Marriage Preparation: Steps to the Altar

Preparations are divided into
three components:

  1. Educational

  2. Documentation

  3. Liturgical

Congratulations! You’re engaged to be married. This is one of the happiest times of your life as you enter the mystery of the Sacrament of Marriage. Your marriage preparation is a serious and joyous time of formation guided by the Church in the family of faith.

Coordinating wedding plans can be time consuming and at times overwhelming. Sacramental Marriage Preparation is aimed to provide the focus couples need to recognize the wonderful Sacrament of Marriage, and to take seriously the spiritual foundation which will set the tone for your lifelong commitment. Give yourself time to appreciate the wonder of God's love for you and the joy that your vocation of love will bring to you, your future spouse and the Church.

It is suggested that preparations begin at least six months prior to the anticipated wedding date. More detailed information from our "Marriage Preparation Guidelines" are available in both English and Spanish. If you have any questions, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Marriage and Family Life.

As you prepare for your marriage, please visit the website  (español) for important practical and spiritual information and ideas related to marriage and “must have” conversations you should consider before and after your wedding plus answers to frequently asked questions regarding marriage preparation.




 Your first call should be to your local parish to set an appointment to speak with your priest or deacon who will access your readiness for marriage and will answer any questions that you may have. Recommendation for attendance at the following programs is then determined:

  • The FOCCUS© (Facilitating, Open, Caring, Communication, Understanding and Study)  or
    PREPARE/ ENRICH Program are administered on a parish level. These programs target relationship values and are reviewed with the couple and priest/ deacon.
  • Group encounters provide a time for couple reflection and listening to the Catholic community’s practical and wise understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage. Possibilities include Engagement Encounter, Starting Over, Marriage Encounter, “God’s Plan for a Joy Filled Marriage , and Camino al Matrimonio.
  • Natural Family Planning classes are strongly encouraged. This modern method is in harmony with Church teaching and is 99% effective in planning to either delay or achieve pregnancy.

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Before marriage is celebrated, it must be evident that nothing stands in the way of its valid and lawful celebration. Church law requires the following:

  • A Baptismal Certificate obtained within the last six months.
  • Completion of forms A & B.
  • Any necessary dispensations, permissions, or delegations.
  • Civil Marriage license.

If you have been married before, even civilly, please check with your priest regarding possibility of annulment and you should provide accurate information and documentation regarding past marriage(s).

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The couple should be involved in the preparation of the Liturgy as a means of making them aware of the mystery of unity and fruitful love which is the true focus of this celebration.

Several weeks before the rehearsal, the priest/deacon meets with the couple to select readings from Scripture, prayers and other options. The music ministry assists the couple with appropriate music to enhance the celebration.

Special Circumstances are to be discussed directly with the priest/deacon.

Some common issues:

  • If two baptized persons wish to marry it must be done in a holy place (not on the beach).
  • If you are marrying out of the country, please allow extra time for processing/mailing of documentation & forms.


For information on divorce and separation, please click here. 

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