Dear Engaged Couple,
Marriage Preparation Meeting and Process
Valid Catholic Marriage
Canon Law defines a valid Catholic Marriage as:
(1) The presider of the ceremony must be a priest or deacon and,
(2) The ceremony must be held at a diocesan parish or chapels located on the campus of TCU or TWU and,
(3) The ceremony must have two witnesses
All three conditions must be met to have a valid Catholic Marriage. Priests and deacons are not available to preside over a ceremony at a third party venue. Wedding ceremonies performed at third party venues are invalid Catholic Marriages.
Blessings of a marriage occur by a priest or deacon during the actual ceremony of a valid Catholic Marriage, or for an existing marriage, where the marriage is a valid Catholic Marriage. Marriages that do not meet the requirements of a valid Catholic Marriage under Canon Law cannot be blessed until the marriage has been recognized by the Catholic Church as valid.
Marriage Preparation Overview and Requirements
The Sacrament of Marriage celebrates a lifelong commitment of love and fidelity between a man and a woman. The model for this union is Christ's love for the Church.
This document contains an overview and information on the requirements for the marriage preparation of a wedding to be held at Good Shepherd Catholic Community. It may also be downloaded via PDF after reading this document.
General Information for Marriages at Good Shepherd Catholic Community
- The Marriage Preparation process takes approximately 9 months.
- The Catholic Church requires the Sacrament of Marriage to be celebrated at a Diocesan church, or other approved location by the Bishop of Fort Worth. Weddings held at a third-party venue are invalid Catholic marriages.
- Preparation for weddings at Good Shepherd Catholic Community (GSCC) usually takes place at GSCC, unless you don’t live in the diocese or immediate area.
- At least one person being married must be Catholic, and both must be at least 18 years or older.
- The Catholic(s) to be married must be attending weekly Mass and participating in the sacraments.
- Marriage Preparation guidelines and requirements in this document are for couples that have never been married before. If a previous marriage exists for either the bride or groom, please contact the Director of Marriage Preparation.
- For Catholic couples, it is appropriate to celebrate their marriage at a Nuptial Mass with the priest presiding. A deacon may officiate or assist in that Mass. In the case of an ecumenical or interfaith marriage, GSCC celebrates their marriage before a deacon at a Wedding Liturgy of the Word (without communion) rather than a Mass so that both parties and their families feel fully included in the celebration.
Our weddings are held on Saturdays at 1:30PM. Rehearsal is held the day before, on Friday, at 5PM ending by 6PM. Weddings are not offered during:
- The Lenten season, Holy Week, and the Easter Triduum
- The Advent season, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day
- Holiday facility closure after Christmas
- New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and into the first week of January
After you have read our requirements for Marriage Preparation below, feel free to contact the Director of Marriage Preparation via email to schedule an initial appointment.
Initial Appointment with Director of Marriage Preparation Process
This appointment takes between 2-3 hours to complete questionnaire information, review the forms needed, discuss a checklist of items required and complete a Fully Engaged inventory assessment for your forthcoming mentoring couple program. This meeting is held at GSCC and requires bride and groom be present. You will be given a checklist of documents needed and courses to be completed.
Reservation of Church Facility and Fees
After the initial appointment with the Director of Marriage Preparation, completion of the Fully Engaged inventory assessment, and registration has been made the next day for the Pre-Cana and Natural Family Planning classes, a reservation for a wedding date at GSCC can be made.
Please do not reserve a reception venue until after you have signed the church reservation agreement. We cannot guarantee the date will be available until the church reservation agreement is signed and received, which can only be completed after the initial appointment with the Director of Marriage Preparation.
This will require a deposit and completed contract with our Business Manager.
Fees: An actively tithing member of Good Shepherd Catholic Community is defined as someone who has been registered and has a visible record of tithing (envelope system, checks, electronic fund transfers) for at least one year before contacting the parish about setting a wedding date. The parishioner fee for actively tithing parishioners covers some of the basic costs to the parish such as staff and books/materials. The non-parishioner fee includes the above and the cost of building use.
Documents Required During Marriage Preparation
- Baptismal Certificate from your parish of baptismal record. This certificate must be dated within six months of your wedding and contain notations on the back.
- Non-Catholic baptismal proof of Trinitarian baptism from pastor, or family member.
- “Affidavit of Free” status – two each for the groom, and bride by family or friends.
- Dispensation from the Bishop of Fort Worth, if required.
- Marriage License within 90 days of wedding.
As you complete the forms, submit documents and receive certificates of course completions, you will send them to our Marriage Preparation Administrator who will also remind you via email what is incomplete, missing information or past due.
It is the couple’s wedding. That also means it is the responsibility of the couple to complete all the requirements by the timeline and deadlines given to them. If anything is incomplete or not met by the timeline to request approval of the wedding by the Diocese of Fort Worth Tribunal, the wedding is subject to rescheduling.
Courses and Programs Required by Diocese of Fort Worth:
Engaged couples will need to plan and be able to have several meetings during the preparation time. Diocesan programs are required of marriage preparation. These include the following:
Theological Formation: Pre-Cana is a one day, or two evening on-site experience for engaged couples to begin their formal marriage preparation process. The course includes a series of talks and activities on topics such as marriage as a sacrament, vows, and sexuality in marriage as God planned it. Pre-Cana course information and registration is available at FWDIOC.org
Natural Family Planning: Natural family planning is a method used by couples as a means of achieving or avoiding a pregnancy. It fosters respect and acceptance of the total person by teaching couples the nature of fertility. Marriages are enriched through a mutual understanding of the shared responsibility for family planning, creating a deeper appreciation for the value of life. Natural Family Planning is up to 99% effective in spacing births. Additional information and registration available at FWDIOC.org
Fully-Engaged Mentor Couple Sessions: Based on your inventory assessment from the initial appointment meeting, an analysis will be furnished to a mentoring couple where you will meet with them monthly over a period of 3-4 months.
Three months (90 days) before your wedding date, the bride and groom will meet with the Director of Liturgy and Music for wedding planning. At that meeting, you will plan your wedding; turn in your selected readings, select appropriate music, musicians and other items as needed. Clergy for your wedding will also be assigned at that time so that you can meet with him before your wedding.
Two volunteer wedding ministers offer their time leading the rehearsal and providing assistance at the wedding. Fees for musicians are to be arranged with the Director of Liturgy and Music. Clergy typically receives a stipend for their services.
Ready to Proceed?Contact the Director of Marriage Preparation: Nic Gutierrez for additional information or to schedule an initial appointment.
PDF version for printing
Meeting with Director of Marriage Preparation
After you have read the contents of the “Marriage Preparation Overview and Requirements” or downloaded the PDF file of that document, your next step is to contact the Director of Marriage Preparation to begin the process with an “initial appointment.” You can request that or other information by sending an email to Nic Gutierrez.
That meeting involves a couple of hours of your time, and both bride and groom must attend. During this initial meeting, you will discuss your relationship, family backgrounds, religious beliefs, career plans, and their importance in the marriage preparation process. The marriage preparation process and requirements will be discussed and you will be given a checklist to guide you through the next nine months of marriage preparation.
You will start the application process at that meeting by filling out a questionnaire for each person, the bride and groom. To expedite filling out some information, please bring a copy of your baptismal certificate and the dates, church name and location of your first communion and confirmation. If one of you is from a church tradition other than Catholic and that church does not keep such records, a record in a family Bible or a letter of testimony written by a witness would be helpful and will be required to show proof of baptism, if Christian non-Catholic. This can be fulfilled by the letter from a parent to provide information that it was a Trinitarian baptism.
Also at that meeting, will be the taking of a pre-marital assessment so the Fully Engaged Mentoring portion of your marriage formation can start. This is an instrument to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a couple, and to indicate those areas the two of you may need more conversation. Most couples find this 3-5 month experience very revealing and helpful in developing their relationship and their ability to communicate with each other.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Ecumenical or Interfaith Marriages
When one of the parties is not Catholic, both need to understand and respect the role the church plays in married life. And, we assure you at the same time of our respect for other religious traditions. In conversations with the marriage preparation coordinator, priest or deacon, Catholic belief and practice will be discussed, especially in relation to marriage. The Catholic partner will be asked to make a commitment to live out his/her Catholic faith personally and with the children born of that marriage. It is important, we believe, that everyone have an opportunity to be a member of God’s people through the Sacrament of Baptism. Therefore, the Catholic spouse is asked to promise not only to continue living out his/her commitment to the faith, but also to pass it on to their children by having the children baptized in the Catholic faith and by having them receive instruction in the Catholic religion. The non-Catholic partner will be asked to be trusting, open and understanding about Catholic faith and traditions. We welcome a minister of another faith tradition to participate in the wedding ceremony at Good Shepherd Catholic Community. A Protestant minister is invited to perform certain functions at a Catholic wedding. Your witnesses, Best Man and Maid of Honor, may also be persons of another faith tradition.
Marriage before a Priest or Deacon in a Catholic Church
Catholic couples may wish to choose either a Nuptial Mass or a Wedding Liturgy of the Word for their marriage. Most often Catholic couples celebrate their marriage at a Nuptial Mass with the priest presiding. This is very appropriate. A deacon may officiate or assist. In the case of an ecumenical or interfaith marriage, we recommend that the couple celebrate their marriage before a priest or a deacon at a Wedding Liturgy of the Word (without communion) rather than a Mass, so that both parties and their families feel fully included in the celebration. If the Nuptial Mass is chosen without any serious division for the couple and their families, the priest can invite ways for all present to participate with the exception of communion. However, this may not be a satisfactory option for all ecumenical or interfaith marriages.
How long does marriage preparation take?
Marriage preparation takes approximately nine (9) months since couples must register and take two scheduled classes. Class offerings may be spread out over several months. In addition, the couple will be completing the Fully Engaged Couples Mentoring program which requires meeting with a sponsoring couple for 3-5 months.
When can I reserve my wedding date and time?
A reservation for your wedding date is made after meeting with the Director of Marriage Preparation at an "initial appointment meeting" to complete a questionnaire, cover the marriage preparation process, forms required and courses needed. The couple will also take a Fully Engaged Assessment (1-2 hours) at that meeting. The couple will then be required to register on-line for a Pre-Cana Theological Skills class, and a Natural Family Planning (NFP) after that meeting. Once registration of those classes is complete, a reservation for your wedding at GSCC can be completed usually in less than 24 hours during a business week.
Weddings at GSCC are held at either 10:00am or 1:30pm on Saturdays outside of Lent, Advent, Holy Week, Triduum, Christmas eve, Christmas day, facility closures at Christmas, New Years eve and New Years day.
Marriage before a Protestant Minister in a Protestant Church
In the case of an ecumenical marriage, the couple may celebrate their marriage before a Protestant Minister in a Protestant Church with or without the presence of a Catholic priest or deacon. If this would be important for you, be sure to talk about it early with the Director of Marriage Ministries. For a good reason, canonical permission can be requested/obtained and the Bishop of the Catholic diocese will provide you with the dispensation to allow for this. The Marriage will be recorded at Good Shepherd Catholic Community.
Visiting Clergy at Good Shepherd Catholic Community
If, for a good reason, a couple wishes to invite visiting clergy (Priest or Deacon of the Catholic Church) to officiate at their Wedding at Good Shepherd Catholic Community, they should ask the Director of Marriage Preparation before making such arrangements. If the invitation of visiting clergy is acceptable to our diocese, the pastor of Good Shepherd Catholic Community will delegate him with the canonical permission to officiate here. Visiting clergy will be required to have their diocese furnish to both the Diocese of Fort Worth, and Good Shepherd Catholic Community, a letter of Good Standing and Safe Environment compliance.
If the visiting clergyman is also doing the pre-marital preparation with the couple, he will need to follow the marriage preparation guidelines of Good Shepherd Catholic Community. Visiting clergy are expected to follow the liturgical guidelines as set forth by Good Shepherd Catholic Community for any Nuptial Mass or Wedding Liturgy of the Word taking place here. The couple who invites visiting clergy to officiate at their Wedding is responsible for paying their travel and other expenses. You may also wish to give them a stipend.
Marriage in another Catholic Parish
If there is serious reason for a couple to be married in a parish other than their home parish of Good Shepherd Catholic Community, the pastor here must first give permission for the couple to be married at another parish and for the priest or deacon of the other parish to officiate at the wedding. The pre-marital preparation may be done here or at the other parish. Planning for the Wedding Liturgy with the pastor of the other parish is the responsibility of the couple.
Preparation at another Catholic Parish
When a couple lives at a distance away from their home parish of Good Shepherd Catholic Community, pre-marital preparation may be done at a Catholic Church near their residence. In such a case the Director of Marriage Preparation of Good Shepherd Catholic Community needs to be informed immediately so that she may forward to the couple a copy of our Wedding Preparation Manual. The necessary documents from the pastor of the other Catholic parish need to be sent in a timely fashion to the marriage coordinator of Good Shepherd Catholic Community before the wedding can take place here, at their home parish. Signing a contract, scheduling the wedding date and the rehearsal date as well as planning for the Wedding Liturgy is the responsibility of the couple.
Our diocesan guidelines call for non-practicing Catholics to receive special instruction in the Catholic faith and to be given the opportunity to return to the practice of the faith. Such a period of instruction in the faith may increase the time of preliminary marriage preparation.