Read Time: 3 minutes

The ministry of marriage preparation is a lot like driving a car; just when you think the road is smooth and straight and free of obstacles, you discover bumps, twists and turns, and, of course, traffic lights.

Most of the time, we hope for green lights all the way through. But honestly, there will always be a few red lights that will indicate to us it’s time to stop, see what’s going on, and make sure there is no danger.

Then, when the green light reappears, we can proceed.

Red flags in marriage ministry are just like approaching a red light along your travel route.

What do you normally do?

You stop, wait, and, when the light turns green, you continue driving.

A red flag in marriage prep is not the end of the road; it is a stop to make sure the road ahead is safe before continuing the marriage preparation journey.

Let’s analyze some of the most common red flags that marriage ministers may encounter when preparing couples for marriage. These are just examples; you may encounter many more red flags in your own experience with couples.

1. Red Flags in Family of Origin

Differences in families of origin that, if not addressed properly, may represent a bigger obstacle in the future.

The family of origin teaches us about relationships.

We learn to communicate (or not to communicate) in our family of origin. We learn to express or repress feelings in the family of origin. We learn how to handle money in our families of origin. Most of our life skills and the way we relate to others are learned in our families of origin.

When there are too many differences in the way the couples we work with were raised, and when those differences are too extreme, it is a red flag.

That means, it is time to stop, observe the reality, and adjust whatever needs to be adjusted before proceeding with the preparation for marriage.

2. Addiction

Use of drugs, alcohol, and pornography.

This is unfortunately a very common red flag.

When we discover these behaviors with a couple preparing for marriage, we must stop, invite the couple to address the issue, and see if any type of counseling or a Twelve Step program is needed before marriage preparation can continue.

Be aware that both parties may not be Catholic, but address these issues with the Catholic party; they need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation if pornography was/is an issue in their life.

Covenant Eyes is also a great resource, and its services specialize in helping people overcome the addiction to pornography.

3. A History of Violence

History of domestic violence either in the family of origin or in themselves.

If the couple preparing for marriage reports a history of domestic violence either in their parents or in their own present relationship (domestic violence may occur even in couples who are not living together), it is time to stop marriage preparation and refer the couple to a therapist who can help them navigate these issues.

The USCCB has some great resources available for those experiencing domestic violence.

4. Lack of Vulnerability

Inability or fear of speak openly about specific issues/topics.

When we’re preparing a couple for marriage, one of them may experience fear or the inability to speak openly about a specific topic (for example: sex, money, addictions, infidelity, etc.).

Whatever the topic is, couples should experience trust and openness to speak freely about any issue that is important to the relationship.

When we find this is not possible due to fear or other reasons, it is time to stop marriage preparation and address those fears or feelings of unrest.

Your Duty as A Minister


Red flags come in many forms and are common.

It’s important for a Family Life Minister/ Marriage Minister to learn how to identify them and design a game plan to help couples work through them.

It’s our job to take the time needed to address the issues and then continue with marriage preparation.

Some couples may find it hard or uncomfortable to address these red flags, but ultimately, we need to clarify that we are inviting them to address the red flags because we care about them; we want them to be successful and happy in their marriage!

Make sure to equip yourself with plenty of resources that you can use as a Family Life Minister for navigating these difficult situations — we have linked to a few examples in this article.

Most importantly? Your guidance can help couples navigate these red flags and provide the support they need to address them in a healthy way.

Read Time: 3 minutes

Finding a partner to share the rest of your life with is a blessing. If you’ve recently been engaged and are planning to be married in the Catholic Church, there are a few steps you’ll need to take.

In the Catholic Church, marriage is a Sacrament, and taking these important steps will prepare you for a lifetime of love and commitment to each other and God.

1. Ensure You Meet Important Requirements

The Catholic Church requires that couples meet the following requirements before considering the Sacrament of Marriage:

  • Baptized Christian
    One or both partners should be baptized Catholics. If one of the partners is not Catholic, he or she needs to be a baptized Christian. If the non-Catholic partner wants to join the Church, they may go through the process of becoming a Catholic as an adult during the marriage prep process.
  • Not closely related
    Catholics cannot marry first cousins or anyone else in their immediate family.
  • Free to marry
    Both members of the couple should be unmarried.  If either were previously married, they must be widowed or issued an annulment from the Catholic Church.
  • Be of the opposite sex
    The Catholic Church only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.
  • In good standing with the Church
    The definition of “in good standing” will differ from Church to Church. Most of the time, it requires regular attendance at mass during the previous 6 months and no scandals or immoral behavior. If you are currently living unwed with your partner, you will need to discuss this with the priest.
  • Free consent
    Both parties must freely consent to the marriage and have worked out any issues that might cause one party not to freely consent.

2. Contact your Parish

If you believe you meet the requirements above (or if you need to discuss them), you should contact your Parish to discuss your wedding. You’ll need to obtain permission to be married in the Church, whether it is at your current Parish or elsewhere.

While it’s not required that you be a registered member of your parish, it is definitely helpful. You will likely have an initial meeting with clergy to discuss your marriage, and you’ll be able to discuss any issues you may have with getting married in the Catholic Church.

This meeting will also be an opportunity for clergy to explain the process of getting married in the parish along with the things you’ll need to do.

3. Participate in a marriage preparation program

All parishes have a program in place to prepare couples for marriage in the Catholic Church. Most churches require at least 6 months of marriage prep that could include classes, mentoring, or seminars.

Marriage prep (or Pre-Cana) is mandatory so couples get a good understanding of the value the Church places on marriage and an overview of its teaching on family life.

During a marriage preparation program, you’ll learn about balancing values, managing money, the role of family, healthy sexuality and intimacy, planning a family and parenting, communication skills, and the theology of marriage.

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to participate in marriage prep classes at your parish, an online course may be a better option. There are courses approved by the Church that fulfill the Catholic Church’s requirements for marriage prep.

Living Our Faith in Love - Online Pre-Cana

4. Provide your certificates to the Church

There are a number of documents that the Church will want to see before granting you permission to marry.

These include:

  • Baptismal certificates
  • Certification of Holy Communion and Confirmation
  • Affidavit of Freedom to Marry
  • Civil marriage license
  • Marriage Preparation Course Completion Certificate

Collect these documents while preparing for your marriage, and store them together so you can easily present them to your priest or Family Life Minister.

5. Plan the Wedding Mass

Depending on your circumstances, there are three forms of celebrating the Rite of Marriage.

Aside from that, you will have options about certain readings and rituals performed at your wedding along with choosing family and friends who will participate in the mass. Your priest or Family Life Minister will help you make those decisions, and they will also let you know the rules for decorating in your participating parish.

There are aspects of the wedding mass that you cannot change, but these are important aspects of the mass altogether and denote the sacredness of celebrating your marriage in the Catholic Church.

6. Get married!

There are many other details involved in planning a Catholic wedding, but this basic framework should get you off to a great start. Weddings are a wonderful celebration of the union of two people with the blessing of God and their family and friends.

As you walk through these steps to getting married in the Catholic Church, we pray that it’s a time of spiritual and personal growth for you and your future spouse.