Getting married as a devout Catholic means adhering to the church’s very strict rules. If having your wedding in the church, you will have to include a mass, Holy Communion, and stick very closely to Catholic dogma. This includes expectations for your marriage as well.
Here are some Catholic marriage preparation tips:
1. Attend premarital counseling
Many of the issues Catholics face regarding their marriages are the same for non-Catholic couples. Before getting married in the church, there is mandatory counseling to be attended with proof of attendance going back to the officiating priest. This can come in the form of retreats, being sponsored by another couple within the church, or a traditional counseling/seminar format. Counselors will discuss the biblical methods of handling disagreements, money, communication, and how you should be treating each other.
2. Natural Family Planning
Catholic doctrine frowns upon the use of man-made birth control (condoms, the pill, abortions, etc.). The belief is that marriage is a means to procreation and any sexual activity should be for that end only. Any premarital counseling done will include this conversation with the officiating priest and the class counselors about natural family planning and what Catholic rules are regarding conception and raising children. You may find it worth your time to look into a few outside resources as well for example ‘Natural Family Planning: A Catholic Approach’ by Mary Lee Baron and ‘Taking Charge of Your Fertility’ by Toni Weschler
3. Effort is required
You are entering into what is expected to be a life-long commitment in the eyes of the church. If you are a practicing Catholic then you already know that the church frowns upon divorce. You have to continue to put forth the same effort expressed as you did when dating. Take some time to be alone together away from the routine; go on dates, hold hands, always make time for each other and show affection. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just small gestures each day will be enough to keep a strong connection.
4. Use your engagement time wisely
The church recommends taking 6-12 months before getting married to strengthen your bond and preparing yourself. This includes the time to finish any premarital prep programs, but should also give yourself and your future spouse time to get on the same page. The counseling helps, but together you have to discuss important events that will come up in your lives together.
Children, careers, location changes, and finances all need to be discussed and compromises/decisions need to be reached before entering in to a marriage to avoid larger issues down the road. If there are disagreements on anything major, the waiting period before the actual ceremony will give you the time to either iron them out or to decide that maybe the relationship is better off not going forward.
Preparing for marriage in the Catholic faith is not so different than in other denominations. It is still a commitment between two people with differences and independent minds that will experience the same speed bumps as others. The difference is in their faith is the doctrine is very specific in the rules that govern their lives. The Church has a roadmap laid out when it comes to marriage and their expectations; all a couple has to do is follow what is laid out in front of them.