Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Exactly Is Pre-Cana? (And answers to all your other marriage prep questions)

I grew up Catholic, going to church every Sunday, and it became something that was really important to me. So of course, there was never a doubt that I was going to be married in a church. I knew that meant we would have to take Pre-Cana classes but, honestly, I didn't even know what that meant.

I tried googling, but there wasn't really any comprehensive post about what Pre-Cana is, so I figured I would put one together. Plus, I have a long list of questions answered at the end. Now, just for the record: This is all based on our Pre-Cana experience. I don't work for a church and I'm not associated with any Pre-Cana programs.

You've probably heard of pre-cana (aka marriage prep), but until you go, it's hard to know what pre-cana is all about. Find out the answer to what exactly is pre-cana and all your other marriage prep questions at www.abrideonabudget.com.

What exactly is Pre-Cana?

Pre-Cana, if that term is completely unfamiliar to you, is pre-wedding preparation that must be completed prior to getting married in the church. Most churches will refer to it as Pre-Cana, however some diocese have adopted the a more modern term "marriage prep."

Small aside: Cana was the location of the wedding feast where Jesus turned water into wine. That's where the name Pre-Cana comes from.

Our Pre-Cana course was one full day, beginning at 9am and running until about 3pm. Many churches will split this over multiple days (as either a weekend retreat or just multiple sessions) or even require you to attend a course over a six-month period of time. Because of this, you need to check with your church to get the outline of its Pre-Cana course. That will help you set your timeline of when you need to get this done.

What do you do at Pre-Cana?

At the very core of it, Pre-Cana is a way for couples to open a dialogue and discuss topics that need to be discussed before getting married: fiances, children, faith, career, etc. These may be topics that you have already discussed, but I think they're ones that couples try to avoid. It's not very romantic to sit down with your husband and decide who is going to balance the checkbook for the rest of your lives. But it's something that you need to decide because if you both hate knowing how much money is in your bank account, or if one of you just spends until you get an overdraft letter to stop you, that's something that can cause a conflict in your marriage. Pre-Cana starts that dialogue for you.

Our Pre-Cana class was very structured. We all said our names, wedding date, where we were from, and our faith, and then we did a lot of listening. We were given a  "Together for Life" booklet and a "Fully Engaged" workbook.

There was an opening prayer followed by a theology of marriage clergy talk, given by the father of the church. We then had a workbook exercise on differences, division of labor, and family origin.

A married couple then came to give us a talk on finance, career, and stewardship. The man actually spoke about how he would ask for a women's credit score on their first date. It's the sort of question that would cause me to not have a second date with a man, but the woman's answer sometimes resulted in him not wanting a second date. He just wanted to make sure that woman wouldn't drag his great credit score down. And that's silly, in theory, because you should fall in love with a man, not his wallet. But, realistically, his credit score will weigh on you, and vice versa. Do you know your man's spending habits? Does he know if you have tons of student loans? These topics, while dull and unromantic, will come up in the future when you are trying to buy a house and it's important to discuss them.

After the chat, we had a workbook exercise on fiances. We each went to separate rooms to fill out the worksheet, then reconvened to compare our answers. Anything that didn't match was something we discussed at length.

The next couple spoke about the sacraments of marriage and prayer life. That was the most powerful. The couple wasn't a picture perfect pair who had everything amazing happen to them. It was a real couple who, very honestly, shared their personal story with us. It forced everyone to acknowledge that marriage isn't always sunshine and roses, but that does not mean that you give up.

We then did a worksheet on the sacrament of marriage.

Then we had lunch.

You've probably heard of pre-cana (aka marriage prep), but until you go, it's hard to know what pre-cana is all about. Find out the answer to what exactly is pre-cana and all your other marriage prep questions at www.abrideonabudget.com.

And lots of beverages, apparently.

Next was a talk on communication and conflict resolution, plus a workshop. I think this was the easiest of them all, really. If you're in a relationship long enough to decide that you want to get married, you've gone through conflicts. You know how to resolve them.

According to my paper, we had a Five Love Languages video and exercise next, but I can't remember it. At all. Like not even one little bit.

The last talk was natural family planning. The woman who gave the talk was really knowledgeable and open. It was the most faith based of the talks, but it was an important topic no matter what your faith. You and your husband need to discuss if you're going to have children -- and what your plan for having (or not having) them is and how you will raise them. This is something you should discuss before you bring a child into the world. As with the other talks, there was a worksheet that followed.

After, we wrote a love letter to each other. I had always said I had no plans to write our vows, but this was pretty close. Following a day of being really open and honest with each other and discussing things that couples should, you got to write a letter to each other. I still have the one Pete wrote me. It was just so sweet and touching.

There was a closing prayer, we got a certificate to give to our church, and that was that.

What do you do after Pre-Cana?

There is an online questionnaire that you fill out. It asks you a bunch of questions that stem from what you discussed at Pre-Cana and you answer either agree, disagree, or undecided. You and your fiance have to answer separately so you don't cheat off each other. The results are then sent to your church. You make an appointment and sit down with a couple from the church who explains the questionnaire to you, then leaves you alone to go over the answers.

The purpose of this is not to tell you that you can't get married. The church won't step in for that, no matter how many of your answers match (or don't). It is just to show you any red flags that might appear that you should discuss.

This is the only time you see your results. You do not get a copy of the test to compare notes down the road. They're not around for posterity. You can't say, "Remember during Pre-Cana you said ... " and then bring the results out for evidence of flip flopping. This is just a vehicle to get you and your fiance to talk; it's not something to hold over each other's heads later in life.

Pre-Cana Questions

1. Do you have to do Pre-Cana at your own church?
No. You're also not required to do it in your own diocese even.

2. Is it free?
Ours wasn't. Our course cost us $125. Your fee may vary based on your church and diocese.

3. Do you have to go together?
Yes, you and your fiance must both attend at the same time.

4. Is Pre-Cana required?
Only if you want to get married in a Catholic church.

5. When do you do it?
The timeline is up to you, but the Pre-Cana classes and time you sit to discuss your questionnaire results must be completed before you get married.

6. How long is Pre-Cana?
Ours was about six hours, beginning at 9am and running until about 3pm.

6. Was it worth it?
Absolutely. Even couples who have been together for years or even living together can benefit from this. It's all marriage-based and very little faith-based. We went in not knowing what, exactly, to expect and I think it was definitely a benefit for us. Pete doesn't come to church with me on Sundays, but he even saw the benefits of Pre-Cana.

BRIDAL BABBLE: Have any other Pre-Cana questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll be sure to answer as best I can.

Pre-cana is good even if you're not Catholic.

1 comment:

  1. It's all about communication between the couple.

    slehan at juno dot com