The first step in preparing for marriage is to contact your local parish and set up your first meeting to begin the official process. It’s best not to book your wedding or reception until you’ve had this initial meeting, where you will be given information about the general requirements of Catholic marriage, guidelines for Catholic marriage in New Jersey and specific instructions from your own wedding parish.
We’ve created a helpful Marriage Preparation Checklist just for you! Marriage preparation consists of completing your pre-marital paperwork, discussing marriage topics with your officiant or pastoral minister at the parish, attending marriage preparation classes, planning your wedding liturgy, and getting actively involved in the faith community where you will live after your wedding.
You should be prepared to present the following documents to your parish priest or deacon during your sessions:
1. Certificate of Baptism: A recently issued copy dated no earlier than 6 months prior to the wedding date with a raised seal (available from the parish of Baptism).
2. Certificate of First Communion.
3. Certificate of Confirmation.
4. A letter of testimony, indicating one’s freedom to marry, may be requested by the priest/deacon or pastoral minister.
5. A Pre-Cana, Engaged Encounter Certificate or valid completion of a marriage formation program.
6. If a person has been previously married, even if not celebrated before a Catholic priest or deacon, he or she must present an annulment decree or the death certificate of the former spouse, before the priest or deacon can set a wedding date.
FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study) is a tool designed to help couples learn more about themselves and their unique relationship. The pre-marital inventory provides each couple and a facilitator with a personalized profile of areas or issues that should be discussed and worked through before marriage.
The content covers a range of elements necessary for a successful marriage. Couples work with a priest, deacon, or mentor couple to discuss the topics. After completing the FOCCUS process, couples often experience a noticeable increase in their understanding of the marital commitment and readiness for marriage.
Couples are encouraged to complete FOCCUS with their pastoral minister before attending the marriage preparation workshop of their choice.
Because the Catholic Church believes that marriage is not only a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, but also the foundation of healthy communities, all Catholic dioceses around the world offer engaged couples an opportunity to learn all they can about what it takes to build a lasting marriage that gets better all the time.
Couples who are adequately prepared for marriage learn how to communicate in loving ways, resolve conflicts effectively, and begin to create a marriage built on respect, trust, intimacy, forgiveness, faith and unconditional love.
The Diocese of Trenton offers a variety of marriage preparation classes to suit the individual tastes and needs of today’s engaged couples. These include parish Pre-Cana workshops, diocesan Pre-Cana classes, and mentor couple sessions in the parish. Engaged Encounter weekends are available in nearby dioceses for couples seeking a more intensive, retreat experience. Couples in which one or both parties are remarrying in the Church after the death of a spouse or annulment must attend our To Trust Again remarriage workshop.
Pre-Cana conferences in the Diocese of Trenton are designed to help engaged couples prepare for the everyday challenges of lifelong, sacramental marriage. Through married couple witness presentations, private couple dialog and group interaction, the Pre-Cana experience helps couples develop better relational skills, including healthier ways to communicate and resolve conflicts. Couples also begin to see that their marriage as part of a mission to share God’s love and truly make a difference in the world.
Pre-Cana classes are offered in selected parishes at various times and locations throughout the year and are open to all couples preparing for Catholic marriage. Couples find participation in Pre-Cana conferences to be a positive, enjoyable and worthwhile experience.
Please be aware that, while some Pre-Cana programs are completed in one day, others are scheduled in segments over a two or three day period. To get the most out of their Pre-Cana experience, couples will attend all segments and participate in the program in its entirety. Important: Couples for whom either party has a prior marriage must attend the TO TRUST AGAIN remarriage workshop in lieu of Pre-Cana.
Check out our marriage preparation events to register online for a class that works for you.
Catholic Engaged Encounter (CEE) The Engaged Encounter is a weekend away with other engaged couples that provides time in both groups and alone as a couple to dialogue honestly and intensively about your new life together.
Ideas presented by a team of married couples and a priest stimulate personal reflection and private couple dialogue. Topics for discussion include: strengths and weaknesses, desires, ambitions, goals, attitudes about money, sexuality, children, family, and your roles in Church and society. Also central to this weekend is the Sunday Mass celebration.
Links to Catholic Engaged Encounter weekends in surrounding dioceses:
• Camden Diocese, Southern New Jersey
• Metuchen Diocese, Central New Jersey
• Harrisburg Diocese, Central Pennsylvania
• Long Island area
• Archdiocese of Baltimore
In accordance with the Pastoral Policies and Guidelines for Marriage Preparation for the Catholic Church in New Jersey, the Department of Evangelization and Family Life offers one-day instructional sessions for engaged couples as a convenient alternative to parish-based Pre-Cana workshops. Diocesan Pre-Cana events are conducted by a highly skilled and professionally trained team of diocesan marriage ministry couples.
In addition to relational skills training in such areas as marital communication, conflict resolution and family finances, the diocesan model of Pre-Cana offers a strong emphasis on the theological foundation for the sacrament of marriage, with segments on: sacramental sexuality, marriage as a vocational call of service, the home and family as a domestic church, natural family planning and the essentials of what makes marriage a sacrament.
Diocesan Pre-Cana workshops tend to be larger events with as few as twenty and as many as eighty engaged couples in attendance. The format includes presentations on sacramental marriage, witness talks given by team couples on various relational skills and family life, large group activities, and couple exercises and reflection. Small group facilitated discussions are not offered as part of the diocesan format. Engaged couples may register for diocesan Pre-Cana events at www.dioceseoftrenton.org/precana.
Preparing today’s couples for Catholic marriage is both challenging and rewarding; perhaps the greatest reward is sharing in each couple’s hope that their marriage will last a lifetime. But we know the reality - many Catholic marriages end with the untimely death of a spouse, and many more end in unexpected divorce. The good news is that many Catholics are given a second chance to enter a loving, authentic sacramental marriage. When couples have the desire to enter a remarriage, they may not realize how much work is needed to become whole again, to heal from the loss of a failed marriage or death of their beloved spouse.
Here in the Diocese of Trenton we offer a marriage preparation workshop specifically designed to meet the needs of couples entering remarriage in the Church. While sacramental preparation is meant to take place primarily in the parish, our couples have the unique opportunity to attend a workshop that offers the witness of remarried couples who’ve been in their shoes, private couple reflection time, the chance to learn from their peers in small group discussions, and a new understanding of sacramental marriage as a holy calling and shared vocation.
To Trust Again remarriage workshops have helped countless couples prepare for happy, healthy remarriage in the Diocese of Trenton since 1996. This tried and true program that has been updated to meet the needs of today’s engaged couples. Check out our marriage preparation events to find a To Trust Again workshop and register online.