Marriage Policy Guidelines for Parishes
This brief overview is provided for clergy and laity who work with engaged couples requesting marriage within the Catholic Church.
For an overview of the preparation process to give to the engaged, please visit our marriage preparation page.
For the full text of the Marriage Preparation Policy, last revised in 2008, please click here.
In order to assist those desiring to marry to make a prayerful and mature decision concerning their marriage intentions, the priest (or deacon) has the responsibility to assist the couple in an assessment of their readiness for marriage.
Catholic couples are generally married within the parish community of the bride unless other arrangements are made. Interfaith couples typically are married within the parish community of the Catholic partner. It is, therefore, necessary that an initial contact with the pastor is made to determine this preliminary decision. The parish priest must be consulted if a couple elects to be married in another parish or city.
The Initial Interview is usually conducted by the parish priest, associate pastor, or deacon. The purpose of this interview is to discuss the Diocesan Marriage Policy and to develop a relational understanding of the individuals approaching the Church for a sacramental marriage. Issues of importance may include the couple’s faith and psychological readiness for marriage and their canonical freedom to marry. Couples are also encouraged to ask questions.
Each couple preparing for marriage within the Church is asked to complete a premarital assessment. One of two standardized assessment instruments (either Prepare II or FOCUS) is administered. These written assessments are designed to provide the engaged couple with insight to their potential, marital relationship.
Information about their relative strengths and challenges as individuals and/or as a couple are identified through this assessment process. The assessment process is not designed to rule out the possibility of marriage.
Engaged couples participate in a general course of preparation that includes these basic themes:
- Sacramentality & Spirituality of marriage
- Communication/Conflict resolution
- Parenting/family skills/Family of origin awareness
- Financial planning/Priority setting
- Dignity & Sacredness of human sexuality/Natural Family Planning
The marriage preparation process is required of all couples marrying within the diocese. There are several preparation programs recognized by the diocese for first marriages: the parish-based Lead Couple Program, the Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend experience, God’s Plan for a Thriving Marriage, THRIVE! Marriage Preparation Program and for special circumstances Catholic Marriage Prep.com (special permission from the pastor required). To prepare for a first marriage, the engaged couple attend either THRIVE! or a Lead Couple Program in their parish (or Engaged Encounter) and God’s Plan for a Thriving Marriage. If they choose to attend THRIVE! Marriage Preparation they will not need to attend God's Plan. The pastor, in collaboration with the engaged couple, makes the decision about the most appropriate preparation program. On occasion, the pastor may require additional preparation efforts. The Catholic Engaged Encounter experience is designed to provide the engaged couples with an opportunity to talk honestly and extensively about their prospective life together. These sessions are facilitated by a priest coordinator and two married couple facilitators within a large group setting (20-25 couples). This process requires an overnight commitment from the engaged couples. The Lead Couple Program requires three weekly sessions (two hours each) involving the engaged couple and a pastorally trained married couple. The purpose of this program is to provide the engaged couple with necessary input and content regarding issues impacting the married life; to stimulate necessary dialog between the engaged and to assist the couple in assessing their readiness for marriage. God’s Plan for a Thriving Marriage is a required supplement to all preparation programs other than Thrive. This program is designed to offer the engaged definitive catechesis regarding the sacramentality & spirituality of marriage, and an introduction to the sacredness of their human sexuality. THRIVE! Marriage Preparation is a comprehensive marriage preparation program. The dual focus on human and spiritual development makes this program different from others now available as it presents scientifically proven, research-based relationship development. Couples will learn about: cutting-edge brain science, positive psychology, women’s health, the theological vision of marriage, insights from Theology of the Body, and practical guidance for managing finances, developing a life of prayer and virtue, and making intentional decisions about how they can form their new home as a domestic church in which everyone THRIVES! This unique program completes steps 3, 4, & 5 of the "7 Step" marriage preparation process. Couples remarrying within the Church are encouraged to take advantage of either parish-based preparation efforts or to participate in Thrive.
Ordinarily the pastor or parish coordinator of marriage preparation will provide a follow-up interview with the engaged couple to gain an appreciation of the couple’s readiness for marriage. At this time, issues of cohabitation, pregnancy before marriage and other issues are discussed, if pertinent. The couple is encouraged to examine their spiritual, emotional and physical commitments to each other, their parish family and to God.
Marriage involving individuals under the age of 19 requires special care and concern. The decision to proceed with marriage involving minors may be given by the pastor, only after consultation with the parents or guardians of the minors. Pre-marital counseling for minors may be indicated to assist with the assessment of their readiness for marriage.
Similar precautions are warranted when the couple approaches the Church for marriage when they are already pregnant. The engaged couple will be challenged to examine all of the ramifications of marriage when pregnancy is involved in the decision.
Couples desiring to be married within the Church are required to give sufficient notice to the pastor as soon as they have the intention to marry. Generally, the engaged couple can expect a preparation time of at least 9 months before the date of their marriage. This is done only after they have completed the assessment process.
On rare occasion, a decision to marry may require a delay. A delay generally may occur when the couple or the pastor determines that there is sufficient reason not to proceed with marriage preparations. A couple’s refusal to participate in the marriage preparation process, a couple’s intent not to practice their faith, or inability to substantially appreciate the spiritual nature of the marriage may be serious factors precipitating a decision to cause a delay in marriage.
If a marriage is delayed, the couple may have recourse to the Bishop or his delegate who can review the case and recommend further considerations.
To ensure that couples receive a basic exposure to current Natural Family Planning teachings, an introductory session will be included as part of the Marriage Preparation process. An early referral should be made to one of these providers: Fertility Care Center of Kansas City, The Couple to Couple League of Greater Kansas City, or NFP International.