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.

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.

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.

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.

Need help finding your parish?

Register for Diocesan Marriage Preparation

We recommend completing this step at least 4 months prior to your wedding. Ideally, between 12 to 4 months prior to your wedding date.

We are currently offering two options to couples: 

  1. Online Only
  2. Hybrid (half online, half in person)

Completion of the online program OR attendance at the Hybrid Gift of Self: Marriage Preparation seminar is required for all couples preparing for marriage in the Diocese of Rockford.

Continue with ongoing marriage preparation & formation throughout your engagement

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. 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.

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!

Online Only

This option will allow you to access the online program 24/7, and to pause and restart at your convenience. Based on the details provided in your registration, we will direct you to the best online course for your specific situation. Our team will contact you with further instructions about the online course within two business days of receiving your registration.


The Gift of Self: Marriage Preparation seminar has been temporarily modified to be a hybrid event. The first portion of sessions can be completed from the comfort of your own homes, at your own pace. We will provide access to the online portion two weeks prior to the in person date.

The in person portion will provide a great opportunity for you and your fiancé to step away from the day to day life- to spend some time reflecting, sharing, listening, praying, and growing in your relationship with God and with one another.


  • All “Back in His Presence” mitigation efforts will be followed.
  • The online portion must be completed prior to the in person portion.
  • Seminars are subject to cancelation. If needed, our office will reach out to you two weeks prior to the in person date to assist with rescheduling

Frequently Asked Questions

You may switch to in person/hybrid if you have not yet created an account with SmartLoving-Engaged Online. Unfortunately, if an account has been created we cannot switch your program.

Although they cover similar topics, the online only programs and the hybrid seminar do not share the same material.

We strive to be as cost effective as possible. After reviewing several online programs (some of which cost up to $300) and working to minimize in person costs we were able to bring down the price to our current registration fee.

SmartLoving-Engaged Online and the Gift of Self: Marriage Preparation hybrid seminar are equivalent in length. Both require a time commitment of approximately 10 hours.

Beloved is slightly shorter. It is primarily for couples who are seeking convalidation.

A certificate will be issued at the completion of your course.

You will need to obtain a marriage license from the County Clerk Office in the county where your wedding will be taking place. To explore the current procedures and contact information for each County Clerk Office in the state of Illinois, visit the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders website.  Specifically here →

Still have questions? Contact the LiFE Office!  |  815.399.4300