Overview of the Marriage Preparation Process

Preliminary Considerations

  • At least one member of the couple must be a Catholic and all Catholic parties must be registered in the parish and actively practicing his or her faith for a minimum of six months.
  • If either party has been in a previous marriage, either within the Catholic Church or not, then the previous marriage must be annulled before the preparation for your new marriage can begin. Please contact the Parish Office at (386) 252-5422 – Extension 308 to begin the annulment process.
  • Typically there is a minimum four to six month period between the initial interview with a priest of the parish and the actual wedding date. While every reasonable effort will be made to meet the hopes and needs of the engaged couple, all plans and dates are set in conjunction with the Church Liturgical Year, parish calendar, and the preparedness of the couple. There are times within the Church Liturgical Year that weddings are discouraged. For example, Lent is a season of penance in preparation for Easter, so weddings are discouraged during this time.
  • Invitations or reservations for anything pertaining to the wedding may be made only after the date has been secured with the parish priest. All meetings with the priest must be arranged by the engaged couple through the parish secretary. The date and the hour set for the wedding is only tentative pending the completion of the entire marriage assessment process.
  • At the Basilica of St. Paul, weddings are scheduled on Saturdays at 11:00 am, 12 Noon, 1:00 pm, or 6:00 pm. Weddings may also be scheduled for Fridays. It is not possible for a wedding to be scheduled on Sundays.
  • It is recommended that the final date be set with the parish before making arrangements for reception halls, caterers, invitations, etc.

Steps in the Marriage Preparation Process

STEP 1: Initial Meeting

The initial meeting should be scheduled with the parish priest at least four to six months prior to the proposed wedding date. The priest will review the marriage preparation process with you. At this time, your photo will be taken, and your file will begin. Also, the priest will answer any questions that you may have about the process.


During your initial meeting, the priest will assign a married couple for you to contact. This couple will administer and interpret the marriage preparation instrument called Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding, and Study (FOCCUS). FOCCUS is a standardized questionnaire used to evaluate the couple’s level of effective communication in areas that have proven to be important during the first years of marriage. The engaged couple will contact the FOCCUS couple within two weeks of the first meeting with the parish priest. There will be at least two visits with this couple.

STEP 3: Pre-Cana Retreat

After you have completed the FOCCUS instrument with your assigned couple, the engaged couple will attend a Pre-Cana retreat administered by the Diocese of Orlando. It is advisable to register early for the retreat, as space is limited. To register, click link below or contact the Office of Family Life at (407) 246-4865 during normal business hours.

There are various types of retreats, depending on the needs of the engaged couple. During your initial meeting with the priest, he will help you determine the best retreat option for you. Click the link below to view more information about Pre-Cana retreats and to view the schedule:

Diocese of Orlando- Marriage Preparation Guidelines and Checklist

Diocese of Orlando – Pre-Cana Information, Schedule and Register

The retreat is a time away with other engaged couples in order to discover a deeper appreciation of their relationship and God’s call to unite them in a permanent union. The purpose of this retreat is to give engaged couples the opportunity to talk honestly and intensively about their perspective lives together, their strengths, weaknesses, desires, ambitions, goals, their attitudes about money, sex, children, and the extended family. They also look at their role in the Church and society. This is all done in a face-to-face way. The retreat creates an atmosphere in which each couple can concentrate exclusively on one another, free of the tensions, pressures, and interruptions of the world.

Through a series of ideas presented by a trained team of married couples and a priest, the couple is encouraged to dialogue privately with each other on all aspects of married life, always from the viewpoint of their own relationship. Personal reflection and dialogue are the main thrust of the retreat. At the conclusion of the retreat, the engaged couple will be given a certificate of participation, which will be brought back during their second meeting with the parish priest.

STEP 4: Baptismal Certificates

A current Baptismal Certificate for each Catholic person, issued within 6 months prior to the wedding, must be presented to the priest at the second meeting. A photocopy of an original Certificate of Baptism will be sufficient for a non-Catholic party. Upon completion of the wedding, the Church of Baptism of the Catholic party will be notified of the marriage. The certificate will also indicate if there has been a previous Catholic marriage. To obtain a recently issued of the baptismal certificate, contact the church of baptism by mail, e-mail, or telephone and provide the parish with your full name, date of birth, parents’ names, approximate date of baptism, and Godparents’ names.

STEP 5: Second meeting with the priest

During this session, the priest will review the FOCCUS results with you, and your experience of the Pre-Cana retreat. At this time, the priest will need your certificate of participation from the retreat, as well as your baptismal certificates. He will then give you a certificate of completion to be taken to the courthouse so that you will receive a discount on your marriage license. At the retreat you will have received a booklet called, “Together for Life.” Bring this booklet with you to the second meeting, and the priest will discuss it with you, and begin to plan the wedding liturgy. He will assign a wedding coordinator for you to consult with to plan the liturgy, as well as direct you to the parish music director to plan the music for the liturgy. For more information about this, please see the liturgy planning page. Finally, the priest will review the Theology of the Wedding Vows with you.

STEP 6: Freedom to marry forms (Form B)

The bride and groom must each select two qualified people who will testify that the couple is free to marry in the Catholic Church. Usually couples ask their parents, or people who have known them for most of their lives, to complete form B. The form may be completed ahead of time, but the signature of the witness should be withheld until they are in front of a priest, parish minister, or notary. The person completing the form will need to be aware of any previous marriages, as well as the individual’s baptismal information. Forms will only be valid if properly signed and sealed by one of these individuals. You can download and print the form by clicking here.

STEP 7: Contact Wedding Coordinator

At your second meeting with the priest, he gave you the name of the parish wedding coordinator who will guide you through the liturgy planning, rehearsal, and parish policies and protocol regarding the liturgical environment. The wedding coordinator will assist at the rehearsal and be present prior, during, and after the wedding to attend to the bridal party, assist the florist, photographer, and ushers. In this way the liturgy is more likely to run in a smooth and orderly manner. For more details concerning the parish’s policies, click here.

STEP 8: Contact Music Director

The marriage rite is a liturgical celebration, a sacrament of the Church. As in any liturgical setting (i.e. Mass), the music is to be chosen with care and discrimination. In the liturgy the assembled people of God join with the bride and the groom in asking God’s involvement and blessing as a new family is established. The music should accentuate the reverence of the liturgy and the sacrament of marriage. The texts should correspond to the themes which are inherent in a Catholic marriage liturgy. Accordingly, all music must be approved by the Basilica’s Director of Music & Liturgy.

For this reason operatic selections, artistic songs, along with popular and theatrical love songs are inappropriate. While they are being used frequently in marriage services, their texts extol romanticized or secular ideas about love and marriage, and therefore, detract from the worship of God. Although the Basilica of St. Paul has many gifted musicians, other instrumentalists and singers may be hired to participate in your wedding.

To arrange for the musical settings for wedding, please contact the Basilica Director of Music & Liturgy at (386) 252-5422 – extension 313. The director will speak with you about making initial arrangements for the music including arranging for a cantor.

STEP 9: Third meeting with priest: Pre-nuptial Questionnaire (Form A)

During this session, the priest will complete the Pre-nuptial questionnaire with you (Form A). This questionnaire will document that you have officially been instructed and prepared for the sacrament of marriage, and that you agree to the nature of sacrament of marriage according to the laws of the Catholic Church. The priest will also answer any further questions that you may have regarding your marriage preparation and wedding planning.

If one of the parties is not Catholic, a dispensation or permission form will be completed with the couple and this form and the file will be forwarded to the Diocese of Orlando’s tribunal office for approval.

STEP 10: Marriage License

A marriage license may be obtained within 60 days prior to the wedding from the Volusia County Courthouse. The courthouse is located at 125 East Orange Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, and  telephone number is 386-257-6013. The license should be turned into the parish office at least one week prior to the wedding.