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USCCB Natural Family Planning - See marriage preparation page
Especially for the couple planning...
The loving family of your Catholic Diocese and your local church parish extends to you sincere congratulations and best wishes for your marriage. Holy matrimony is a sacred occasion in which you exchange consent to marriage before God, a priest or deacon and the assembled congregation of family and friends. You will publicly vow your faith and your love to each other and your desire to be united for life.
Our prayer is that you will enjoy planning your nuptial Mass or the celebration of holy matrimony outside of Mass. We hope working with the musicians, florists, tailors, caterers and everyone else will be a pleasure. This day is important and will hold many memories for you. May it be as holy and lovely as you wish!
This day is not as important, however, as the quality of the rest of your life as you live out a holy marriage. Our church family wishes you the best each day of your married life and that the love you have on your special day will be but a flicker compared to the love and holiness that will grow and mature in the years ahead until death do you part!
It is the policy of the dioceses in Louisiana that you begin your premarital preparation by meeting with a priest or deacon at least four to six months before the anticipated date of your marriage. This allows time for you to look at your relationship in the new light of a lifetime commitment together in holy matrimony. In addition, it allows for the priest or deacon and you to come to know each other better.
The setting of the date and time of your wedding by the parish priest or deacon is a legal matter. Once it is set, then you may hold the priest or deacon to that date and time in the church in which the marriage is scheduled. Preparation for marriage is a time for you to conclude whether you are properly prepared, rightly disposed and appropriately marrying at this moment in time with the assistance of the priest or deacon. Therefore, the date and time of your marriage is not set until it is evident that these essential elements of readiness have been thoroughly considered. You may not announce your wedding until the priest or deacon has agreed with you that these requirements have been met in accord with diocesan and universal law.
In the initial stages of working together, you will meet with the priest or deacon and take a kind of opinion survey. From the results, a program is designed to facilitate open communication between you and your future spouse.
This process has been created with the realization that you have strengths and weaknesses, as do all couples, in the way in which you relate to each other and to those around you. This program is useful in helping the two of you identify areas of your relationship in which you have strengths and weaknesses.
This inventory is not a pass/fail test, but rather an opinion survey that provides a snapshot of how each of you thinks and what each one feels with regard to a set of issues that may come up in your future together.
Your opinions are compiled. As a couple you and the priest or deacon will set up a minimum of three (3) follow-up visits to do a series of communication and goal setting exercises to help you learn the results of the survey. You can then take appropriate steps to celebrate your strengths and build up your weaknesses. These follow-up appointments should be completed within the first two months after your initial meeting with the priest or deacon.
"Pre-Cana" or Some Other Options for Marriage Preparation
See the 'Marriage Preparation' page (button on the right). Speak with your pastor FIRST. He will indicate any expectations for preparation.
Catholic Baptismal Certificates
If you are a Catholic, you must request a new copy of your baptismal certificate from the church in which you were baptized. This certified copy must be issued within six months of the date of your marriage.
You may simply phone the church where you were baptized to obtain a copy. You should call during normal business hours. It is sufficient to ask for it from the secretary who answers the phone. You will need to provide your name, date of birth and parents' names. If you have an older copy of the certificate, you can also give the date of baptism, and the volume and page number of the baptismal register where your baptism is recorded. If you find that the church parish no longer exists, ask the priest or deacon preparing you for marriage to help you obtain a copy. Do not try to track down a certificate without help.
When requesting the certificate, please inform the person answering the phone that this baptismal certificate is being requested as part of preparation for marriage and all notations are important. Please have the baptismal certificate sent to the priest or deacon preparing you.
Baptismal Certificates for All Others
If you are baptized, it would be great to have a copy of that certificate. It does not have to be a recent one. A photocopy of any certificate will do. If you do not have one, there are several options. If you can remember your own baptism, it is sufficient that you yourself complete an affidavit provided by the priest or deacon. Alternatively, one or both parents can complete affidavits of baptism.
In any case, your parents, or someone who has known you nearly as well all of your life, must complete an affidavit that you have never been married to anyone in anyway prior to your proposed marriage.
The priest or deacon will provide a form for the affidavits when you meet for preparation.
Your State Marriage License
Your state marriage license must be obtained in accord with Louisiana law. You have a choice between the standard marriage license and the covenant marriage license. The priest or deacon can sign the affidavit the state requires for covenant marriages.
Neither type of state license is signed during the celebration of holy matrimony.
You will be given one copy of the real state license and the pretty, but non-legal, state certificate after the nuptials are celebrated. The priest or deacon will then send the other two copies of the state license to the appropriate clerk of court.
A church certificate of celebration of holy matrimony will be given to you after the ceremony or mailed to your new home shortly after your nuptials. Be sure to request a certified copy of the state license from the courthouse where you obtained it. It is most important for you to have proof that your marriage has been recorded there.
Liturgy and Music
If your marriage is to be celebrated at Mass between Saturday at 4 PM and Sunday at midnight during the Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter seasons, you must use the readings and Mass prayers assigned for the Sunday. The same may be true of holy days or other special days. Ask about this possibility when you talk about your marriage date with the priest or deacon.
Especially in planning music, please distinguish between what is appropriate for each of the following: (1) the liturgical celebration of a Nuptial Mass or Catholic Rite of Marriage outside of Mass; (2) a wedding; and (3) a reception or party. Each one is a very different type of event. The priest or deacon preparing you for marriage as well as the director of music for your church will guide you in the selection of appropriate liturgical music.
Church Flowers and Decorations
Your church parish and the liturgical season in which your wedding takes place has much to do with what is permitted at a given time in a particular church. You are not necessarily being singled out for mistreatment if you chose to marry during the Christmas season that lasts until the Epiphany and are not permitted to remove the Christmas trees. By the same token, the season of Lent as a penitential one requires that all flowers and decorations be subdued.
Other Customs at Weddings
It should be pointed out that holy matrimony can be celebrated without renting or buying anything including special clothes and decorations. The typical decorations, customs, photos and videos are often driven and expanded by a huge, sales-oriented market.
The church where your ceremony takes place will have clear guidelines about what should and should not take place. These are created from the positive and negative experiences of those who have worked with many weddings. They truly want your wedding to be wonderful. At the same time they want to protect the church and it furnishings from damage. There are always issues of injury and liability to consider as well.
Use of Alcohol and Drugs
It is important to remember that it is the practice and the law of the Catholic Church that marriage vows can be exchanged only between persons who can exercise a truly free will at the time of consent. This means that the bride and groom must be free of all drugs or alcohol in order to have a free exchange of their consent. In addition, no one in your party can be under the influence of alcohol or drugs if the marriage is to take place.
Absolutely no alcohol or controlled substance may be brought or consumed in or around the church building at anytime before or after the ceremony by anyone.
No Cost for the Celebration of Sacraments
There may be a moderate fee for the use of the church for your nuptial Mass or celebration of holy matrimony outside of Mass. The services of the priest or deacon are free of charge; it is customary to give him a monetary gift, but that is at the discretion of the couple. If it is given, it should be presented by the couple whom he has prepared and should reflect their personal appreciation.
The Church Hall
Please note that the hall is not available for showers or other wedding events prior to the priest or deacon scheduling your wedding. Reservation of the church hall is separate and apart from the reservation of the church for rehearsal or ceremony dates.
The diocesan policy on serving alcohol must also be carefully followed when church facilities are used. Parish policies are created from the positive and negative experiences of those who have worked with many receptions. They truly want yours to be wonderful. At the same time they want to protect the hall and its furnishings from damage. There are always issues of injury and liability to consider as well.
The loving family of your Catholic Diocese and your local church parish wants your special day and the rest of your life in holy matrimony to be wonderful. May God bless you, your family and friends as you celebrate marriage in the Lord Jesus.
Reflections by the Holy Father: Engagement, Family Life, Separation and Divorce
On June 3, 2012 Pope Benedict carefully reflected on the decision to marry as something more than the act of falling in love: "The emotion of love must be purified. It must undertake a journey of discernment in which the mind and the will also come into play…. In the rite of Marriage the Church does not ask whether you are in love but whether you want, whether you are resolved. In other words, falling in love must become true love; it must involve the will and the mind in a journey (which is the period of engagement) of purification, of greater profundity so that it is truly all of man, with all his capacities, with the discernment of reason and the force of will, who says: 'Yes, this is my life'.”
On the subject of divorce, the Holy Father lamented "this is one of the great causes of suffering for the Church today, and we do not have simple solutions…. Naturally, one very important factor is prevention. This means ensuring that, from the beginning, the act of falling love is transformed in a more profound and mature decision. Another factor is that of accompanying people during marriage, to ensure that families are never alone but find authentic company on their journey. We must tell people in this situation that the Church loves them, but they must see and feel this love".
The divorced who are living single lives are encouraged to frequent the sacraments of reconciliation and Holy Communion so that they feel part of the community of the church, are supported by it and have the grace necessary to live the single life after having been called to live the married life. In its attitude toward those who are divorced and not living the single life, the Pope held the local church responsible, saying it "must do everything possible so that such people feel loved and accepted, that they are not 'outsiders' even if they cannot receive absolution and the Eucharist. They must see that they too live fully within the Church…. The Eucharist is real and shared if people truly enter into communion with the Body of Christ. Even without the 'corporeal', consumption of the Sacrament, we can be spiritually united to Christ".
Furthermore, the divorced must "have the chance to live a life of faith ... to see that their suffering is a gift for the Church, because they also help others to defend the stability of love, of Marriage… theirs is a suffering in the community of the Church for the great values of our faith".
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, gives this further encourgement: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (paragraph 47).
Returning to Pope Benedict's homily on the feast of the Holy Trinity, he reminded the faithful that “It is not only the Church that is called to be the image of One God in Three Persons, but also the family, based on marriage between man and woman…. God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life. It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of God. Dear married couples, in living out your marriage you are not giving each other any particular thing or activity, but your whole lives. And your love is fruitful first and foremost for yourselves, because you desire and accomplish one another’s good, you experience the joy of receiving and giving. It is also fruitful in your generous and responsible procreation of children, in your attentive care for them, and in their vigilant and wise education. And lastly, it is fruitful for society, because family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation. Dear married couples, watch over your children and, in a world dominated by technology, transmit to them, with serenity and trust, reasons for living, the strength of faith, pointing them towards high goals and supporting them in their fragility….
"Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the world. You have before you the witness of so many families who point out the paths for growing in love: by maintaining a constant relationship with God and participating in the life of the Church, by cultivating dialogue, respecting the other’s point of view, by being ready for service and patient with the failings of others, by being able to forgive and to seek forgiveness, by overcoming with intelligence and humility any conflicts that may arise, by agreeing on principles of upbringing, and by being open to other families, attentive towards the poor, and responsible within civil society. These are all elements that build up the family. Live them with courage, and be sure that, insofar as you live your love for each other and for all with the help of God’s grace, you become a living Gospel, a true domestic Church.
"I should also like to address a word to the faithful who, even though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had painful experiences of breakdown and separation. I want you to know that the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany you".
He went on to say "We may recognize the task of man and woman to collaborate with God in the process of transforming the world through work, science and technology…. In modern economic theories, there is often a utilitarian concept of work, production and the market. Yet God’s plan, as well as experience, show that the one-sided logic of sheer utility and maximum profit are not conducive to harmonious development, to the good of the family or to building a more just society, because it brings in its wake ferocious competition, strong inequalities, degradation of the environment, the race for consumer goods, family tensions. Indeed, the utilitarian mentality tends to take its toll on personal and family relationships, reducing them to a fragile convergence of individual interests and undermining the solidity of the social fabric.
"One final point: man, as the image of God, is also called to rest and to celebrate. The account of creation concludes with these words: ‘And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it’. For us Christians, the feast day is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the weekly Easter. It is the day of the Church, the assembly convened by the Lord around the table of the Word and of the Eucharistic Sacrifice…. It is the day of man and his values: conviviality, friendship, solidarity and culture, closeness to nature, play, and sport. It is the day of the family, on which to experience together a sense of celebration, encounter, sharing, not least through taking part in Mass. Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord’s Day!"
"Family, work, celebration: three of God’s gifts, three dimensions of our lives that must be brought into a harmonious balance…. In this regard, always give priority to the logic of being over that of having: the first builds up, the second ends up destroying. We must learn to believe first of all in the family, in authentic love, the kind that comes from God and unites us to Him".
Choose one of these:
One-on-one Catholic, interactive, mentor-led Pre-Cana program
Spend a weekend with your future spouse in private dialogue in a couple-guided program and also this with one of the above:
Even medical doctors say they did not know what this on-line, mentor-led course teaches
Couple to Couple League Instructors
Michael and Leah Pelto: (318) 730-2839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Resource Links for Marriage Preparation
Fertility Resource Links
Prenuptial Preparation Tools
Prenuptial Basic Data Form & Questionnaire
Form A: Matrimonial Dispensations-Permissions and-or Sanations
Form B: Dispensation from the Observance of the Canonical Form of Marriage (Catholic Party must reside in the Diocese of Alexandria)
Form C: In-parish marriage case; investigations of the previous marriage of a Catholic when invalidity may arise from lack of canonical form
Form D: Petition to Marry when party has obligations from previous marriage
Form E: Affidavit of freedom to marry-baptismal status and viability