Congratulations! You’re engaged! He bent down on one knee. She said yes. You’ve announced it to your family and friends. Now what? You may already be overwhelmed with wedding planning details or completely in the dark about how to get started.
Getting married during a global pandemic may not be what you imagined, but the Catholic Church is here to help! The Life & Family Evangelization Office offers support and guidance to those seeking the sacrament of marriage, not only in preparation for the big day, but for a lifetime together as husband and wife. The marriage preparation process has been adapted to accommodate the present circumstances so that you can still move forward with your preparation for the sacrament of marriage. This is a time of formation for you and your fiancé, and the Church wants to help you be the best husband and wife you can be for the rest of your lives. The end-game here is not your wedding day but eternal happiness in heaven. We want to help the two of you help each other get to heaven. Try to be patient during this process and open to what the Lord has in store for you.
Marriage Preparation Process in the Diocese of Rockford
Throughout this process, the priest or deacon at your parish will be your guide, helping you and your fiancé throughout this time of preparation. This process will include some paperwork, ongoing conversations, meetings, prayer, etc. The priest or deacon will help you with the specifics for you and your fiancé.
Step 1: Contact your parish
When you call your local parish office, you will likely speak with the parish secretary. Let that person know you would like to get married in the church. They will have some questions to ask you, and this will get the process started. Need help finding your parish?
You should contact your parish within the first few weeks of your engagement. Most parishes ask couples to contact them at least six months prior to the date that they would like to set for their wedding. The sooner, the better.
Step 2: Register for Diocese of Rockford Marriage Preparation
During this public health crisis, we are currently offering two preparation options to couples: online and in-person. Although it is not the usual policy of the Diocese of Rockford, an online option for marriage preparation is temporarily available. Completion of the online program OR attendance at the Gift of Self: Marriage Preparation seminar is required for all couples preparing for marriage in the Diocese of Rockford.
Based on the details provided in your registration, we will direct you to the best online course for your specific situation. This option will allow you to access the online program 24/7, and to pause and restart at your convenience. Our team will contact you with further instructions about the online course within two business days of receiving your registration.
IN-PERSON – Gift of Self: Marriage Preparation Seminar
This seminar is an opportunity for you and your fiancé to step away from the hustle and bustle of wedding planning and everyday life to spend some time reflecting, sharing, listening, praying, and growing in your relationship with God and one another. Rather than focusing on other people’s experiences of marriage, our focus will be to help you and your fiancé grow in your relationship with each other and the Lord, while deepening your understanding of what the sacrament of marriage is, as you prepare to make a gift of yourself to your beloved.
This full-day seminar is offered in various locations around the diocese throughout the year (as COVID-19 regulations permit). We recommend that you register for a seminar date that is at least four months prior to your wedding.
Please note that due to the public health crisis, in-person gatherings may be cancelled. If this occurs, our team will contact you via email to make alternate arrangements for you and your fiancé.
Step 3: Continue with ongoing marriage preparation & formation throughout your engagement
Here are some ideas of what this preparation and formation might look like:
– Multiple meetings with a priest or deacon at your parish
This is an opportunity for him to get to know you as individuals and as a couple. It also gives you an opportunity to get to know him and to explore faith and marriage-related topics together as a couple with his guidance.
– Meetings with a mentor couple
Your parish may team you up with a married couple who will be a marriage mentor for you. This couple will want to spend some time with you, getting to know you throughout your engagement. They can be a great resource for you, both during your engagement and after you are married.
– Pre-Marital Inventory
Your parish will likely have you take what is called a Pre-Marital Inventory. It is basically a series of questions that you and your fiancé will each answer. This is a tool specifically designed to help couples identify areas where more conversation would be helpful. A priest, deacon, or mentor couple will then guide you and your fiancé through some discussions.
– Instruction in Natural Family Planning
With the help of an instructor (a.k.a. certified NFP Provider) over the course of a few months, you can come to understand yourself better and what the Church teaches with regard to responsible parenthood. It is recommended that you give yourself several months to learn a method of NFP before your wedding.
The priest or deacon preparing you for marriage will be able to give you specific details about what this entire process will look like for you and your fiancé. This will be based on your parish’s guidelines and what he determines will be most formative and helpful for you as a couple.
Step 4: Plan your wedding ceremony
You will have the opportunity to select which scripture readings you would like to have as part of your wedding ceremony, as well as music for the liturgy. Finalizing these decisions will probably involve meeting with your priest, deacon, parish liturgist and/or music director. This is a great opportunity to go over any guidelines your parish has regarding flowers, candles, aisle runners, photography, etc. Make sure to get your wedding rehearsal scheduled as well!
NOTE REGARDING APPLYING FOR A MARRIAGE LICENSE: Though we hope and pray this does not affect you, we have heard from several couples that they have run into difficulties getting a marriage license as a result of the public health crisis. It is our understanding that many County Clerk Offices have adjusted their protocols and have changed their procedures for applying for a marriage license. Please contact the County Clerk Office in the county where your wedding will be taking place to explore their current procedures. For your convenience, we are including a link to the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders website that lists the contact information for each of the County Clerk Offices in the state of Illinois: https://www.iaccr.net/MemberCountiesMain.html. We encourage you to continue to monitor this situation in the weeks and months prior to your wedding and to contact the appropriate County Clerk Office with any questions.