Pre-Cana… No Longer a Mystery

A while back I posted about our experience taking the FOCCUS survey. This past weekend, we completed the last step in order to get married in the Catholic Church by attending Pre-Cana class.

Some of you might be wondering what Pre-Cana is. Before attending, Pre-Cana was always a mystery to us, and a lot of other couples we know who have gone through it. According to Wikipedia:

Pre-Cana is a course or consultation Catholic couples must undergo before they can be married in a Catholic church. The name is derived from John 2:1-12, the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine.

Approaches to Pre-Cana vary among Catholic dioceses and parishes. Often six weekly sessions will be led by a priest or deacon with support from a married Catholic couple. Common topic include: compatibility of the couple, basic principles of Catholic marriage and family life (namely theological meaning of marriage), conflict resolution within marriage, rules the couple is accepting to follow (including, but not limited to, natural family planning).

Now that you have the Wikipedia definition, I’ll tell you a little about our experience.

We arrived at the church at 9:00 AM and the first order of business was to fill out our information cards and name tags (we’d have paid at that time if we hadn’t already paid online). There was a booklet for each couple at the table when we sat down. After everyone was settled, the facilitators, a couple that was married for over 20 years, explained how we would spend the day.

Our first exercise was finding our name tags, since after writing our names down they had collected these from us. They passed them out to other attendees and everyone was supposed to find their name tag. Not sure how this related to getting married, but I think they were just trying to break the ice.

Next, we started going through the booklet. There were doubles of most pages within the book, one for him and one for her. We were instructed to fill out the first pages and discuss. These pages consisted of writing down the top three events and people in your life, as well as a few other questions. We filled out the pages and discussed them with each other. No big surprises here, we had pretty much the same answers.

Then we had to list the top three things that we thought were important in a successful marriage. We prioritized them within our own list, then with each other, and then with other couples at our table. Then the whole group compiled a list of the things they thought were important, and of course the group’s list ended up being very large. The facilitators explained that though all of these things are important in a marriage (things like trust, communication, excitement, etc), they would come together in different quantities throughout different times in the marriage.

The rest of the morning was laid out very similarly—filling out a page in the booklet on topics like traits of yourself and your future spouse, methods of good and bad communication, etc.—then sharing between each other, then with the table, then with the whole group.

Before we broke for lunch we were asked to write a letter to each other about anything we wanted. It was nice to read what the other person said with such an open-ended letter. Mr. M wrote a very sweet letter to me that I think I’ll save to look back on when we’re older!

After lunch, it was more of the same routine. We discussed topics like budgets, intimacy (there was no sharing with the group on this topic), and children. They touched on natural family planning, but since the facilitators were not medical professionals, they did not feel comfortable going into detail. They provided more information for those interested in the form of a booklet and details on a natural family planning class.

One of last topics that we discussed was how we had experienced God’s presence within our lives. It was nice to hear the stories that other people told, but no one was forced to share a story. They simply asked for volunteers.

Before we wrapped up for the day, they ended by having each couple stand up and explain how they met. Though it was nice that they wanted to make each couple feel special by sharing their story, it took forever (there were 42 couples there) and it was awkward sharing with a bunch of people we didn’t know (although I realize I do this via blogging on a daily basis!).

Overall, I must admit that I was a little disappointed with my Pre-Cana experience. I went into it with the feeling that I was only going to get out of it what I put into it. I went with a positive attitude, and even convinced my very unenthusiastic fiance to try to make the best of it. When we got there, I found the topics we discussed to be very predictable, and the discussion associated with each subject was nothing I hadn’t already heard. There was also a TON of time wasted. The class lasted from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Everyone was finished with each exercise within about 10 minutes, and we talked amongst our table for at least 15 minutes between each exercise. We probably could’ve finished before noon if there wasn’t such a lag between exercises.

In hindsight, I wish we would have taken the class in our hometown, where it was $30 rather than $180, and then even if we didn’t get any more out of it than we did here, it wouldn’t have been such a waste of money.

If you attended Pre-Cana, what was your experience like? Did you get more out of it than we did?


Mrs. Mascara

Chicago/Upper Michigan
Wedding Date:
September 2009
Doing My Homework : The Hair
Coolest Bathroom Ever

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  1. Member
    jyam 157 posts, Blushing bee @ 12:21 pm

    Thanks so much for posting on this! I’m not Catholic, but my fiance is and we will being going through all of the pre-cana stuff soon. I was really intimidated because I know very little about catholicism, but this really helped to allay my fears! Thanks mascara!!

  2. Member
    yogigal 419 posts, Helper bee @ 12:29 pm

    Hi Miss Mascara. Did you take your pre-cana at Old St. Pats? That’s where we took ours. I thought it was a waste of 180.00 as well. We didn’t have to take the foccus test (we were in special pre-cana).

    I agree about a lot of it being a waste of time. We were OVER it after lunch. It was just very generic.

    I did think the couple was very sweet that was in charge of our class.

  3. Member
    AbbyM 295 posts, Helper bee @ 12:44 pm

    I did my Pre-Cana at St. Clement in Lincoln Park here in Chicago. It was 4 meetings from 7:30-9:30 every Wednesday for a month and there were only 5 other couples and 2 host couples. 1 couple were married over 40 years, the other just 2 years. It was great and we learned a lot. We didn’t fill out our whole book, but plan on doing it throughout the summer to deepen our relationship.
    Since we’re not getting married in Chicago, we had to pay $55. Otherwise it would’ve been included in our wedding costs of getting married at the church.

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Adrienne, Guest @ 12:44 pm

    That sounds very similar to our pre-cana retreat, except that ours went from 8am on a Saturday and we didn’t get out until 3:30 pm on a Sunday – ouch! So it was definitely boring, and we didn’t discuss anything that we hadn’t already talked about, but it’s over now. We also had to take 9 hours of NFP classes, we still have to attend two meetings with our “mentor couple” before we are finished with everything.

  5. Member
    swimbueller 3 posts, Wannabee @ 12:50 pm

    I had a much better experience at our pre-cana. I’m not Catholic, but FI is, so I was a little nervous going into it, because I had no idea what to expect. It was a smaller group, so that might have helped, but I felt they touched on issues that we might not have brought up together without some prompting. (Like how much $ is ok to spend before you need to tell your spouse.) We also talked about where we saw ourselves in 5-10 years, which sounds like a tired topic, but after having gone through all the talks we had that day, it brought it to a different level, and became more family oriented, rather than professionally oriented.
    At the end of the day we attended mass, and had our engagement rings blessed by the priest. Then after mass we enjoyed wine and cheese and got a little gift from the facilitators.
    Overall we both enjoyed ourselves and came out of it very excited for our marriage.

  6. Member
    boothbride 55 posts, Worker bee @ 12:51 pm

    I actually really liked our pre-cana retreat. It was only $90 and was held on a Friday evening and all day Saturday. It was definitely intense–we were literally talking about us as a couple and our relationship for what seemed like 24 hours straight! But it was also good too–our pre-cana was on Valentine’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. So we decided that on every Valentine’s, we are going to do some sort of refocusing on us as a couple, like maybe go to a quiet B&B for the weekend and talk and reflect on our relationship. It’s kinda corny but I think it will keep us close!
    @Miss Mascara–did you have to take a conflict resolution class? We did that last weekend and I was REALLY disappointed in that. Fairly expensive for what it was, too.

  7. Member
    yogigal 419 posts, Helper bee @ 1:04 pm

    @AbbyM how did you get to pay $55!!! We are not getting married in Chicago either. I just assumed the archdioscese of chicago had a set $180 fee. I should have done more research….

  8. Member
    LzzNYC 882 posts, Busy bee @ 1:21 pm

    I don’t have to do pre-cana bc I’m Christian but have to do several pre-marital counseling sessions which I’m very excited for. Hopefully it’ll help us to really know more about each other in terms of husband and wife.. eee

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    Marjorie, Guest @ 2:17 pm

    What saved my day at Pre-Cana was that I overheard a bride exclaim that she saw her ex-husband their with his new fiance. Wow! That must have been strange for them.

  10. Member
    1Bride2Be 64 posts, Worker bee @ 2:19 pm

    My fiance and I are not very religious but want to get married in the Church so we signed up for Pre-Cana. My fiance was very very wary of going; he moaned and groaned all the way there (literally)…but we had a great time. All but 1 of the speakers we funny and not overly preachy. In 1 day we learned a lot about ourselves and each other. I left feeling confident that we really do have what it takes to make it last. (As the child of divorced parents that has weighed heavily in my mind since before we got engaged.) I have recommended Pre-Cana to other couples; its a refresher course in making a successful relationship.

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    peony80, Guest @ 3:35 pm

    Our pre-cana experience was very good. We did an overnight stay (from Sat morning to Sunday afternoon). I was a bit nervous at first..i mean, what could we possibly talk about for that long? But the experience itself really opened up the commuication channel between FI and I. My FI and I have pretty good communication to begin with but the time spent together, to specifically devote to talking and sharing things with each other, really opened up more conversations between us.
    The couples who ran the pre-cana (there were 3) were welcoming, funny, and really did a great job of explaining and illustrating the road of marriage.
    My FI and I aren’t overly religious, but we do want to do what we can to make our marriage stronger, to be able to withstand bumps and hardships.
    I wouldn’t call it a waste of time. Your experience might depend on a number of factors like who the mediating couples are, how well of a flow there is, how interesting the topics are, and also, how much you put into it. :)

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    Jenn R, Guest @ 3:50 pm

    We just finished our pre-Cana course last night! Ours was a series of four 2-hour sessions of about 50 couples (BIG group). I’m not Catholic, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was way better than I imagined. Some of the speakers were kind of boring, but it started some really good conversations between me and my partner and gave us a “spiritual common-ground” that we didn’t have previously. I would recommend it to even non-Catholic couples! Honestly, God/religion was just a small part of the whole program.

  13. Member
    Bridelation 17 posts, Newbee @ 5:16 pm

    I was very surprised but we enjoyed our Pre-Cana experience. Wasnt preachy. A lot of it was predictable but sadly a lot of couple get caught up and don’t talk about kids and money so I guess they just want to make sure. It sounds like there was way too many people.

  14. frenchbulldog Member
    frenchbulldog 1088 posts, Bumble bee @ 5:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience :) I was wondering what all was discussed at one of these.

  15. Member
    honeymyheart 764 posts, Busy bee @ 10:07 pm

    instead of pre-cana we had to attend a Catholic engaged encounter weekend. we discussed similar topics to what you mentioned, and since we’ve been together for a while, most of our opinions and thoughts were parallel. overall our experience was positive.

  16. Member
    agrosses 98 posts, Worker bee @ 10:23 pm

    As someone who has grown up in the Catholic Church (and in Chicago), that is NOT what Pre-Cana should be. Every priest, and every parrish, does it differently, but there should be some one-on-one sessions and the group sessions should be MUCH smaller. My guy is anti-religious, but I want to go to premarital counseling to take the place of Pre-Cana because I think it can be such a helpful step in laying out what you expect and want in your marriage in a non-confrontational way. No couple thinks of EVERYTHING and most people I know who have done it have come away knowing new things about their partner (e.g. private school vs public for kids, economic ideology, ideas of what compromises their personal ideas of fulfillment, etc.) Although not a full-fledged supporter of the Church, I apologize that they did not do their duty in Pre-Cana.

  17. Member
    deejaylondon 70 posts, Worker bee @ 10:44 am

    Thanks so much for sharing. I am Catholic too and it is nice to know what to expect.

  18. Guest Icon Guest
    litina03, Guest @ 5:21 pm

    does anyone know how to to to get a pre-cana cheaper than the one offer by the Archdioceses($190)? I’m not getting married in Chicago but have to do that here… Please guys let me know I’ll appreciate your help.

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    Mike26, Guest @ 2:06 pm

    I enjoyed your post. I’m going to pre cana in March and was curious as to what to expect. I’m not very catholic, but my fiance is, and is taking it very seriously. I’ll let you know how it went.

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    Tara, Guest @ 7:56 pm

    Aww! Thanks for sharing this, I’m going to pre-cana with my fiance this Saturday. I’m surprised at how much you are paying for all of this! I only had to pay 45 bucks!

    I’m looking forward to it and at the same time I’m wondering, and I’m a little nervous! I’ll post an update of how it went :) Thanks for sharing!

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    Russian Girl, Guest @ 10:02 am

    My fiance is catholic and it’s very important for him and as well as for me now too. Thanks for sharing very useful article.

  22. Guest Icon Guest
    Jsned, Guest @ 12:32 am

    Just curious but what gives the church the right to determine if you’re compatible to be married. Being different isn’t always bad. I am Christian, just not catholic. Just an honest question, please nobody get angry.

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    michelle, Guest @ 2:28 pm

    They don’t presume to have a right to say you can get married. The couple is coming to the church by their own free will assuming they want the blessing of this faith. I’m sure other faith’s have their own requirements in order for that denomination to give their blessing.
    You can also skip any parochial blessing and just do a law of the land (JOP) civil ceremony.
    Remember all of this is by willing participants.

  24. Guest Icon Guest
    SLynnA, Guest @ 1:35 pm

    My former husband was Catholic, I’m Anglican. We did not attend pre-Cana- I refused. The church married us, I didn’t want a mass- my family & friends aren’t catholic & I didn’t want them to have to go thru that. I simply sat down with the top guy (Im not sure of his title, but he was a step above a Monsignor). He was very nice, I was very polite & respectful, but I told him, I would NOT convert, I would NOT promise to raise my children catholic. I would of course support my husband in his faith & keep an open mind about the children. BTW, we married in Santa Barbara (where I was born) although we live about 30 miles south. Our daughter was baptized in the catholic church, she’s attended catholic schools her whole live & will be graduating in ’13. Unfortunately, we separated in ’06. The conflict & interference caused by HIS family was too much! Esp by his sister who is a religious director in Kansas or something. Sadly, our daughter witnessed the constant harassment & interference that she refused confirmation & once she turns 18 in 2 years, will no longer attend mass. Sad that some people feel the need to pressure & force things. But, the church was always so good to me. I’m truly sorry things turned out this way. I hope my daughter reconsiders, it would mean so much to her father. But she seems more comfortable being a Protestant.

  25. Guest Icon Guest
    Sinead, Guest @ 10:19 am

    Thank you for posting, going in April and did not know what to expect either!! Thanks for the insight..

  26. Guest Icon Guest
    cpr certifcation class, Guest @ 7:21 pm

    It is appropriate time to make a few plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve learn this submit and if I may I desire to recommend you few interesting things or tips. Perhaps you can write next articles relating to this article. I want to learn even more issues about it!

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    christina, Guest @ 10:58 pm

    I am recently engaged and according to my sister and her now husband, married ten years. They did their Pre cana and they said it was a total waste of time and money. Priest basically preached how they should live their lives, gets better! Priest focuses on the women, preaching marriage is for procreation only and recreation and proceed to say women have two times out of the month to make a baby, other than that it is a sin?????? soooo isnt living together a sin as well? at least if you are married and committed! WTF! I am Catholic however do not agree with ALL the guidelines – nobody has the right including priests tell anybody how to run their marriage and when and when not to have sex! You married that person for a reason not just to make a baby! I do agree it is a good tool to get to know your future spouse better and make your marriage solid. CANT WAIT! NOOOOOT!

  28. Guest Icon Guest
    Betty, Guest @ 3:53 pm

    Quote from Mrs. Mascara: “Pre-Cana is a course or consultation Catholic couples must undergo before they can be married in a Catholic church.”
    I see the rules have changed.
    Read more:

    We did PreCana in 1954 in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the neighborhood church, not St. Peter’s downtown. There were twenty couples or less. It was great for us. Very thought provoking. There is no good reason for the classes to be so full. The money taken in by a group should cover the honorarium for the speaker, some simple handouts—not any more than would help you to remember what you have learned, and some lite refreshments. Not to build a new wing on that church or some other church. The parishioners have a building fund for that. It seems that in some cases the church is attempting to cover one honorium for three, four and five times the size of a group that we had. When looking for a school for your child do you look for small class size—pupil to teacher ratio? Pre-Cana is supposed to be a service to the community. It is not supposed to be a money-making operation! I think anyone finding themselves in a large group should ask for a refund—and let it be known why. You have a right to speak up if you are being harassed by the church. This is not about politics and taxes; Pre-Cana is supposed to be about the teaching of spiritual relationships and making marriage work beyond romance and sex. After all, there will be children brought into the world as a result of this union. When people divorce, children are no longer properly supervised, parents go their own way, some moms and pops try to help beyond their financial ability. As families break down so goes the parish and the children. The church should be working toward keeping the parish and the families alive. What else is the parish church for?

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