Each diocese has its own specific requirements, but there is general agreement among dioceses.
As soon as a couple has decided to marry in the Church, they should call the parish immediately to 'get on the schedule' of the parish church and the priest. Couples should never book a place for the wedding reception until after they have reserved the church and made arrangements with the presider.
The church requires that couples attend either a Pre-Cana program or an Engaged Encounter program. These can be taken in this archdiocese or elsewhere. These programs are designed to highlight information and skills that will be helpful to the couple, and to present Church teaching on the subject of marriage. It is important to schedule a Pre-Cana or Engaged Encounter program as early as possible.
A standardized 'test' to assess the couple's agreement on significant issues is often part of the Pre-Cana or Engaged Encounter program. If it is not, such a 'test' is done separately. At St. John's, we use a copyrighted assessment instrument called FOCCUS. This instrument, containing about 180 items, surveys the extent to which a couple agrees or disagrees about specific issues. It also often uncovers differences or consistencies in basic styles of thinking and acting. No couple 'fails' or 'passes' the FOCCUS. It is designed to prompt conversation between the bride and groom.
There are forms to fill out! The couple must supply information about who they are, their sacramental history, and their beliefs about marriage. In order for a couple to be married
in the Catholic Church, one or both of them must be Catholic, and they must agree with the Catholic Church's understanding of marriage. A Catholic marriage must be seen by both parties to be:
1) lasting until death
2) requiring mutual fidelity
3) believing that openness to having children is an essential aspect of marriage.
If either the bride or groom disagrees with one or more of these teachings, the marriage cannot be celebrated in the Catholic Church. The bride and groom must each provide a recently issued copy of their baptismal certificate.
There are more forms to fill out! The bride and the groom must each supply two witnesses who can testify in person that they are free to marry, and that they believe what the Catholic Church believes about marriage. This testimony must be done in person, either with the priest or deacon who will preside at the wedding, or another priest or deacon elsewhere.
Finally, the wedding ceremony must be planned with the priest or deacon. The wedding is a public, official liturgy of the Church, and therefore there are strict limits to the amount of individualization that may be included. For example, the couple may not write their own vows (although there are some variations among the authorized vows). Music in the church must be liturgical, i.e. music of worship. Further, there are commonsense rules in every church about flowers, decorations, preparation time, policies about photography, etc.