Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! We are happy you have decided to marry in the Catholic Church and will be receiving the graces and blessings of the Sacrament of Matrimony. This site provides you with basic information necessary to start the process of getting married in the Catholic Church.
From putting together a wedding ceremony, to being a resource throughout the years following the wedding, the Archdiocese of Chicago serves as a resource to all engaged and married couples. The archdiocese aims to ensure all couples have every opportunity to create a marriage that echoes the love that God has for us all: a happy, healthy, holy marriage, and a covenant that is truly grounded in the Lord.
The following steps are your starting point to prepare for your marriage:
Schedule an introductory meeting with your parish priest or deacon.
Meet with your priest or deacon before you commit to a wedding date, and read through your parish’s marriage guidelines. You can ask about appropriate music for the ceremony, and begin to fill out some of the required paperwork. If you are getting married outside of the Archdiocese of Chicago you will have to meet with the priest preparing you for marriage (local) and be in contact with the priest witnessing your ceremony (remote).
Have a premarital evaluation and discussion.
The Catholic Couple Check Up or FOCCUS are questionnaires based on scientific research and a Catholic understanding of marriage. These questionnaires are taken online and can be accessed here.
If you take the Catholic Couple Checkup, the results are available as soon as you finish and you can discuss them together or with the person preparing you for marriage. If your parish requires FOCCUS, please connect with your parish contact about next steps.
Attend a PreCana class.
PreCana class gives couples the opportunity to learn about the sacrament of marriage and prepare their hearts leading up to their wedding day. Please visit our English or Spanish page to register. Click here to view the Planning a Catholic Wedding pamphlet.
In addition to taking a PreCana class, couples may be interested in a more customizable marriage preparation through these supplemental videos for engaged couples. These videos cover specialized topics including cohabitation, children of divorce, forming a stepfamily, and second, military, interchurch and African American marriages. In addition, there are downloadable resources and worksheets available.
Follow-up with your priest or deacon.
Discuss any issues or concerns raised in your marriage preparation class and share the results of your premarital questionnaire. Finalize the ceremony details, finish paperwork and review the chosen readings and music.
Purchase a marriage license and attend the wedding rehearsal.
Purchase your marriage license at least one, but no more than 60 days before the ceremony. For information on purchasing a license in Cook County, please click here. For Lake County, please click here. We advise couples to check government offices’ schedules ahead of time, as they tend to close early before holidays. Your wedding rehearsal will take place at your church with those involved in the ceremony.
Attend a Natural Family Planning class.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) teaches you to read and interpret signs of fertility and infertility to achieve, space or avoid a pregnancy. Thus, you’ll be able to strengthen your marriage and your family.
Over the course of a Natural Family Planning class, you will learn how you can remain faithful to God’s plan for marriage with the only method of family planning morally acceptable to Catholic teaching. In-person and online classes are available. For more information, please call 312.534.8351.
Enjoy your wedding day as you receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Your big day is finally here. Enjoy this day with family and friends as you begin your lifetime commitment to one another and your own marriage in the Lord.
What if I’m not registered in a parish?
Find the Catholic Church closest to your home and contact a priest there to begin the process.
Do I have to get married in my own parish?
No, but you must obtain a letter from your local parish giving you permission to marry in another parish. This letter becomes part of your marriage file.
Is Confirmation necessary before marriage?
It is not mandatory in the United States, although it is in most of the rest of the world. Since it completes your Sacraments of Initiation as a Catholic, it is encouraged before marriage.
What happens to my papers if I am getting married outside the Archdiocese of Chicago?
Be sure you start this process as soon as possible. Once your file is complete, your parish priest will send your marriage file to the Office for Canonical Affairs at the Quigley Center for review and stamping of approval. It is then sent to the diocese where you are getting married. They review it, stamp their approval and send it on to the Catholic Church where you will be getting married. The Office for Canonical Affairs needs at least three months to get the paperwork stamped, sealed and sent out to another country if you are not getting married in the United States.
Once our paperwork is completed, what happens to it?
If you and your future spouse are both Catholic and parishioners of the same parish, it stays in the parish marriage files. In other instances, please call the Office for Canonical Services at 312.534.8207 or 312.534.8382.
What do I do if I want to get married at a chapel that has special meaning for me?
Write a letter the Office of Canonical Affairs (P.O. Box 1979, Chicago, Illinois 60690-1979) with the details of your wedding and the reasons why you wish to marry at this site. You will get a response via mail. You also have to get permission from the place where you wish to marry.
What if I want to have my Catholic wedding in a garden, at a hotel, or on a beach?
A Catholic wedding must be held in a Catholic Church before a priest and two witnesses.
Can my dog be part of the wedding?
No, only people may take part in this sacred ceremony.
Para información sobre la PreCana en español presione aquí.
PreCana classes cover topics that help you sustain a happy, healthy and holy marriage. Please visit our English or Spanish registration pages to sign up and here to learn about PreCana Online, a digital option to fulfill PreCana requirements.
How it Works
Typically conducted in-person, PreCana is a one-day Saturday class led by a trained married couple, held at a variety of parishes in the Chicago area. Throughout the class, engaged couples hear from the facilitators’ own experiences of their marriage and faith, participate in group exercises and personal worksheets and reflect on the sacrament of marriage.
Class starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m., with a one-hour lunch break. Couples are welcome to bring lunch or go out for a meal.
Some of the topics presented include the sacrament of matrimony, Natural Family Planning, growing in faith, the changing nature of marriage, couple adjustment, mutual decision-making, the elements of effective communication, conflict management, intimacy and sexual expression, financial planning, goal setting, the extended family, Theology of the Body, stewardship, the Church, how to pray as a couple and counseling.
Costs and Documentation
At the completion of the class, couples will receive a certificate of attendance. This fulfills the Catholic marriage preparation requirement of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The cost is $195 per couple.
After you take the class you have access to supplemental videos on specialized topics that may be appropriate for your unique marriage preparation, such as cohabitation, children of divorce, forming a stepfamily, as well as second, military, interchurch, and African American marriages. Please click here for downloadable resources and worksheets.
What couples say about PreCana
The presenters were outstanding! They really did an amazing job going through the day’s issues. Very engaging speakers who provided real examples.
I liked when the presenters spoke about praying together and how this is a decision and choice. They showed how important it is to show and live the faith every day.
I liked the way they shared stories about feeling God’s presence and the power of prayer, especially praying together with your spouse.
The presenters were a wonderful example of a marriage that works.
It was filled with examples to take to heart.
Lots of energy; everything flowed and nothing was boring.
What is PreCana?
PreCana is an umbrella term for marriage preparation classes presented by Office of Lifelong Formation, an agency of the Archdiocese of Chicago. PreCana fulfills one of the steps to marry within the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Cana is the place where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding, so we use the term PreCana for marriage preparation.
Where does PreCana take place?
The Archdiocese of Chicago has 15 locations throughout the archdiocese (mostly parishes) that host marriage preparation classes, as well as an online class. See our English and Spanish registration pages for information on the various class dates and options.
When does this take place?
PreCana sessions take place most Saturdays at a variety of locations throughout the year. Dates, locations and availability can be found on the English and Spanish registration pages. The online class is available anytime, anywhere the user has internet connection.
How much does PreCana cost?
$195 per couple.
What does the registration fee include?
The fee pays for the cost of the class, continental breakfast, handouts, workbooks, resources and site rental.
The online class fee covers the cost of hosting the videos, worksheets, downloadable resources and eBooks, as well as the premarital Catholic Couple Checkup, and access to the videos and material for one year.
What if I can’t attend on Saturdays?
All of the in-person PreCana sessions are on Saturdays. You can also take the class online at Catholic Marriage Prep Classes if you prefer to learn online or if distance restricts you from taking the course in-person. Catholic Marriage Prep Classes and www.preparacionmatrimonialcatolica.com are the only online options accepted by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Is there a dress code?
It's an informal class, please dress casually.
How long does the class last?
PreCana begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. Please plan to arrive early for registration. The online class takes about eight hours to view the videos, take the premarital questionnaire, reflection questions, fill out the worksheets and share them with each other.
Is lunch provided?
No, lunch is not provided. You can bring your lunch with you or go out for lunch. There is an hour lunch break.
When should we attend PreCana?
We recommend attending PreCana four to six months before your wedding, but no more than 12 months in advance. It is more beneficial if taken earlier in the engagement process.
Are children or relatives allowed to attend?
No, PreCana classes are designed only for engaged couples.
Do we have to be there for the entire day?
Yes, you receive your proof of attendance at the end of the day.
My future spouse cannot attend the session, is that ok?
PreCana is an interactive day that requires participation and discussion amongst couples. Both members of the engaged party must attend the class. If one person cannot attend the session, you can take advantage of the online PreCana option, here.
We live in Chicago but will be married outside the area. What do we do?
First, speak to the priest or deacon that will marry you. Most dioceses accept our PreCana sessions as marriage preparation, but you must check to be sure. After completion, we can send an official document stating that you attended a PreCana session directly to your priest or deacon.
Who can attend PreCana?
All couples, regardless of religion or location, who are planning to marry are welcome to attend our marriage preparation classes.
What if one of us is not Catholic? Should we both attend?
The program is designed for both the bride and groom, regardless of your religious traditions. Both are expected to participate.
What is the best way to register?
Natural Family Planning (NFP) consists of the natural, healthy morally acceptable methods of family planning that follow Catholic teaching to help couples space, achieve or avoid pregnancy. These methods use the daily observation of signs and symptoms that reflect the hormonal changes within a woman’s menstrual cycle. Couples can learn how to interpret these to recognize the fertile and infertile phases of the cycle in order to achieve or avoid a pregnancy. This knowledge can be applied to regular or irregular cycles. NFP can be used during a woman’s entire fertile years, even during periods of breastfeeding and pre-menopause.
NFP calls for mutual responsibility in family planning by both the husband and the wife and allows married couples to live their sexual relationship within natural law as well as within the moral and religious teaching of the Catholic Church. When couples learn about NFP from an instructor (in person or online), they are taught the scientific principles of the natural methods and many come to appreciate the wonderful gift of their fertility and their sexuality.
Modern NFP methods are not the same as “calendar rhythm”, which was based on a numerical estimate of when ovulation will occur. Natural Family Planning methods are scientifically-supported natural methods that allow couples to manage their fertility. According to the USCCB site, motivated and instructed couples can achieve up to a 99 percent effectiveness rate in postponing pregnancy.
Natural Family Planning Sheet (PDF)
Natural Family Planning Methods
NFP methods are completely safe and natural and do not involve the use of any medications, drugs or devices. NFP has no harmful side effects. There are three methods of NFP taught in the Archdiocese of Chicago that couples can choose from: The Billings Ovulation Method, the Sympto-Thermal Method and the Creighton Model System.
The Billings Ovulation Method
The Billings Ovulation Method is a simple but highly effective way to precisely identify the days of fertility and infertility during a menstrual cycle of any length and in any reproductive situation. Through daily observations and charting of the recognizable signs, the couple is able to reliably identify the times when they are fertile and infertile. The Billings Ovulation Method was developed by two medical doctors, and has been the subject of the most comprehensive scientific research of any method of regulating births. It has been used throughout the world for more than 50 years as an effective and scientific way to achieve, postpone or avoid a pregnancy. Please click here for more information on this method.
The Sympto-Thermal Method
The Sympto-Thermal Method is the oldest effective natural method still used in the United States. It involves observing and charting physical changes. These signs provide a cross-check by which couples can reliably determine the woman's fertile and infertile times. They can then use this information to increase or limit the size of their family. Please click here for more information on this method.
The Creighton Model System
The Creighton Model System relies on the standardized observation and charting of biological markers that help a woman understand her health and fertility. In addition to identifying when the couple is fertile and infertile, the biomarkers also help to identify abnormalities in a woman’s health. If there are any specific problems they can be addressed using NaPro Technology, the new health science that works cooperatively with a woman's cycle. Please click here for more information on this method.