Marriage Preparation

The Church’s pastoral care for marriage finds its most visible expression in its care for couples preparing to get married. There are a number of programmes available to couples in England and Wales that complement the required preparation that is the responsibility of clergy to provide before a wedding can go ahead. These programmes usually cover skills such as communication and conflict resolution as well as opportunities to reflect on the meaning of the sacrament and the kind of commitment that marriage embodies. The links on this page feature the main programmes currently available.
Marriage Celebration Westminster


The Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship published Guidelines for the Preparation of Couples for Marriage in September 2016. The Guidelines are very much in tune with what Pope Francis describes as “the need to involve the entire community more extensively by stressing the witness of families themselves and by grounding marriage preparation in the process of Christian initiation” (Amoris Laetitia #206). The Guidelines have been prepared over an extended period of time during which marriage preparation providers were consulted as well as relationship and theological experts.

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Marriage Care is the biggest provider of formal marriage preparation in England and Wales through a network of volunteers working from centres across dioceses. Marriage Care offers a complete one-day course for couples wishing to marry in the Catholic Church which explores the Church's teaching on the sacrament of marriage and gives participants the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the vows they intend to make. Marriage Care trains facilitators in this programme and offers its volunteers opportunities for supervision and continuing professional development. Income from the marriage preparation service makes it possible for Marriage Care to also offer a counselling service to couples who need extra support.

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Additional Programmes

Premarital inventories such as FOCCUS and PREPARE are becoming more widely available to couples, especially since FOCCUS is offered through Marriage Care centres. For more information please visit:


An Engaged Encounter weekend is a form of marriage preparation designed to give couples preparing for marriage the chance to talk openly about their expectations and attitudes in such areas as work, money, children, in-laws, sex, leisure time and church. The focus of the weekend is on growth in relationships through communication as a couple. It is not a retreat and there are no group discussions.

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Combining a number of learning methods, the Smart Loving Engaged course is designed to be used in one of four ways - couple to couple mentoring, small home-centred groups, larger groups in parish rooms or online mentored correspondence. Core content is presented on DVD, supported by participant materials with additional take-home activities to stimulate private discussion. Presented by husband & wife teams, the course offers Catholic theology and practical skills & tools for relationships at whatever stage. For further information email

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There are a number of other programmes available to couples in their local communities, for example:

Online Programmes

Programmes available online can give couples separated by great distance the chance to prepare together. Here are three different examples - the first two are from the United States:

Please note that these programmes are offered only as examples.