Getting married? Prep is key step

Marriage preparation classes in the diocese provide a foundation for happy, healthy, and joy-filled marriages — they are preparation for a lifetime! Here, the Office of Family/Respect Life provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this important step on your journey to the altar. (Turn to page 10 to hear from recent marriage prep attendees.)

Q: What is marriage prep (“pre cana”)?  

A: Marriage preparation is a series of meetings, classes, or programs. It is offered to engaged couples to help develop a better understanding of Christian marriage, to help couples evaluate and deepen their readiness to live married life, and to help gain insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple.  

Q: Do we have to do prep to get married in a church?   

A: All couples must meet with a parish priest or deacon as their first step. The priest or deacon will talk with the couple and determine if a valid sacramental marriage is possible. He will also talk with the couple about other questions or concerns and will assist the couple with planning for celebrating the Rite of Marriage. Most bishops and priests strongly encourage additional marriage preparation as well. This additional preparation is generally offered through programs, classes, and/or meetings with mentor couples.
Q: Why does the Church encourage prep?   

A: The Catholic Church has a long history of helping couples to prepare for marriage. It has learned a great deal that can benefit any couple, regardless of religion. The Church wants couples to have long, successful, happy marriages. 

Q: What does marriage prep in the diocese entail? What can we expect?  

A: Marriage preparation in our diocese always requires an initial meeting with the parish priest or deacon. We also have one-day Diocesan Marriage Preparation classes. These classes go through topics such as Families of Origin, Finances, Marriage as a Sacrament, God at the Center, Dreaming Together, Communication, and Natural Family Planning. The classes are presented by experienced married couples and are relevant and just plain fun! We consistently receive excellent reviews about our Marriage Prep classes. Some parishes run their own Marriage Preparation programs and have mentor couples who meet with the engaged couples. It depends on the parish.  

Q: What if only one of us is Catholic?  

A: You will still be welcome to celebrate your marriage. There are different forms for celebrating the Rite of Marriage, depending on your situation. Your priest or deacon can assist you with those questions.

Q: We’re ready to register for prep. What do we do?

A: First, meet with your priest. Meeting with your priest or deacon is required before registering. Even if you are getting married outside the diocese, you will need to meet with a local priest or deacon to ensure that all requirements have been met before registering for a class.

   After that, registration for a diocesan prep class is simple and can be completed entirely online: Visit www.syracusediocese.org/offices/ familyrespect-life/marriage-preparation/, find the class that best suits your schedule, and pay the $75 registration fee.

Q: When and where are diocesan classes offered?

A: Classes are available in or near Syracuse, Utica, and Binghamton. Find the schedule of upcoming classes at www.syracusediocese.org/offices/familyrespect-life/marriage-preparation/.

Q: When should we register for our class?

A: Register early. Many classes sell out 4 to 6 weeks in advance, so we encourage you to register as soon as possible. 

Q: My fiance and I don’t live in the same state (or city or county, etc.). How do we do prep? 

A: We offer an online marriage prep course that can be found at catholicmarriageprep.com. Contact us and speak to your priest to find out if this is the best option for you.

Q: We live in a diocese other than Syracuse. Can we take your class? 

A: Everyone is welcome, but please make sure that you have met first with your priest or deacon and received his approval to attend.

Q: Is there anything I need to bring to the class, such as paperwork? 

A: Feel free to bring your ticket from online registration (paper or on your phone).  The only other things you need are your fiance and an open mind and heart! 

Q: In addition to attending prep class, what can we do as a couple to prepare for marriage?

A: Your marriage will thrive with love and nourishment. Where to begin? If possible, regularly attend Mass together and become part of a parish family. They’re a great source of strength and encouragement. The Family/Respect Life Office also has information about programs to support marriages, as does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — visit www.foryourmarriage.org.