Preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church usually begins by contacting the parish of your choice in which you wish to get married. Most often this would be one of the spouse’s home parish or the parish that one or both currently attend. You might speak to the priest or a someone on staff who coordinates weddings to initiate the process. Typically you would do this about one year in advance of your desired wedding date.
You will be required to take marriage preparation classes with your future spouse. These classes will teach you and your future spouse more about marriage in the Catholic Church and give you practical tips about maintaining a healthy relationship with your future spouse once you are married. Some states will give you a discount on your marriage license for having attended marriage preparation classes.
Typically you and your future spouse will take an inventory, separately, which will highlight strengths and opportunities for development within your relationship to each other. This is not exactly a compatibility test; it is designed to ensure that couples talk about many different aspects that affect a married relationship such as sexual attitudes, the number of children, how to raise children, personal interactions, and more.
You may be paired with a mentor couple with whom you and your future spouse will meet to discuss practical marriage issues and the issues identified in your inventory. The mentor couple is a married couple who have been married for several years (often for at least 10 years).
The parish priest will most likely speak to you about some of the same issues discussed with the mentor couple. The priest uses the information from the inventory and the dialogue with you and your future spouse to determine if he thinks there is any reason you should not marry each other. Marriage is very serious and therefore the Church is invested in ensuring that your marriage will be a successful one.
Then there are preparations for the ceremony itself. Often you will be in contact with a staff member of your chosen parish who will work with you to pick out music and coordinate the overall logistics of your special day.
While preparing for the ceremony is important, the Church believes that all of the other preparation such as the classes, the inventory, the mentor couple, and discussions with the priest are more important; the ceremony is only for one day, your marriage is for the rest of your life.
Marriage is not for everyone. It is important that one prays and discerns the will of God for one’s own life before getting married. A marriage with its foundation in Christ will be a stronger marriage than one without a rock-solid foundation.