Pre-Cana…No Longer a Mystery

Pre-Cana Experience and Tips

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 had been 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 of Pre-Cana 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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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..

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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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