What up what up, party people! This blog is for any engaged couples, not just ones getting married in the Catholic Church. It’s worth the read for you both as a couple as I tell you what we went through to get to know each other more and strengthen our relationship during our engagement. I'll kick this off by saying not everyone's experience is the same. For some reason, requirements are different for each diocese so make sure to talk to your priest about your requirements.
The priest who was marrying us was part of the Oakland Diocese, even though we were getting married in Sacramento. We loved that priest because his sermons resonated with us every time we listened to him. Small fun fact: his name is Father Matthew, and my husband’s name is Matthew… and our priest was younger than my husband.
Father Matthew told us we needed to take this couples test called FOCCUS online then meet with a Deacon after that. Cool, no big deal. It’s got to be one of those quick compatibility quizzes like you see on Facebook, right? NOPE. This test was 186 questions long y’all! Yup, 186 questions where we had to click “Agree”, “Disagree” or “Uncertain” on statements. We absolutely could not look at each other’s answers or talk about it, and we had to take it separately.
Before I go on about it, I’m going to list a few of the statements we answered below. Think about you and your partner when reading and if you’d pick Agree, Disagree or Uncertain.
My future spouse spends too much time with technology
How my future spouse deals with change is a problem for me
I am concerned about some financial decisions made by my future spouse
We have discussed which traditions and customs each of us will bring from our families to this marriage
We have discussed the parenting roles each of us will have in raising children
I fully support my future spouse’s occupation or career plans
I am hoping that after marriage my future spouse will change some of his/her behaviors
WE have discussed the ways our families solve problems and how this may affect our problem -solving
My future spouse finds it difficult to let go of past hurts
We are in agreement about how we will make banking and financial decisions between us
We have discussed the expectations each of us has to our role as husband and wife
We took the test and about a month or two later, we met with Deacon Tim. At our meeting, Deacon Tim brought out both of our answers and we focused on statements that we didn’t agree on. We had no idea how uncomfortable it was going to get. Here we were talking to this person we were meeting for the first time about real topics that can make or break a marriage; but, he made it such a safe and honest space with no judgement that it ended up being our most favorite part of our engagement.
There were a lot of questions we were uncertain about because we just never talked about it. Not only did we learn about how we view our relationship and how we wanted it to be, but we learned so much about ourselves as individuals. It allowed us to dig deeper into family history, think about the friendships we have and really put faith in the center of our relationship. It was basically like pre-marriage therapy!
When we were finished with our meetings, we had to meet with Father Matthew again to go through what we learned and what else we needed to do. Along with more meetings with family members, we had to go through an engagement encounter retreat. Our calendars didn’t match up with the retreat that the Oakland Diocese offered so we went to the San Francisco Catholic Engaged Encounter.
We opted for a full weekend retreat where (of course) we had to sleep in separate rooms and had a roommate of the same gender. In the main meeting room, married couples talked to us about different topics like Understanding Myself, Are We Really Communicating?, Managing Conflict, Financial Fidelity, Forgiveness In Marriage, Sacrament of Matrimony and more.
They gave us a workbook to follow along and write notes. At the end of each topic, there were questions to answer. When it was time to answer the questions, the brides left the main room to write somewhere privately while the grooms stayed. We had to leave each other with a kiss. We were required to answer it in letter form, so writing "Dear babe or Dear future husband..." then answer the questions. When time was up, the grooms went to find the brides. We had to greet each other with a kiss, then talk about our answers.
Here was the rule: we had to read each other's answers twice. The first time we read it, we read it with our head, letting all instant emotions out. The second time we read it, we read it with our heart. We intentionally try to come from a place of understanding and love. This was our biggest takeaway and what we still try to do today when we have any conflicts to resolve.
I can go on about the retreat, but I don't want to ruin anyone's experience. It was really amazing for us to go through it and have a nice reset during wedding planning, remembering why we were doing this and why we love each other. If you want to hear more, listen to us talk about it in this podcast episode or reach out to me via email!
When we thought we were done with the requirements, we found out that we had to take a Natural Family Planning course for the Sacramento Diocese. Thankfully, there was an online option so it wasn't bad at all!
Sounds like a lot, huh? We thought so too, but we're so glad we went through this process and honestly, even if it wasn't required, we'd be down for it. It truly made our relationship stronger with each other and with God. Because of all of this, our wedding in church felt way more meaningful, we created a couple's prayer that we were able to read at our ceremony and we pray out loud each night together.
When we pray at night, we hold each other's hands. When Matt is done with his prayer, he squeezes my hand for me to go next. At the end of our prayers, we tell each other what we're grateful for that day. It can be as simple as "I'm so grateful that you washed the dishes today because I was so tired." We learned to do this from Father Matthew and Deacon Tim. It stuck with us ever since!
If you have any questions about these experiences, feel free to reach out! I'm here to help. For my Catholic/Christian brothas and sistas, remember that your marriage is with God in the center. The closer you move towards God, the closer you move towards each other. Don't forget to pray for each other. We'll be praying for your journey and marriage!
Sending you all the love & confetti,