This online Catholic marriage preparation program provides a comprehensive experience addressing the “Must-Have Conversations” outlined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This page outlines the three types of content included with this program; required, optional, and supplemental.

Required Elements

Ceremony Planning

Many couples wonder what is allowed in a Catholic marriage ceremony and how they can plan this most important part of the wedding. The presenter answers commonly asked questions about ceremony planning and explains the rules and traditions behind the answers. Questions are answered about interfaith marriage, whether to have a full mass or ceremony, destination weddings, the involvement of non-Catholics, the number of the bridal party, music and more.

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Spirituality of Marriage

You are invited to let God work in your relationship now, as an engaged couple, and for the rest of your life as husband and wife. The presenter compares the stages of married life to Jesus’ Transfiguration, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. He gives ideas about how your marriage vows can mean more to you as you grow in the understanding that there is more at work in your lives than just each other. Dr. Healy draws on the wisdom of Christianity while reflecting on the lived experience of marriage, and shows that marriage is a sacrament that will teach us to die and rise over and over and that ultimately, Jesus will give us grace as we go through the joys and difficulties of married life.

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Family of Origin

Congratulations! You will soon be married to your future spouse… and to the parents, siblings, traditions and expectations of this person’s family!

The influence of the family of origin remains a part of who your future spouse is now, and who they will be when you are married. The same concept applies to you and the role your family will play in your married life.

The presenter will share his stories and give you ideas for discussion: Which traditions were important to you when you were growing up that you wish to continue with the family you create with your spouse? Do you two share the same faith? How will your religious beliefs be honored as a married couple? How do you define the roles of husband and wife, man and woman as they relate to your involvement and interaction with one another?

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Communication

Relationships are all about communication. Happy, healthy marriages require frequent and honest communication between husband and wife. This life skill is among the most important, requiring a commitment to keep learning more effective ways to relate to one another.

This segment provides suggestions and experiences on topics such as: verbal and non-verbal communication methods, listening skills, sharing emotions, being assertive, and the differences between the way men and women communicate.

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Conflict Management and Forgiveness

Studies have shown that one of the biggest predictors of divorce is the avoidance of conflict. Marriages that succeed and marriages that fail have about the same level of disagreements; the difference is in the way that conflict is handled. In this segment you will get ideas for handling conflict in a positive manner and the steps to forgiveness.

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Marriage as a Sacrament

For couples planning to be married in the Catholic Church, it is important to understand and reflect upon the deeper meaning of marriage. You are not just preparing for an unforgettable wedding day; you are entering into a relationship with your future husband or wife and with God that is a permanent faithful union rooted in Scripture. Marriage is a vocation that responds to God’s call to holiness and echoes the relationship between God and his love for his Church. It is more than a legal contract, it is a covenant, and a sacrament. Your marriage will be strengthened by grace from God.

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Healthy Sexuality and Intimacy

A healthy, loving sex life is among the most important factors to a happy, lasting marriage. Relationship issues related to sex are often the result of communication lacking between a husband and wife.

In this segment, you will benefit from professional advice and conversation-starters. By talking through these sensitive topics during your engagement, you will position yourselves for a lifetime of healthy, exciting and fulfilling intimacy.

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Natural Family Planning

This segment explores the Catholic Church’s teaching of marriage and procreation and how Natural Family Planning can be used as a scientific method of spacing or achieving pregnancy, while staying consistent with Church teaching on the sanctity of life.

NOTE: Marriage Ministries also offers a stand-alone, three-part, “Learn NFP Online” program. Check it out.

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Children

For some couples, having children is the last thing on their minds as they plan for their marriage. Others may be planning to start a family right away, or may bring children into the marriage. It is important to talk about parenthood at this stage. By learning one another’s expectations for having children and parental styles, you will grow in your understanding of your spouse and the parent of your children.

You will be invited to discuss issues including: when the right time to have children is, when and how many you want, and what you will do if things do not go as you planned.

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Theology of the Body

This couple explains how following the ideas expressed in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body help them to live their married life: how we are made in the image and likeness of God; the truth, beauty and goodness of the human body; as well as complementarity: the special roles of men and women in marriage. They will help you to discuss how you can give yourselves completely to each other and learn Church teaching about sexuality.

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Finances

Finances can be a tricky topic. Couples come into marriage with different ideas of how to handle money, and what worked for your parents may not work for you. Kelley Long, a certified financial planner, helps guide you on the important topics you need to discuss: attitudes about spending, saving, and stewardship; previous debt, separate or joint accounts, budgeting, and how to discuss this safely in a loving environment to make sure your finances are a bonder for your marriage, not a buster.

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Couple Prayer

One way to have a happy, healthy, and holy marriage is to learn to pray together. The presenters share their personal stories with you and offer ideas for praying together to strengthen your bond as a married couple.

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Optional Elements

Unique Challenges of Military Couples

All marriages have challenges, but there are certain challenges unique to military couples. Father Matt Foley discusses how you can stay strong in the face of deployment, distance, separation, and other dynamics faced when you’re in the military. Fr. Foley is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and U.S. Army chaplain at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and has served three deployments in Afghanistan.

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Cohabitation

For some couples, living together seems like a logical step in their progression towards marriage. This optional segment covers cohabitation and what studies have shown to be the problems associated with cohabitation. The presenter, psychologist Dr. James Healy, PhD, walks couples through the steps to commitment and shares ways to have your actions match your beliefs as the two of you enter into Catholic marriage: as a couple equal in dignity, authority, and power.

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Forming a Stepfamily

This optional segment covers topics of interest to couples whose marriage will form a stepfamily, whether the children will live with them or not. Stepfamilies look just like other families but the challenges of integrating children into the new marital relationship can be a surprise if you are not prepared. The length of time it takes for a stepfamily to “gel” together, parenting, and dealing with “exes” are discussed in this segment with Elsie Radtke of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who is part of a stepfamily.

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Children of Divorce

This optional segment gives you background on how coming from a family of divorce may affect your marriage. How can you make it work? How can you avoid having what happened to your parents happen to you? How can you make sure your kids don’t go through what you went through? Those questions are discussed in this segment with author and researcher Elizabeth Marquardt, herself a child of divorce.

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Second Marriages

Because the divorce rate for second marriages is higher than the rate for first marriages, it is important to prepare properly for marriage. If a person has been married and is divorced, they must first get a Declaration of Nullity, or an annulment from their Tribunal before they are free to marry again in the Church.

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Interfaith and Interchurch Marriages

All marriages involve some differences in faith, even if the two marrying share the same religion. Since we are unique individuals with various histories and backgrounds, our perceptions and understandings about God and our faith experiences will always differ. Couples marrying today, whether they are of the same religious heritage or not, face the same challenge as did couples two millennium ago—to combine all the aspects of their lives, especially their religious beliefs, to create that triple braided cord.

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Strengthening African American Catholic Marriages

Social data reveals that African American families are particularly in crisis, having the lowest marriage rate compared to all measured groups, while also having the highest divorce rate.

In this segment, Andrew and Terri Lyke offer encouragement and suggestions for having a successful marriage. They have been married nearly 40 years.

Andrew is a former Director of the Office for Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He has been involved in ministry to the Church in a variety of ways over the past 30+ years.

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Supplemental Elements

The following “eBooks” are included as supplemental materials with the marriage preparation program. While these eBooks are not required reading for completion of the program, they are popular, well-written, and a great read for engaged couples.

Living Together and Christian Commitment

by Dr. James Healy, Ph.D.

Dr. Healy combines insights from the social sciences, Catholic Church teaching and pastoral experience to respond to the issue of cohabitation in a way that is both welcoming and honest.

(Delivered as an electronic PDF download.)

Spirituality and Religion in Your Marriage: A Reflective Process for Engaged Couples booklet

by Dr. James Healy, Ph.D.

This booklet contains a short 20 item inventory that places the individual in one of four categories: 1) high in both Spirituality and Religion, 2) high in Spirituality and low in Religion, 3) low in both Religion and Spirituality, and 4) high in Religion and low in Spirituality. It affirms strengths and then encourages growth in both the individual and the couple towards category number 1.

(Delivered as an electronic PDF download.)