Marriage Preparation Checklist for Engaged Couples in the Diocese of Trenton
(adapted from the Department of Youth, Marriage and Family Life http://www.dioceseoftrenton.org/family )
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.
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 (www.dioceseoftrenton.org/precana) 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)
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 (www.FOCCUSinc.com)
You’ll need to schedule the FOCCUS inventory online. Your Pastoral Minister 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.
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.
In today’s world it is very easy for couples planning their wedding to mistakenly envision it in terms of a secular celebration instead of a sacred one. “A Catholic marriage takes place in a Church, which is a sacred place, consecrated for the purpose of offering worship to God. Catholic marriage is a sacrament and a sign of God’s presence in our daily lives,” as the Catechism says. To prevent misunderstandings or disappointments in the midst of planning your ceremony we would like to provide you with the liturgical guidelines for the celebration of Matrimony here at Holy Cross. We look forward to helping you plan a wedding celebration that is both sacred and joyful. In choosing Holy Cross for your marriage, you are agreeing to these guidelines.
Types of Ceremonies Offered – At Holy Cross, we are currently offering Nuptial ceremonies. We will not be celebrating Nuptial Masses until further notice. If you are interested in having Holy Communion for the couple as part of the ceremony, please mention this to the Pastoral Associate.
Music – Music for weddings must be planned with the Holy Cross Organist. You may choose your wedding music as long as it meets liturgical guidelines. Popular music selections are not permitted in the church. It is not an option to omit any music from the liturgy. Thus, the responsorial psalm is always sung.
Contact with the Church – Holy Cross staff may only speak with the bride or groom about their wedding ceremony. We love everyone’s parents and grandparents, but we will not be able to discuss the details of any ceremony with them. The Bride or Groom must call the parish themselves to make arrangements.
Aisle Runners – Because of insurance guidelines, runners are not permitted.
Rose petals – You may not throw anything inside or outside the church including, but not limited to, rose petals, rice, confetti and birdseed.
Readings – You will choose two readings for the ceremony, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. These readings come from the approved list the Church has identified as appropriate for weddings. The priest will choose the Gospel reading. The two readings may be read by family or friends as long as they are baptized Catholics. The priest will read the Universal Prayer.
Bridal Party – The number of attendants is limited to 6 bridesmaids and 6 groomsmen.
Vocalists and Musicians – The Holy Cross Music Ministry will provide the music for the wedding ceremony itself. If you wish to have a guest vocalist, they may sing one hymn before the ceremony. The Pastoral Associate and Organist will assist with these arrangements. If you wish to have additional instruments, they may play in the church for 30 minutes before the wedding begins and then again for 15 minutes after the ceremony concludes. The Pastoral Associate must approve the musical selections of any visiting musicians. Please let the Pastoral Associate know about your request.
Church Decorations – Flowers are not required in the church. If you want flowers, they are limited to 2 arrangements in urns provided by the church. You may have pew bows for up to 10 pews (5 on either side of the main aisle) affixed with ribbon or elastic. Nothing should be hung on the doors.
Visiting Priests – Visiting priests who are related to the family are welcome to preside over the marriage. They will need delegation and testimony of priestly suitability. They will also be expected to follow our guidelines for weddings, including the celebration of ceremonies only and no Masses. The Visiting priest will also assume the responsibility for all the Marriage Preparation of the couple. This may include obtaining a Nihil Obstat from the Diocesan Tribunal. Please discuss this with the Pastoral Associate as soon as possible.
Video and photography – Videographers and photographers must check with the parish staff for parameters. Generally, they can take pictures from anywhere outside the sanctuary until the bride reaches the altar steps. Then they must back off to the break in the center aisle and to the 1st pew on the side aisles. The total number of those taking pictures is limited. Tripods are limited to 2 and placed in side aisles only. Videographers and photographers may never enter the sanctuary. They should not be a distraction or interfere with the ceremony. USE OF DRONES IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN at any part of the ceremony or on the campus.
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.
Rehearsal - Readers, parents and all members of the wedding party are expected at the rehearsal so you can practice and be comfortable in knowing what to expect at church. The license, fees, and programs (if applicable) should be brought to the rehearsal. The Holy Cross staff always facilitates the wedding rehearsals.