Read Time: 2 minutes

Here you go again. You’re working with a couple who hasn’t darkened the door of a church in years. You guide them through the marriage prep process, preside at their Catholic wedding, then watch as they carry on with their life journey leaving faith by the side of the road.

You see it over and over, and honestly, it can make you feel a little jaded about marriage prep.

The couple has so much on their mind already: wedding decorations, catering, invitations, honeymoon travel arrangements, etc. If their faith isn’t already really important to them, it’s going to get crowded out pretty fast.

As you prepare an engaged couple for marriage, what can you do to keep their Catholic faith alive?

Teach them how to pray.

Sure, they may know the standard Catholic prayers by heart, like the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary.” But do they know how to pray together, as a couple?

So many people have never really been taught how to pray. That means they’re missing the very foundation for their faith lives. But as a clergy or ministry leader, you can provide that foundation for them.

When a couple prays together, their spiritual lives change. They start to develop a relationship with Christ. And when that happens, their love will mature. They’ll ask deeper questions. And all those things you wish would stick in their heads about faith and marriage? They’ll desire to know it for themselves.

That’s not an overnight process, though. It can start here in marriage prep, but like all good things, learning to pray and growing in faith take time.

So start small. Encourage your couples to start praying together. Better yet, don’t just tell them, show them how.

Yes, praying as a couple can feel awkward at first. That’s okay. (And you can tell them that.) It’s like planting seeds. If they stick with it, those seeds of faith will bloom in their married life with the help of God’s grace.

When you remember that, you’ll find joy and purpose coming back into your marriage prep.

Here are some resources to help you teach couples how to pray.

Joined by Grace: A Catholic Prayer Book for Engaged and Newly Married Couples

A simple, practical guide on ways to pray as a couple. It’s full of texts to pray with and background info on devotions your couples can start working into their life together.

The Rosary

The idea of praying the Rosary every day intimidates most people, so invite couples to try praying just one decade a day with a pocket rosary. That alone can make a powerful impact on their faith.

Novena for engaged couples

Praying a novena together for nine days in a row builds up habits of prayer the easy way, because it takes just a few minutes to do each day. This “Novena for a Happy and Faithful Marriage” was compiled from St. Josemaria Escriva’s writings on marriage in today’s world.

Read Time: 4 minutes

If there’s something in your past you haven’t revealed to your partner, it may seem like it’s not that important. Especially if you’ve made it from dating to engagement or even marriage without telling them. However, keeping secrets, even little ones, can erode the foundation of an otherwise strong relationship.

Why Does It Matter?

Healthy relationships are built on mutual trust. That means that each partner has committed themselves to honesty because you cannot build trust without it.

When people get into relationships, they typically begin building trust by being honest in their present dealings with their new partners. As time goes on, they begin sharing past details of their lives, increasing the amount of things they share as trust in the relationship builds.

Being honest about your past and present behavior, thoughts, and experiences is an opportunity for your partner to know you intimately. It gives them a context for knowing who you really are and all the complexities that make up your personality. This intimate knowledge of each other provides the basis for a fun-loving friendship and deeply satisfying physical intimacy.

Where Do You Start?

After trust has been established, sharing your most personal thoughts and experiences should come over time. As your relationship develops, there will be many opportunities to let your partner know more about you. Taking advantage of these opportunities, either in the moment or soon after, will establish a pattern of openness that will benefit your relationship in the future.

If you haven’t grown up in a family that had good communication skills, this may be challenging for you. You may feel that your past is irrelevant to your present relationship or that your thoughts and feelings are better kept to yourself. If that’s the case, consider the quality of the relationships you’ve seen that were devoid of openness and honesty.  Are you comfortable repeating those patterns and experiencing similar consequences?

Many people can point to a couple who’ve been together for years, but they don’t have a relationship marked by joy and camaraderie. The couple stays together, but they don’t seem to enjoy each other or derive a lot of pleasure out of their marriage. Deciding not to divorce or living separate lives may keep you celebrating wedding anniversaries, but if you want something more than that in your relationship, growing in openness and honesty will be essential.

If you’d like to pursue a relationship with your partner that has a deeper level of sharing, it’s not impossible to expand the way you were taught to communicate. It will take effort on your part, but you can grow in this area if you’re willing to try.

What About the Bad Stuff?

It’s always easier to share your successes and the fun parts of your history than it is to talk about your losses, grief, and failures. Part of the reason we choose our partners is because they see us as special and amazing, and they chose us out of a sea of potential mates.

It’s scary to think of tarnishing their view of us by letting them know the less-than-wonderful things we’ve thought or done. That’s why secrecy is so appealing; the risk of losing our partner’s favor is more threatening than the perceived value of being open and honest.

However, the problem with secrecy is that it doesn’t stay in one area of our lives. As multi-dimensional and complex beings, small habits in one area of our life tend to flow over into other parts of our lives. Tightly-guarded secrets create a defensive layer in our personality. To protect them, we must keep our partner away from that part of ourselves.

What About the Really Bad Stuff?

When we allow ourselves to keep secrets from our partners, we’re essentially saying that they don’t have access to our whole selves. They can only know, love, and commit to part of us. Even if we consider the secret “small” in relation to our whole selves, we are still holding something back.

One of the problems with this is that secrets usually resurface multiple times in our lives. We can’t forget because they are a part of us, a part of our story. When we’re confronted by them through a memory or a trigger, we react in a multitude of ways that affect our emotions and behaviors which in turn affects our partners.

Who you are affects your partner, and if you are committed to them and the health of your relationship, they deserve to know the truth.

The reality is that all people have thoughts, behaviors, and experiences that they regret or feel ashamed of. Some of us have been victims, and some of us have been perpetrators. Some have been both. We’ve all been mean, selfish, hateful, and immoral. Coming to terms with those parts of ourselves individually is difficult; confessing them to the people we love makes us feel incredibly vulnerable. If this feels like more than you can handle on your own, seek out a trusted counselor, mentor, or minister.

The Amazing Thing About Grace

If you’re willing to be honest and open, you will have to confront your own vulnerability. When you share your secrets with your partner, there will be a period of time when you can’t control their reaction. To move forward, you’ll have to accept their feelings and allow them space to process. Surrendering to this instead of trying to manage it will also build trust. Additionally, it sets a precedent for them to come to you with their own secrets, understanding that this is part of a healthy relationship.

A loving partner will listen while you share. They may ask questions as they process, and they may get emotional for a variety of reasons. These are all normal responses. Depending on how long they have known you, it may take time for them to synthesize this new information about you into their frame of reference.

This can be uncomfortable, but experiencing deeper levels of connection with your partner is worth it. If you’re sharing something that you regret or feel ashamed of, especially something from your past that no longer represents who you are presently, being honest about it may help you move on. When people love one another, they are able to accept and forgive imperfections, failures, and bad behaviors. Receiving forgiveness helps us forgive ourselves.

What to Hold Back

Having an open and honest relationship doesn’t mean having to tell your partner every single thing you think and feel. As complex creatures, there is a place for private thoughts and feelings. We all have places where we are processing the world, our faith, and our mortality in solitude, and that’s okay.

You’ll know a secret is worth sharing if something about keeping it creates a wall between you and your partner. Deciding what to share isn’t as important as making sure there isn’t anything you’re intentionally hiding. Your partner should be privy to important facts about your life, thoughts, and feelings, and the freedom you’ll experience from being honest is worth the effort it takes to openly communicate.

Read Time: 3 minutes

You have an engaged couple who wants to get married at your church. Wonderful!

As a pastor, you have lots of experience talking with people in various stages of life. However, this engaged couple does NOT have much experience talking with clergy. They likely have things on their mind that they don’t know how to bring up with you.

So how do you put them more at ease?

You can take the lead in handling topics they may not feel comfortable about introducing into the discussion. That takes the burden off of them. The more relaxed they feel, the more fruitful your marriage prep discussions will be.

Here are three things engaged couples want to know, but tend not to ask about.

1. Marriage Prep Resources to Help Them

There are so many resources out there geared to couples preparing for marriage. But you typically don’t look for something until you need it. So your engaged couple may not be aware of all the great stuff out there for their benefit.

You may notice a specific aspect of their relationship that could be helped by a resource you know about. You can point them in the right direction by compiling a few resources you know and trust, and you can give them a copy of or a link to them at your next meeting. It’s as simple as saying, “Here, you might find this useful.” That way, they don’t have to ask for “help.”

You may be surprised at how many couples really do look into your suggestions!

The Marriage Group offers plenty of resources for engaged couples like relationship-building tools, Marriage Boosters videos, and our Ultimate Guide to Pre-Cana and Wedding Ceremony Planning eBooks.

2. Natural Family Planning 101

NFP is one of those topics that many folks, couples and clergy alike, feel awkward introducing into the conversation. That makes it hard for couples to understand what it is and why it’s so important.

Many couples have heard of NFP but don’t know much about it. Or they may be open to learning about it, but they just need someone to take the initiative to put the right information into their hands.

As with other marriage prep resources, you can have NFP resources on hand for couples to look at on their own. That allows them to fully absorb it without the uncomfortable feeling of an in-person conversation.

You can point them to your diocese’s NFP resources and classes, older couples in the parish that could help, or online resources. Additionally, The Marriage Group’s “NFP Life” video course is a simple, accessible way for couples to learn about NFP and how to integrate it into their future marriage.

3. What They Can and Can’t Do At Their Wedding

Planning a Catholic wedding involves a lot of details, from the music to the readings to the photographer — and oh yes, all the decorations.

Your church probably has policies established for all these things. But that doesn’t mean your engaged couple knows them very well.

They might assume they can do things your parish policy doesn’t actually allow. Or they might wonder whether they’re allowed to do something, but they’re afraid to ask and hear you say “no.”

By communicating your church’s policies clearly and kindly up front, you can save them – and yourself – a lot of unnecessary stress, especially from having to tell them “no” later on (heaven forbid, on the wedding day!).

One Last Thing

As a pastor or ministry leader, you have a privileged role in preparing people for marriage. You may not see it in the moment, but your interactions with an engaged couple can make a long-term impact on their married lives, their family, and even the future of your parish. If that weighs on you as a heavy responsibility, we are here to help!

God bless you in your ministry.

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What phrases do you need to hear from your spouse?

This video excerpt is from our Pre-Cana segment: Communication and Conflict Resolution. In that segment, Jay and Laura discuss the four phrases that each man needs to hear from their wife, and each wife needs to hear from their husband (based on surveying several couples).

For those of you who haven’t completed our Pre-Cana program yet, don’t worry, this won’t spoil anything for you. In fact, it’s important to begin discussing right away what you both need to hear from each other in order to truly become a more unified couple.

For those of you who already have completed our Pre-Cana program, this is always a great reminder on becoming more and and more intentional with speaking into each other’s lives as your marriage grows.

As I watched this segment again myself, I found it very empowering to go through the exercise of determining what I and my beautiful bride need to hear from each other. We usually have our time of uninterrupted conversation after we put the kiddos to bed. We sat at our dinner table, played cards, and talked about this very topic.

This video isn’t intended to be the “be-all, end-all” regarding this topic. It is intended to help be a launching point for conversation between the two of you. You may have different answers than they indicate. In fact, I’d venture to say that all of us need to hear “I believe in you” and “I cherish you.” So, make it your own! God has put a special thumbprint on your relationship — uniquely beautiful to your story together.

So your homework?

I encourage you and your companion to do exactly as I did with my wife — schedule an intentional, uninterrupted moment with each other to discuss the phrases that the two of you need to hear from each other. Once you establish those phrases, then you start saying those phrases to each other — simple as that!

It may seem awkward at first, but if your heart is in the right place as you say them, you don’t have to worry about coming across as disingenuous. Have faith that your beloved has your best interest in mind, and wouldn’t, in a million years, take advantage or disparage your vulnerability.

When you operate out of a genuine heart, this exercise becomes a beautiful thread within the tapestry of your life together.

Read Time: 4 minutes

So, your priest or marriage mentor said you need to do a premarital assessment. You’re here reading this article, so you’re likely a high achiever who wants to get this right. There are three popular premarital assessments that help couples get their marriages off to a great start. Let’s take a look at the FOCCUS, RELATE, and PREPARE/ENRICH premarital assessments to help determine which is right for you.

FOCCUS Pre-Marriage Inventory

Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study

The FOCCUS Pre-Marriage Inventory is administered through a certified FOCCUS facilitator who has the couple take the assessment on paper or online and then scores the results. Originally developed by the Archdiocese of Omaha, this pre-marriage inventory has been around since 1985, and it has been taken by over 1 million couples.

A certified FOCCUS Facilitator could be a priest or another religious leader, but they must be a licensed professional who belongs to an approved organization to provide facilitator services. Facilitators are trained to help couples use the information provided in their inventory report to strengthen their relationship and talk about their differences.

For a cost of $20 per couple, the FOCCUS Pre-marriage Inventory evaluates nineteen areas of a couple’s life. It’s great for helping couples determine challenges they may face and providing trained facilitators to help couples understand their results and discuss their potential challenges.

RELATE Relationship Assessment

The RELATE Relationship Assessment is available online without the help of a facilitator. Couples can easily register, take the assessment, and have their results in about 30 minutes. The assessment was developed by the Relate Institute at Brigham Young University, and the cost is currently $40 per couple.

The report produced by the RELATE Relationship Assessment details ten areas and how couples view themselves and their partner in each area. They can see areas of personal strength and challenge along with identifying areas that need improvement. The report includes brief descriptions of behaviors that may be demonstrated in each area, and it also has discussion questions for personal and couple growth.

The strength of the RELATE Relationship Assessment is its user-friendly online format and easy to understand report. The RELATE website offers additional tools for couples after taking the assessment including online classes, an app, and the ability to connect with a registered therapist.


The PREPARE/ENRICH Assessment was developed in the 1980s by Dr. David Olson, a University of Minnesota researcher in the field of family science, and his wife, Karen Olson. There are two versions of the PREPARE/ENRICH Assessment available to engaged couples: the regular version, taken under the direction of a PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator), and the Catholic Couple Checkup which is a lighter version of the original assessment that couples can take on their own.

PREPARE/ENRICH explores twenty relationship areas and provides a report that can be talked through with a facilitator or discussed as a couple using the free, downloadable discussion guide. The cost for either version of PREPARE/ENRICH is $35 per couple.

The couple report from the PREPARE/ENRICH Assessment focuses on twenty areas of a couple’s life and each partner’s personality. It takes around 20 – 30 minutes to complete the online assessment, and the report is available as soon as each partner completes their part. Results are first summarized and then detailed in the report by category, and it includes a personality scale for each partner along with discussion questions throughout.

On a personal note:

While researching for this article, I took the RELATE assessment, and my husband and I took the Couple Checkup from PREPARE/ENRICH. 

The main difference we noted was that RELATE structures the report by showing graphs that measure how you view yourself and how your partner views you. They also use percentages to note the level of strength in each category. The graphs and percentages correlate to three categories: strength, needs improvement, and challenge.

PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Checkup measures satisfaction in each area along with couple agreement. These graphs show satisfaction as either high, average, or low and couple agreement as strength, possible strength, and growth area. The report also includes a couple map that shows where the couple falls on a grid that measures flexibility and closeness. At the end of the report, a SCOPE personality scale shows where each of you fall from low to high in the five dimensions of personality: social, change, organized, pleasing, and emotionally steady.

When we compared our results, my husband said the report from RELATE made him feel like he was being graded in each category and that the percentages reminded him of school. Any “score” of less than 80% made him feel like he didn’t measure up in that particular category. The RELATE assessment’s use of the terms “needs improvement” and “challenge” reinforced those feelings. 

We both agreed that we like the PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Checkup report much better and felt more open while working through it. In the area where we had the lowest “Couple Agreement”, the report noted the areas where we both felt positive and listed several discussion items that helped us talk about the results. The SCOPE personality scale demonstrated how strong our traits were in each category without making us feel like we failed or were in competition with one another.

The entire Couple Checkup report felt more encouraging, and the discussion guide and included talking points facilitated deeper conversations about our results. 

Which premarital assessment should you take?

All three of the premarital assessments discussed are research-based, have been used successfully by many couples, and provide feedback in a detailed report. When deciding which one is best for you, use of a facilitator seems to be the most important factor as FOCCUS is only available through a facilitator, and the full version of PREPARE/ENRICH is similar. If you are already working with a marriage mentor or clergy member for marriage prep, whatever assessment tool they recommend will be valuable if you are open, honest, and thoughtful with your answers.

If you are looking for a tool that you and your partner can use without a facilitator, RELATE and the Couple Checkup from PREPARE/ENRICH are similar in price and both offer a printable report. However, the reports approach the way you view your relationship and your personality styles very differently, and the Couple Checkup offers a few additional reports (the couple map and the SCOPE personality scale) that couples may find helpful.

Couples who take a premarital assessment can reduce the chance that their marriage will end in divorce (link to last article What is a Relationship Inventory/Premarital Assessment) because assessments help couples understand their strengths and identify growth areas. If you took a facilitator-led assessment other than PREPARE/ENRICH, taking advantage of the RELATE Assessment or the PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Checkup can offer a fresh perspective on your relationship and give your marriage a great start.

Read Time: 3 minutes

Taking a relationship assessment or doing a premarital relationship inventory during premarital preparation or premarital counseling can feel intimidating.

How much time will this take?

How much do I have to tell the priest about my personal life and my past?

What if we fail?

Some people love personality tests and assessments, but when it comes to taking one as a couple, and sharing it with a priest or marriage mentor, it may bring up feelings of vulnerability, anxiety, or fear. Although those emotions may be warranted (you are doing something new and unfamiliar), approaching the premarital assessment with an open mind and a little courage can yield wonderful benefits for your future relationship.

What is a Premarital Assessment?

The kind of assessment you take (and there are many!) isn’t as important at the core purpose of a premarital assessment. The core purpose of the assessment is to reveal talking points that your priest or mentors can use to guide helpful discussions about your relationship.

A premarital assessment is not a tool used to grade your relationship; you cannot fail a premarital assessment. 

Learning the areas you and your future spouse are more and less compatible can facilitate helpful dialog between you and your partner as a couple and with your priest or marriage mentors. Premarital assessments are filled with research-based questions that provide helpful data about who you and your partner are as individuals and as a couple.

The results of your premarital assessment will reveal your personal and relationship strengths and help you identify areas of growth.

If you want to pursue deeper connections and have a healthy relationship, the premarital assessment is integral to your life as a married couple. 

How honest do I have to be in my premarital assessment?

We all have a tendency to protect our vulnerable parts, and the thought of doing a premarital assessment and then talking it over with your partner and priest or marriage mentor may tempt you to hide some parts of yourself.

Being honest about yourself and your relationship will provide the best results on your premarital assessment.

If you want your premarital assessment to yield helpful results, you shouldn’t hold back when answering questions. Even though a good premarital assessment will detect inconsistencies, your honesty will honor you, your future spouse, and the entire marriage preparation process.

Taking the time needed to complete the assessment honestly, discuss it with your marriage preparation partners, and reflect on the results yourself will strengthen the foundation of your future marriage. Although the premarital assessment will not magically fix any serious issues it may reveal, it will provide a starting point for a healthy dialog moving forward.

What are the benefits of doing a premarital assessment?

It is no secret that marriage is difficult, and throwing yourself wholeheartedly into the marriage preparation process won’t make you immune to its challenges. However, research has proven that couples who engage in premarital counseling are happier and more realistic about their relationships, and those who take certain premarital assessments have a reduced rate of divorce.

Premarital counseling and premarital assessments can improve your relationship and reduce the chance that your marriage will end in divorce.

Think of all the ways you make your partner a priority and work hard to have a good relationship. The premarital assessment is just one more tool that will help you better understand yourself and your partner,  and taking it seriously will point your future marriage in the right direction.

On a personal note:

My husband and I went through premarital counseling in the Catholic Church over 25 years ago. We thought it was fun to spend time together learning about our differences and figuring out how to talk about things that we hadn’t yet discussed – like divorce, life insurance, and the spiritual principles we would teach our future children. We both had previous relationships – some good and some bad – and it was embarrassing to talk them over with our priest. However, we pushed through the awkwardness and got honest with our mentors and each other. We’ve looked back at the conversations that resulted from our premarital assessment and counseling several times over the years, and we are always grateful for the foundation of honesty and openness that it laid for our future.

Any time we’re faced with a “test” it can bring up a slew of emotions, but the premarital assessment is simply a tool used to get your marriage off to a great start. Understanding its purpose, committing to honesty, and recognizing the value of the premarital assessment will position you and your partner for a successful beginning to a lifetime as a couple.

Read Time: 3 minutes

Are you recently engaged? Is your wedding day fast approaching? Either way, you are probably wondering what to expect at Pre-Cana. We have some insight on the types of programs and how they work.

When an engaged Catholic couple begins the marriage preparation process, one of the things they are required to do is complete a Pre-Cana program.

Pre-Cana consists of an in-person or online program, a class, a retreat or a series of meetings with a priest/deacon or a sponsor couple.

Whatever the format may look like, each option covers all the required topics for couples preparing to be married in a Catholic church.

Most will agree that couples should have a strong relationship before getting engaged, however a Pre-Cana is more than just seeing if the relationship is compatible.

The purpose of Pre-Cana is to take a deeper dive into the unique challenges that come along with being married, all through the lens of spirituality and practicality.

The bride and groom to-be, are encouraged to use this time as an opportunity looking forward toward their new life together. Each discussion helps to ensure they are on the same page as a couple, and ready to face the exciting adventure together, as one.

Here are a few ways of completing a Pre-Cana:

A Day-Long Event

These one-day gatherings are scheduled periodically throughout the year. Some dioceses offer an event on a monthly basis at different parish locations, while for others dates may be limited.

Registrations are on a first-come basis. Many church facilities have limited seating, and others may welcome 100+ couples.

During this in-person event, presenters use blocks of time to cover the required topics, highlighting the importance, relevance, and their experience in each conversation piece.

The event is typically a minimum of eight hours, with a lunch often served, and perhaps breakout sessions.


This option is available in all 50 United States, and many countries abroad. It’s popularity, approval, and necessity is vast, and continues to grow across the globe.

There is an ever-increasing number of parishes that have adopted this as their primary program, and most dioceses see this as a vital tool in their ministry “toolbox”.

The Marriage Group’s program consists of 100% online/on-demand formats, and can be used as either self-lead or mentor-lead depending on the needs of the couple.

After the couple has successfully completed the program, a certificate of completion is generated that shows that the couple has successfully finished the course.

Living Our Faith in Love - Online Pre-Cana

Weekend Retreats

A retreat is a time set aside from distractions to concentrate on prayer, meditation — or in this case, marriage preparation.

Many retreats ask couples to arrive on Friday late-afternoon (between 4pm-7pm), participating in a meet-and-greet, followed by dinner. An evening class often takes place to get the presentations started.

The couples then spend all of Saturday in a multitude of sessions, in-between the breakfast, lunch and dinner that is served.

On Sunday, there will be one more meal together followed by a few more presentations. The retreat comes to a close around lunchtime.

Options, Options, Options…

When deciding which program is the right program, we encourage you to consult with your priest or deacon, paired with whichever learning method works best for you and your spouse-to-be.

At the end of the day, be sure to make the most out of Pre-Cana. Participate, engage in conversation and, most of all, enjoy the process. Your experience will inevitably be filled with impactful moments that you will remember for the rest of your lives together.

Don’t rush it!

Read Time: 2 minutes

Planning a wedding ceremony can be difficult at times, but always rewarding in the end. Planning a Catholic wedding ceremony has a few extra nuances that need to be taken into consideration.

Why a Catholic Wedding?

Getting married in the Catholic Church is exciting for several reasons.

Instead of having a carnal outlook on the ceremony, Catholic couples understand that marriage is a sacrament. It is a wholly moving and deeply emotional experience to recite your vows and make the public declaration of your love to your partner.

This public act of the deepest declaration of love and devotion becomes all the more profound when delivered at a Catholic wedding.

Not only is it the union of two individuals merely creating a legal contract with each other; it is the holy union of two individuals becoming one — with God at the center.

It is the sign of how Christ loves us — even to death, and the wedding ceremony is our response to His devotion with the most important people in our lives observing.

Free Ceremony Planning Guide

Planning a Catholic Wedding Ceremony… Practically Speaking

Most of the planning for a Catholic wedding is standard, relatively speaking. Choose your maid/matron of honor and the best man, the bridesmaids and the groomsmen, the flower girl and the ring bearer, the ushers… You get it.

Specifically speaking to a Catholic wedding, it is important to decide on the following:

  • How many musicians and singers will you need?
  • Organist, singers and other musicians all need to be taken into consideration.
  • How many alter servers?
  • What type of service — eucharist or non-eucharist?
  • What processional hymn?
  • What Old Testament reading? Who will be reading that?
  • What New Testament reading? Who will be reading that?
  • Our Father — spoken or sung?
  • Who will be reading or singing the responsorial song?
  • Will there be communion, and if so, what will the communion hymn be?
  • What Gospel reading?

At a glance, this can all be very overwhelming. The best way to handle the load is to lean on your support group, delegate when you can delegate and always keep the line of communication wide open with your priest or deacon.

It’s also worth mentioning that you should always discuss your plans with your parish before making any commitments.

At the end of the day…

It is your ceremony. Make it profound for you and your future spouse. Your holy ceremony is a deep level of love that you as humans will be able experience at the innermost parts of our being, achievable with your faith in God at the center.

Your ceremony will be over faster than you can plan for, so don’t sweat the small stuff. It will be a beautiful ceremony no matter what. When things don’t go exactly according to plan — which does happen — just remember the most important reason you are having your ceremony in the first place.

Free Ceremony Planning Guide
Read Time: 3 minutes

In 2020 we served over 6,500 couples from all over the world. Let’s take a look at the information from couples who took our most popular Pre-Cana course in 2020, Living Our Faith in Love.

Data was interesting for Pre-Cana in 2020


Dioceses and Countries:

  • Couples registered from 172 dioceses in the United States.
  • We had registrations in 54 countries around the world.
  • We also had registrations from about 250 dioceses outside of the United States.


  • Groom: 31
  • Bride: 29

Note: Over 100 couples were both above the age of 50.

Length of Engagement:

  • 17.1 Months

Note: This doesn’t take into account weddings postponed due to COVID. However, this is pretty consistent with our data from previous years.

Course Start Vs. Wedding Dates:

  • Couples started the course about 3.4 months before their wedding date.

Time Spent On Course:

  • The average amount of time spent on the course was just over 1 month.

Note: This is an increase from the previous averages of 21 days / 3 weeks

This is interesting because it can be concluded that today’s engaged couples desire a more intentional approach to marriage preparation, rather than a one-day, “drink from the firehose” experience.

Slowing down allows more focus on the actual content and removes the thought that marriage preparation is just another hoop to jump through.

Based on this information, we can assume that couples do not wish to complete their Pre-Cana as fast as possible.

How They Found Us:

  • Their Parish: 71.7%
  • Search Engine: 18.2%
  • From a Friend: 5.1%
  • Their Diocese: 2.4%
  • Family: 0.6%
  • Facebook/Instagram: 0.4%
  • Other: 2.0%

Note: Many couples mentioned they heard about us from the parish, diocese, or their gathered event coordinator who originally organized the event but had to cancel due to COVID.

The 2.4% mentioned above is over 100 couples who were looking to their diocese for Pre-Cana options outside of what their parish offered.

Together vs. Separate Location:

  • Same Location: 82%
  • Different Locations: 6%
  • Combination of Both: 12%

Note: This is a bit of change from previous years. Looking at 2018 it was 69%, 11,% and 19% respectively.

This data could be attributed to couples staying in their COVID “bubble” with their fiancé(e).

Primary Reason:

  • COVID: 38%
  • Convenience: 37%
  • Last resort: 13%
  • Geography: 7%
  • Privacy: 3%
  • Other: 4%

Note: THIS data point is interesting.

In 2018, 69% of couples said they took the course for convenience. COVID and Convenience combined in 2020 is 75% couples.

With those combined, more than half of the couples who chose our online Pre-Cana program did so due to a cancelled event or an event in which their schedules made it difficult to attend.

“I think it was an excellent resource for us since our in person Pre-Cana day had been cancelled due to COVID-19. It took a little bit of weight off of our shoulders knowing we could complete it on our own time and not have to stress about fitting in a new date before our wedding.” – Laina and Daniel from New York

Given the global pandemic of last year, we can also assume that couples prefer the safety and security of virtual learning.

This eliminates the risk of exposure to the virus while attending a gathered event.

In Conclusion…

2020 was a very difficult year for all of us. We understand how difficult it is to have to cancel a gathered event for any number of reasons, but especially through the lens of the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, it seems like it is still going to take a long time to “get back to normal,” and even then, it will most likely look vastly different than the “normal” we were used to.

Pre-Cana in 2020 was not an exception to this case.

The good news is — we have the resources to reach a global audience and continue to deliver a comprehensive, sacramental and modern Pre-Cana experience. Our unique benefit is that our programs are the perfect solution to every current COVID restriction in place.

We appreciate the opportunity to serve you and your ministry, and we continue to keep you all in our prayers as we all navigate through difficult times.

Read Time: 3 minutes

You have decided to get married in the Catholic Church — now what? You might have heard by now that you need to go through an approved marriage preparation program, otherwise known as “Pre-Cana.” The next step is for you to determine whether you will complete online or in person Pre-Cana.

The intent of this article is not to say either way which one is better — that would be subjective, so deciding which option is “better” is all about personal preference.

In this article, we will discuss both options and the experiences that can be included with both.

The Online Option

Thanks to the internet, information is readily available for the plucking. Some of our phones now are more powerful than our computers! The idea that we can connect with loved ones on the other side of the earth in a matter of seconds is incredible and sounds like something out of Star Trek.

Side note, we might actually have Star Trek to thank for most of our modern marvels.

Moving on…

For more than a decade, we have offered Pre-Cana as an option to conquer online and on-demand Catholic marriage preparation. The obvious, initial benefit for this is that couples are able to navigate through the course whenever and wherever.

From the feedback given to us by the thousands of couples who choose our program each year, here are other reasons they have enjoyed the online option:

  • Convenience: Life is busy now. It is difficult, and in a lot of cases, impossible, to be able to be off work and free for an entire day, weekend, or the same evenings for multiple weeks. This can often make it challenging for couples to attend their Parishes schedule Pre-Cana events.
  • Privacy: These are serious and often intimate topics. Being able to take the time and have focused, in-depth, conversations with privacy will make sure that you are both on the same page with them. Often with group sessions you won’t be able to take the time to have these conversations so discreetly.
  • Long Distance Couples: You may be currently living in different locations whether for work, school or several other factors. This can make it physically impossible to attend Pre-Cana at the same time and location. Online courses allow you to work on them anytime, whether just a few hours apart or half the world apart.

This data has helped us to develop and deliver a more impactful and meaningful online Pre-Cana experience.

Online learning is a great option for those who prefer to tackle the more complex talking points in the privacy of their home. It’s also great for folks who desire to work at their own pace — taking as much time as they need to dive into a given topic. The video segments in our program can be paused to help give enough of a break for you and your significant other to really connect with each other.

Our online course is accepted in parishes and dioceses all over, so it’s up to you and your significant other if this option is the right option.

That being said, although the online option has several obvious benefits, it might not be for everyone. There might not be the fatigue of an all-day or all-weekend event, but you definitely have to stay motivated.

There may not be the distractions of a crowd, but there still are distractions. “Those mines aren’t going to sweep themselves.” — Jim Halpert, The Office.

The In-Person Option

Most churches offer a flurry of options for in-person Pre-Cana. Whether it’s meeting with your Priest a required number of times before getting married, a one-day event, a weekend retreat — either way, your church is positioned to offer you something that fits your learning style.

A few benefits of an in-person gathering are:

  1. There is a potential for fellowship with like-minded peers — all in the same boat of preparing for marriage.
  2. You might be able to hear from several subject matter experts over the course of the program. This helps to make each topic more exciting and the event a little more interesting!
  3. When taking a course with instructors or sponsor couples, you will be able to ask questions and get feedback in real time, allowing you for greater clarity in the moment.

The challenge can be that an in-person option might not be available in enough time before the wedding day. In-person events might even be cancelled from time to time, and a reschedule might just put you too close to your wedding day — or worse — might not be available until after your wedding day.

The Decision

Regardless of which option you choose — online vs in person Pre-Cana — the most important thing to remember is to be transparent with your significant other and the ministry leader helping you to prepare for marriage. Please make sure that you are scheduling plenty of meetings with your Priest or Deacon for this important step towards your wedding day.

Interested in Online Pre-Cana?

Living Our Faith in Love - Online Pre-Cana