IRISH EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE
This document was approved at the June 2010 meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference in
order to assist Bishops in their duty to ensure suitable preparation for the celebration of the
sacrament of marriage.
Criteria for Courses of Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage
At the October 2009 General Meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Bishops
decided that any programme of preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage should reflect,
both in its content and process, the Christian understanding of marriage and promote a
positive attitude towards marriage at all times.
In accordance with the Church’s pastoral practice and discipline, the pastoral care and
the prerequisites for the celebration of marriage require dedication on the part of all
involved in the preparation for sacramental marriage. The following is a list of criteria
outlining marriage preparation course content and process of delivery which will offer
couples the best possible programme of preparation.
1. Course content:
1.1. The sacramental nature of marriage should form the basis on which all other
elements are discussed. All topics covered should reflect a covenantal
understanding of marriage within the Catholic tradition, which means a
lifelong and exclusive commitment of the husband and wife to each other.
1.2. This means that the Catholic understanding and vision of marriage will
permeate and be integrated into all elements of marriage preparation.
1.3. The spirituality of marriage will be a central part of the marriage preparation.
1.4. As well as drawing from human experience, the vision of marriage will be
informed by sacred scripture, Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio, Love is
for Life (issued by the Irish Episcopal Conference),
Catechism of the CatholicChurch, and Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage
(issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family).
1.5. The core elements of a marriage relationship should form the basis of any
programme. These include: choosing the sacrament, family of origin,
communication, conflict management, commitment, couples as parents,
owning your sexuality and fertility awareness and well-being.
2. Course process:
2.1. The emphasis at all times should be on the couple and their needs. This
should be reflected in the methods used to engage the couples throughout the
programme. Time and space should be allotted for couples to discuss topics
and issues that are personal. Where appropriate group discussion should be
part of the process and couples should feel free to engage in any discussion as
2.2. The marriage preparation course should offer a safe space for couples, in
conditions that offer the best possible opportunity for reflection and learning.
If suitable parish facilities are available for marriage preparation programmes
these could be used.
2.3. Programmes of preparation should be co-facilitated by a team comprising
laypersons and clergy reflecting the collaboration between the laity and the
clergy in promoting sacramental marriage.
2.4. Facilitators should be selected from within parish communities and have a
clear understanding that they are acting as witnesses for marriage in their
2.5. All programme facilitators should receive the highest standard of training and
this training should, ideally, be accredited by a Catholic educational
2.6. Facilitators should engage in ongoing supervision and annual professional
development training to maintain the highest possible standards.
2.7. The programmes should involve a minimum of nine facilitated hours of client
contact and be multi-sessional. The multi-sessional aspect allows couples a
period of reflection between sessions and the course to be delivered at a
leisurely pace, which reflects current best practice in adult education.
2.8. The programme of preparation should comprise a maximum of twenty
couples, to ensure best practice in group work.
2.9. Programmes of preparation should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure
that their content and process of delivery are of the highest standards and that
the courses reflect the changing circumstances of couples coming for
Full text directly quoted from
“Irish Episcopal Conference Criteria for Courses of Preparation for the Sacrament of
Marriage June 2010”