Preparing for Marriage

And maintaining a happy Marriage and Family


“So that the “I do” of the spouses may be a free and responsible act, and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of prime importance” (CCC para 1632)



It has been my experience as a mother and as a Parish Catechist that many, perhaps most, couples who come for marriage preparation in the Catholic Church are sold seriously short. I myself trained as a Marriage Care course facilitator. Nowhere in the courses provided were couples encouraged to reflect on Church teaching on marriage and child-rearing, to consider the practicalities and to come to a joint vision as to how to live their vocations in the context of their own particular lives. For advice from a father who loves his role on how to identify a good mate in the first place, click here; [a love for life].


It is pointless to spend the time on marriage preparation courses, as is so often the case, getting to know people and developing a fuzzy warm feeling of how nice marriage is, without engaging with how Catholic marriage differs radically from the secular idea of civil union. Indeed it can be counterproductive as participants often leave such a course thinking that differences in faith background are just practical obstacles that can be overcome by a letter from a kindly Bishop, that no further preparation is needed than to buy the rings and book the venue and that condoms are really fine and what else do you do anyway? Such people are short-changed and only realise it, when they find they are expecting a baby. By then many couples have organised their lives around the secular delusion that a marriage is just two individuals who decide they want to live together. It is then very difficult for couples to question some of those false assumptions. I have met so many women over the last few years, many of them well-educated and therefore supposedly with a choice of career who found themselves barred by false pre-marital assumptions from the one career they suddenly realised they most wanted above all others; to feed, nurture and to bring up their own children.


Here are some resources which provide a good starting point for understanding the vocation of Catholic marriage;


1) I was delighted recently to discover the work of Sheila Kippley and can thoroughly recommend her books. Indeed, it seems to me that no course on Catholic marriage can do an effective job without providing participants with the evidence, vision and experience of a woman like Sheila Kippley.


2) The Joy of God’s Plan. Natural Fertility awareness in the church’s teaching.


3) Consider whether and to what extent your views on family life are compatible;


4)  CelebrateLove SEMINAR


“A Mission to Love... Couples who stay successfully and happily married have made marriage their mission. They choose not to ‘settle down’ and just coast along, but to actively keep growing in their relationship. If you are in a solid, loving marriage, and are looking to advance your relationship, think about joining hundreds of other couples who have attended Celebrate Love. In two packed days, learn some of the most up-to-date ideas and skills on offer, and in the process, rediscover the joy of being a man and woman in love. Marriage doesn’t have to be all hard work; learn to celebrate your differences and be the best you can be...together!  “ A friend attended one of these and said;  “my husband and I " joined it last year, as part of our silver wedding celebrations.  We wished we could have experienced it 25 years ago!  - and thereafter at 5-yearly is not confined to Catholics  - many of the couples attending are mixed (religion) marriages.  The activities (no group workshops - you work as a couple all the time) are mainly about improving communication and exploring the strengths and weaknesses of your marriage relationship.  Some time is also given to discussing sexuality in the light of Pope John Paul II's 'Theology of the Body'”


5) reading Men & Women are from Eden” A study guide to John Paul II s’ Theology of the body by Mary Healy


6) The Director for Department for Pastoral Affairs in the Diocese of Westminster recommends   the superb online course for the engaged


7) Retrouvaille, a live-in weekend and follow-up programme for married couples experiencing difficulties in their marriage.


8) subscribe to a good journal and newspaper

I have personally found the following publications to be of great help to me;


  • The Catholic Times (a great deal to ponder of here and in a very readable format; I especially like the articles by Fr Marsden and Joanna Bogle)

The Catholic Times Newspaper is published by: Gabriel Communications Ltd 1st Floor St James Buildings Oxford Street Manchester M1 6FP

                                                   Telephone: 0161 236 8856 Fax: 0161 237 6690


  • 'The Sower Magazine published by the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham; written for Catechists but has much that would be of direct interest to Catholic parents; it has a very useful regular section on devotional art using pictures to explain the Faith to children.
  • The Good News magazine 020 7352 5298 ; Goodnews Office, Allen Hall, 28 Beaufort Street, London, SW3 5AA