the chance to talk openly about their expectations and attitudes in such areas as work, money, children, in-laws, sex, leisure time, church and so on. The focus of the weekend is on growth in relationships through communication as a couple. It is not a retreat and there are no group discussions.
For more information please visit: https://wwme.org.uk/marriage-preparation/
Combining a number of learning methods, the Smart Loving Engaged course is designed to be used in one of four ways – couple to couple mentoring, small home-centred groups, larger groups in parish rooms or online mentored correspondence. Core content is presented on DVD, supported by participant materials with additional take-home activities to stimulate private discussion. Presented by husband and wife teams, the course offers Catholic theology and practical skills and tools for relationships at whatever stage.
Most dioceses offer a range of opportunities for marriage preparation. Click on the links for further information.
There are a number of other programmes available to couples in their local communities, for example, the Marriage Preparation course developed at Holy Trinity, Brompton.
Programmes available online can give couples separated by great distance the chance to prepare together. Here are two different examples from the US:
Love and Cherish is an example of an ecumenical marriage preparation programme