Planning Your Catholic Wedding
So you're engaged to be married (or thinking about it, anyway). What happens next?
If you aren't engaged yet, but are thinking about it, you may want to take a closer look at whether you are ready for marriage. Various books and online resources can help you make a decision. ForYourMarriage.org, an initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops, offers a personality audit as well as "Ten Important Research Findings on Marriage and Choosing a Marriage Partner," along with other tools (see links below, under "For more information").
The Church presumes that baptized Catholics have a right to receive the sacraments, unless there is something that would prevent them from doing so (an "impediment"). If one of you is Catholic and this is the first time both of you will be married, then it is very likely that you can be married in the Catholic Church.
If you still have questions about whether you can be married in the Church, check out these articles:
- Can we get married in the Catholic Church if we are living together (cohabiting)?
- Can we get married in the Catholic Church if one of us is divorced?
- Can we get married by a justice of the peace in a civil ceremony and then have a Catholic wedding?
- Can I have a Catholic wedding even if I do not attend Mass?
Even if you meet the minimum requirements for receiving the sacrament of Matrimony, however, the Church requires a period of preparation for marriage.
Although the wedding industry promotes the engagement period as a time to prepare details of the wedding and honeymoon, the Church encourages couples to use this time to prepare for a lifelong marriage. For Catholic couples, the engagement period is a time to deepen faith, especially personal and interpersonal spirituality (Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage #17). Most Catholic dioceses require couples to complete a formal marriage preparation program for this purpose. But the Church encourages couples to prepare for marriage in other ways, too.
Why is spiritual preparation for marriage so important? Simply put, your love for one another will be stronger, deeper, and more enduring when it is rooted in the One who is the source of all love. When couples enter the sacrament of marriage, their love for one another is "caught up in" divine love; it reflects and becomes a part of Christ's love for humanity (Familiaris Consortio #13). Preparing for marriage spiritually helps couples become more open and receptive to this spiritual dimension of marriage. Learning to love and be loved by God helps Christian spouses love one another more and more deeply—and that makes for a stronger, happier marriage.
Blessing your engagement is a good way to start. “The betrothal of a young Christian couple... is a special occasion for their families, who should celebrate it together with prayer and a special rite,” says the Church’s official Book of Blessings (#195). That book contains the Blessing of an Engaged Couple, which may be led by a priest, deacon, lay minister, or one of your parents. Your parish will have a copy of the Book of Blessings, or you can find the blessing online (see "For more information"), or in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers (see the "Books" section below).
For more information
Readiness for Marriage
Are you ready for marriage? Check out these articles:
Blessing of An Engaged Couple
The complete text of the blessing, along with other Blessings and Prayers appropriate for engagement, weddings, and anniversaries, from ForYourMarriage.org.
Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers
This comprehensive collection of Catholic blessings and prayers includes the Blessing of an Engaged Couple, as well as other blessings for newly engaged and married couples. This book is also a useful aid for young families who wish to start a tradition of prayer together. Besides the traditional Catholic prayers and blessings, it includes blessings, prayers, and rituals for events in everyday life, the feasts and seasons of the Church year, and special events (such as the birth of a child or death of a loved one). It also contains a simple liturgy of the hours that couples can pray together.
101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged
From the publisher: "Relationship expert and noted couples counselor Norm Wright steers potential brides and grooms through a series of soul-searching questions to discern if they’ve really met 'the One.' Couples will be much more confident about whether or not to pursue marriage after completing these in-depth and personal questions." Many questions have a religious focus. Click the link to read glowing reviews from other readers.