"A clean heart create for him, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit." Psalm 51:12
Renewal of Faith
In order to help engaged couples prepare for a true lifelong commitment the Catholic Church has what is commonly known as "Pre-Cana Requirements." Each diocese can have its own requirements so it is important you check with your local parish at least six months before your your marriage ceremony.
Cana refers to the marriage ceremony. Pre-Cana is thus the preparation before the ceremony. Requirements commonly include a questionnaire, a Pre-Cana Retreat, the couple meeting with the priest/deacon who will preside at their wedding, and a meeting with a wedding coordinator.
The questionnaire is generally a series of 150-200 questions but it is not a test. The results include a "percentage-match" but the point is not to provide a score that determines if you will be allowed to marry. The point of the questionnaire is to make sure you have talked about the important issues and have come to understanding each other's position. It does not mean you need to agree on everything. The questionnaire can generally be completed in forty minutes to an hour. There are a few more questions for couples of mixed religions, remarriage, and cohabiting couples. After taking the questionnaire it is computer-scored. Then the couple meets with a facilitator to go over the results and to help facilitate communication.
The Pre-Cana retreat can varying in length and content from one diocese to another. Again, the purpose of the Pre-Cana retreat is to help make your marriage a true marriage that will be a healthy lifelong commitment. There is generally presentations by speakers. Often these speakers are couples who have been living the principles they speak about. Topics may include scriptural foundation for marriage, intimacy as more than sexual, communication, the meaning of covenant, commitment in the good times and bad and in sickness and health. It may include ideas on how to work through the difficult moments, what the marriage covenant is as expressed in the wedding vows, and lastly something about the wedding ceremony itself.
Lastly, the couple will meet with the priest or deacon who will preside at the wedding and a wedding coordinator. The parish wedding coordinator help with marriage prep and the ceremony itself (not the reception).
The meetings with the priest, deacon, or coordinator will include what is called a pre-nuptial investigation to establish that both the bride and groom are free to marry (not previously married without an annulment) and that the couple understands the basic principles of the Catholic Understanding of marriage. These meetings may also include the priest or deacon getting to know the couple a little as he will be preaching at the wedding.
Couples, especially those who have been cohabiting, may feel like these are a lot of "hoops" to go through. These requirements are not simply "hoops." The Church takes marriage very seriously. In the Catholic Church it is one of the seven sacraments. The Pre-Cana requirements are meant to ensure that the couple understands what they are committing themselves to. It is meant to help the couple.
So if you are preparing for marriage I encourage to take the preparations seriously. These requirements are more important than planning the reception and the honeymoon. The wedding ceremony and reception are important but remember "A wedding is for a day; a marriage is for a lifetime."
For Further Reading
"LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.""