This past weekend my fiancé and I completed our premarital counselling, which means we finally have the go ahead to get married by the Catholic church! Getting married by the church is something that has always been very important to me when it came to deciding how and where we wanted to get married.
Although my fiancé isn’t religious, I grew up Catholic and always dreamed of getting married in my home church. And although neither of us were really looking forward to an entire weekend of premarital counselling, looking back we both agree that it was the best way we could have prepared for spending the rest of our lives together.
Why We Chose to Do Catholic Premarital Counselling
First off, I want to give my future husband major props for being such a good sport. He doesn’t have a cell of Catholicism in his body, and still he agreed to do this counselling weekend with me and gave every activity his full attention and best effort. Coming from a non-Catholic background and being put into a room full of 30 Catholic couples can definitely be nerve-racking, but he was up for the challenge.
I, on the other hand, was a complete mess the night before the retreat. I’m what you would call a “Cradle Catholic,” meaning I was born into it. Although I do believe in God and all the fundamentals of Christianity, there are a ton of things the Catholic church is against or stands for which I don’t agree with (ie. gay marriage and contraception), but I’m still proud to be Catholic and could never see myself switching religions or even Christian denominations.
Also, I used to go to church every Sunday, but ever since I moved out on my own 3 years ago, I’ve only attended church on major holidays. The main reasons for this are because I felt I deserved a bit of a break (23 years of steady church-going is exhausting!), I wanted to sleep in on Sundays for once, and I didn’t want to go to some big, new church where I didn’t know anyone all alone. Not the best excuses for skipping out on church, I know, but even without being a consistent Catholic, it’s still who I am. It’s the faith I identify with the most and represents my core values. So with that, I told my fiancé this is something I really wanted to do, and thank goodness he was game!
Why You Should Be Prepared for Some Awkwardness at a Religious Retreat
So, because of these things, I knew I’d either be judged by some of the other couples at the retreat or there would be a few awkward conversations. And sure enough, I was right!
For instance, whenever someone asked me what church I attended I’d either try to change the subject by explaining “Well, my fiancé isn’t Catholic actually” or I would fib and say I was in between churches at the moment.
At one of the meals my fiancé and I were asked how we met right after hearing how one couple met at some Catholic college and another couple met at a Catholic spiritual retreat. I told them we met at a party, then tried to change the subject again. Meeting at drunk at a New Year’s party isn’t exactly something you want to broadcast to a bunch of bible-thumpers.
Lastly, and probably the most awkward part of the weekend, on the first day when we had to sign in and get our name tags, we noticed that each person’s name was accompanied by their home address. After a thorough check, my fiancé saw that we were the only couple who obviously lived together. Though, to be fair, there was one couple where the bride was obviously pregnant, so at least we weren’t the only black sheep in the group.
So, for the most part we kept to each other. I have nothing against anyone who is full on churchy, hell I used to be one of those people back when I was a freshman in college. But that’s just not my life anymore. I’ve made a lot of choices that I know are looked down upon by the church, but at the end of the day I don’t have any regrets and my relationship with my fiancé is way stronger than it was before we slept together or lived together (just sayin’).
What We Talked About at the Counselling Retreat
Even though there were a bunch of couples at this retreat, it wasn’t a big group therapy-fest in the slightest. If it was, I don’t think we would have survived the first hour. The only things we had to say in front of everyone was our name and what we were most attracted to in our partner.
Most people said “He has a kind heart” or “She has good values,” but one guy who either couldn’t think of anything on the spot or is a big germaphobe said “Her cleanliness.” If my fiancé said that cleanliness was one of the main things he was attracted to, that would be a big red flag in my books.
So, instead of us talking as one big group, we had two married couples who took turns talking about a subject and relating it to one of their experiences together. Afterwards, everyone would answer questions from their notebooks individually, then after about 15 minutes would rejoin their partner, swap notebooks, and discuss each other’s answers.
It was a really great way to talk things through because I know I’m better at writing down my thoughts than I am at expressing them verbally. But I’m telling you, doing this for 12 hours on Saturday then 5 hours on Sunday was exhausting! Plus, I was very close to getting carpal tunnel.
Besides some of the normal topics you’d assume would be discussed at a retreat like this, such as having good communication with your partner, or how to manage conflicts the healthy way, there were a number of subjects that were relatively new to my fiancé and I.
1. Is Romance Enough?
Myfiancé and I both looked at each other when this topic was read out loud because it’s obvious that the answer is “No.” Romance isn’t enough to sustain a lifelong partnership, but seeing as most marriages end in divorce, it made sense that we would be talking about this at the retreat.
What I found interesting about this topic was that it focused on disillusionment within a relationship. My fiancé and I have been together for over 6 years, and during that time we’ve recognized that certain cycles occur. Sometimes we are more lovers, sometimes we feel more like buddies, and sometimes when we are both really busy we feel more like roommates.
Apparently this is totally normal, and if you can recognize this and make an effort towards finding a good balance between all of them, then you’ll be just fine.
2. Creating a Life-Giving Marriage
I’ve honestly never heard this term before, but it’s actually a really nice concept. It’s all about giving your marriage life through being generous, supportive, sensitive and selfless, and trying not to be indifferent, close-minded, self-centered or comparing yourself to others.
Being in a relationship is all about thinking about another person besides yourself. There’s no room to be selfish in a marriage, and even when you are tired, stressed out or in a bad mood, it’s important to make sure those feelings don’t get in the way of lifting up your partner and making them feel loved. Harder said than done obviously, but important nonetheless.
3. Financial Fidelity
Yes, they talked about personal finance! I was so excited when this topic was introduced. Basically this was all about knowing your partner and their finances. You may think you know someone, but you should make sure you know their financial situation before being legally bound to them.
Luckily, my fiancé and I aced this chapter as we’ve talked about our finances and future plans together since we started dating. But there was a neat checklist we had to do where we both had to check off what our financial priorities were (education, charitable donations, leisure, having a nice home, etc…) and there were definitely some differences between our answers.
That wasn’t exactly news to me, I’m a saver and my fiancé’s a spender, but having lived together for a year and a half now, I’m not too worried about how we’ll carry on once we’re married.
4. Natural Family Planning
Have you ever heard of the rhythm method? It’s what Catholic married couples used to abide by to delay pregnancy back in the day. Of course, it didn’t really work that well, so now the church is promoting Natural Family Planning (NFP). We even watched a movie all about it. Although it did feature some nice looking couples and a female doctor who attests to its success, I still couldn’t look past the fact that every couple including the doctor had at least 4-6 kids.
Unless I’m gonna get a reality show for having a house full of brats, I’m gonna stick with the pill, thank you very much. I sure do feel bad for all of those young looking Catholic women who were at the session though. There was one in particular who didn’t even look 19! Good luck to you honey!
So, if you are planning on getting married soon, I highly recommend doing a premarital counselling session — religious or not. It can really only make the bond between you and your future spouse that much more solid. Also, if you’re wondering if we got some kind of certificate after completing the retreat, you bet your britches we did! We may have had to stay for an entire weekend (plus a mass) to get it, but we got it! Next stop, marriage license!
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