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.
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.
Since you’re in wedding planning mode, you might be thinking in checklist form these days. When it comes to flowers and photographers, the checklists are all good. But when it comes to your preparation for marriage during this time of engagement, it’s important to look past the checklists. 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, attendance at a seminar, prayer, etc. Some of these events will take place locally at your parish. Others are part of the preparation process for all couples preparing for marriage in the Diocese of Rockford and will take place in various locations around the diocese. The priest or deacon will help you with the specifics for you and your fiancé.
NOTE REGARDING COVID-19: We know the current public health crisis has added additional stress and worry to this time of preparation for many couples. Adjustments are being made to the following processes to comply with social distancing recommendations, etc. We recommend you stay in touch with the parish where you will be getting married and the priest who is working with you and preparing you for marriage for up-to-date information. Please also know that the Life & Family Evangelization Office is here to help! We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 recently. It is our understanding that due to our current public health situation, many County Clerk Offices are closed to the public 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 coming weeks and contact the County Clerk Office with any questions.
Step 1: Contact your parish
When you call or visit your local parish office, you will probably first 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
Your registration for Diocese of Rockford Marriage Preparation includes several components. Here is a list of what is included:
1. 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 one-day seminar is offered in various locations around the diocese throughout the year. Attendance at this seminar is required for all couples preparing for marriage in the Diocese of Rockford. We recommend that you register for a seminar date that is at least four months prior to your wedding.
2. Additional marriage preparation resources
Since the Gift of Self: Marriage Preparation seminar is a single day – and one day is hardly sufficient time to adequately prepare for a whole new life together as husband and wife – additional marriage preparation resources will be made available to you at the seminar you attend. These resources will include materials such as books, CDs, and access to online materials that we hope will be helpful to you and your fiancé.
3. A rebate coupon for a private session with a Diocese of Rockford Natural Family Planning Preferred Provider
Want to learn more about Natural Family Planning? You will hear more about this at the Gift of Self: Marriage Preparation seminar. You can also visit our NFP page.
REGISTER for Diocese of Rockford Marriage Preparation
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 thinks 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.