Pre-Cana is a marriage preparation course, class, or consultation for couples who will be married in a Catholic church. The name is derived from John 2:1–12, the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine. [source]
Marriage preparation is required of all couples who are going to take the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church. Depending on the recommendations or guidelines set forth by your parish and/or diocesan Family Life Office, a variety of course formats may be pre-approved for your choosing.
Regardless of the format you decide on, the course will address each of the “Must-Have Conversations” prescribed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Many courses go well-beyond those “core topics.”
Read More: What is Pre-Cana in the Catholic Church?
A marriage preparation program should be dialogic, not diagnostic. The experience is intended to present concepts and learning opportunities for those who have not been previously exposed to certain aspects of Catholic teachings. It is also a great opportunity for couples to talk about issues that, while possibly understood as individuals, may not have been discussed with each other as a couple. Pre-Cana is all about starting and facilitating dialogue in a deep and meaningful way.
These conversations will be important for you as a couple in your upcoming marriage and will ensure you are both in agreement — or at least understanding of — each others’ beliefs and values.
Topics you can expect to explore include “family of origin” (your existing family roles, expectations, and traditions gained from your own individual upbringing), financial considerations, communication skills, career goals and practical issues, conflict resolution, intimacy and sexuality, Natural Family Planning (NFP), and the spirituality and theology of marriage.
Read More: What Do You Do at Pre-Cana?
Marriage preparation is about learning the religious, spiritual, or theological aspects of the sacrament of marriage, of course. The course also includes practical conversations that will help you in those “day-to-day aspects” of forming a new family.
Family traditions, finances, conflict resolution, intimacy and sexuality, and several more points of conversation will help you prepare for important issues that we often forget to talk about before and during marriage.
Read More: What’s the Point of Doing Pre-Cana?
Pre-Cana courses are commonly delivered in a variety of ways, including:
- Single-day (usually Saturday) gathered events with groups of engaged couples
- A series of meetings with your priest or deacon, which may span 4-8 weeks
- Guided sessions with a sponsor couple that will serve as mentors facilitating the course
- Online courses or hybrid experiences, sometimes called “blended learning” (combination of online components and face-to-face interaction)
- Weekend retreats (often referred to as Engaged Encounter weekends) with other engaged couples
- A Premarital Inventory survey (leading brands are FOCCUS, Prepare/Enrich, and Catholic Couple Checkup)
Premarital Inventories are often used as part of the overall marriage preparation process. This tool is like a survey, helping individuals to rate their feelings and preferences on a wide variety of issues.
After both of you complete your part of the survey (inventory), a report will be provided to you directly or it may be interpreted by a facilitator. This report will help you to identify areas where you and your fiancé(e) are in close agreement and — perhaps more importantly — identify areas where you may be misaligned. Those areas of misalignment create opportunity for you to dive deeply into the subject, ensuring both of you have the chance to explain and understand each other.
Common misconception: Premarital inventories are not “tests.” This is not about “right or wrong” answers. In fact, since the answers are simply your rating of your own individual feelings and preferences, it isn’t possible to get it wrong. Just be honest in sharing with your spouse-to-be and you will both feel much better from this experience.
Although the particulars and requirements can vary and it’s best to check with the parish where you plan to be married, the Catholic Church commonly recommends that you complete your Pre-Cana program six months prior to your wedding date.
This six-month timeframe is a wise recommendations, as it ensures that you have plenty of time to work through the many discussions, well in advance of your actual wedding date. Don’t procrastinate! The vast majority of couples find Pre-Cana to be an often surprisingly rewarding experience. You are sure to learn a great deal about your fiancè(e)… and yourself.
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.
So 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.
“What God has joined, let no one put asunder.” Christ blesses the wedding in Cana in John 2:1–11 by turning water into wine.
This public act of the deepest declaration of love and devotion becomes all the more profound when delivered at a Catholic wedding.
Read More: Planning a Catholic Wedding Ceremony