WeddingCanaMarriage Preparation Checklist for Engaged Couples in the Diocese of Trenton
(adapted from the Department of Youth, Marriage and Family Life )
Congratulations on your engagement and your decision to marry in the Catholic Church. Your loving relationship is a gift to all you encounter. The following checklist will guide you through the marriage preparation process from now until your wedding day, the beginning of a marriage to last a lifetime!

At least 18 months before your wedding ...                                                                                        You are encouraged to register at Holy Cross and become an active parishioner, supporting the financial and spiritual life of your parish. For weddings, to be considered a parishioner at Holy Cross, you must be in the parish at least a year before calling to talk about your wedding.                 

At least one year before your wedding…
As soon your engagement is official, you should call your parish and schedule your first meeting with your Pastoral Minister (priest, deacon or lay minister), who may also serve as the celebrant for your wedding. 

What should happen at your first meeting(s) at your parish:

  • If you are newly registered in your parish or have been away from the area for some time, this is a getting-to-know-you session. It’s also a time to discuss your hopes and dreams about marriage. 
  • Catholic persons should be prepared to present a recent certificate of Baptism with notations of all other sacraments (communion, confirmation and any prior marriages in the Church).
  • Marriage preparation in the Church requires a pre-nuptial investigation (PNI), which is all about your marital readiness.

Marriage Preparation
The Catholic community is responsible for your sacramental preparation and concerned with your future welfare as a married couple. You’ll work with your Pastoral Minister (PM) to reflect on the special qualities of Catholic marriage: fidelity, permanence and openness to children.

You’ll be asked a series of questions from Part I of the standard PNI form, which is completed by the Pastoral Minister. Parts II and III are completed following your instructional sessions (see below).

When Part I of your PNI is complete, you should register for a marriage preparation program ( and schedule your wedding date. Program options include:

  • Parish Pre-Cana Conferences
  • Diocesan Pre-Cana “God’s Plan for a Joy-filled Marriage” (based on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body)
  • Catholic Engaged Encounter weekends
  • To Trust Again Remarriage Workshop (for all couples in which one or both parties has a prior marriage)

Living Tradition
Whether you’re both Catholic or of different faith traditions, your Catholic parish encourages you to attend Sunday liturgies together and become actively involved as a couple in your parish community. All Catholic persons are invited to receive the Eucharist for spiritual nourishment.

By Nine Months before your wedding…
It is recommended that all couples take a pre-marital inventory such as FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study), and discuss the results with your Pastoral Minister (

You’ll need to schedule the FOCCUS inventory online. Your Pastoral Minister (PM) may schedule an online session for you to complete the inventory at home. Once your Pastoral Minister receives your FOCCUS results, you’ll want to schedule a few sessions to discuss your responses. 

By six months before the wedding…
You should plan to complete your marriage preparation program by six months before the wedding if possible, and certainly no later than three months prior.

Once you’ve completed your marriage preparation program and have received your certificate, you’ll need to meet with your Pastoral Minister again to discuss what you’ve learned at your workshop, and complete Parts II and III of your Pre-Nuptial forms.

If your meetings with your Pastoral Minister begin to uncover some serious concerns in your relationship, you may wish to schedule additional sessions, consult with your pastor, or ask for a referral for a professional evaluation. The Church’s primary concern is a fulfilling, lifelong marital relationship for both of you.

By two to three months before the wedding…
Once the Pre-Nuptial forms have been completed and you’ve worked through any preparation issues with your Pastoral Minister, you should begin planning your wedding liturgy. Your goal is a ceremony that reflects the sacredness of your marriage and the uniqueness of your relationship.

If you are both Catholic, a nuptial mass is recommended. If you’re an interfaith couple, a nuptial ceremony may be a better option. The Parish Staff will assist you in planning your wedding liturgy. Catholic persons should plan to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to the wedding to fully prepare you for the graces of sacramental marriage. It is highly recommended that all aspects of marriage preparation at the parish be completed by six weeks before the wedding, allowing you to focus on personal reflection and last minute details.

After the wedding…
After the wedding festivities and honeymoon, when it’s time to settle into the business of daily married life, be sure to set aside Sunday as a day of rest and renewal, and make Mass a priority in your lives. The graces and blessings you’ll receive as a couple are immeasurable, a source of strength to meet the challenges of daily married life.

Plan to get involved in your parish community together as a couple. Your marriage is a vocation and a call to loving service. Always remember that your marriage is a sign of Jesus’ unending love for his people. May your marriage always be blessed by his presence.

The Sacrament of Matrimony at Holy Cross
We are thrilled you have chosen to celebrate your wedding here at Holy Cross. Please call the Parish Office as soon as possible to begin the process of preparation. It is always a good idea to call the church before making any other arrangements for the sacrament. The parish staff is looking forward to speaking with you. Please call 732‐842‐0348.

Here are some of our guidelines at Holy Cross that will assist you in thinking about the celebration of marriage itself.
It is of growing concern that the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage can become something that does not reflect a Church or Sacramental celebration. Planning can get out of hand, resulting in a secular celebration, unrecognizable as that which belongs to the community of church. Thus, at Holy Cross, we strive to clarify that the Sacrament of Marriage is celebrated according to liturgical and Diocesan guidelines. We provide this information to prevent misunderstandings or disappointment at the time of the wedding. Please keep in mind that ALL wedding plans must be approved by the pastor or pastoral assistant at Holy Cross

1. Music – Music for weddings must be planned with the Holy Cross Director of Music. You may choose all your wedding music as long as it meets liturgical guidelines. It is not an option to omit any music from the liturgy. Thus, the responsorial psalm is always sung. At a Nuptial Mass, all Mass parts are sung, e.g., Holy, Holy, Great Amen, Lamb of God. You may also present flowers to the Blessed Mother if you choose.

2. Aisle Runners – are not permitted for insurance reasons. 

3. Rose petals – You may not throw anything inside or outside the church including rose petals, rice, confetti, birdseed. You may have bubbles.

4. Readings – You will choose two readings, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament which along with the Prayer of the Faithful may be read by people of your choice. You will need three readers in total.

5. Witnesses – At least one of your witnesses should be a practicing Catholic.

6. Outside Vocalists – You may choose a vocalist from outside the parish, but they need to be approved by the Director of Music.

7. Outside Musicians – If you choose to have another organist, you must still pay the Holy Cross fee to our Director of Music (bench fee). If you want additional instruments, these can be arranged by the Director of Music.

8. Church Decorations – If you choose to provide your own flowers for the Church, you are required to provide two floral arrangements for either side of the tabernacle. We will speak to the florist and answer their questions. You may have pew bows or wreaths on the door if you wish. Any other arrangement has to be approved by the pastor or pastoral assistant.

9. Visiting Priests – Visiting priests who are relatives of the bride or groom are welcome to preside over the marriage in place of the Pastor of Holy Cross. If you have a visiting priest, they must meet the eligibiity requirements set down by the Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton in order to preside at a sacrament here. The visiting priest will also take on the responsibility of preparing the couple for marriage. This means he will administer the Pre Nuptial Investigation, the FOCCUS survey and help the couple sign up for a PreCana class and Natural Family Planning class. Please let us know as soon as possible so we can arrange delegation, testimony of priestly suitability, and ask for adherence to our guidelines. The wedding rehearsal is always conducted by the pastoral staff.

10. Video and photo – Videographers and photographers should check in with the pastoral staff on the wedding day for parameters. Generally, they can take pictures from anywhere until the bride reaches the altar steps. Then they must back off to the 5th pew in the center aisle and to the 1st pew on the side aisles. No one may enter the sanctuary.

11. Flower Girls/Ring Bearers – These little ones should be of an age and maturity to insure participation in the ceremony by getting down the aisle – at least 4 years of age.

In choosing Holy Cross, we assume you agree with our guidelines. We thank you for your cooperation in working together for a beautiful and prayerful wedding celebration.