Pre-Cana refers to the counselling and classes Catholics must go through to prepare for the sacrament of marriage. Pre-Cana requirements can vary from parish to parish, including their length, which can range from six weeks to six months. Throughout the process, couples will discuss an array of topics, from child rearing to principles of a Catholic marriage to finances.
Initial Meeting/ Documents
In the initial meeting between the couple and the church's representative, the couple will need to provide several documents such as certificates of baptism and confirmation. If the documents are unavailable, the couple may be required to complete religious educational training classes. If the marriage is between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, the Catholic will be required to promise to remain a practicing Catholic. The couple will also have to baptise their children and raise them as Catholics.
Some parishes have couples complete questionnaires that are intended to stimulate discussion on myriad aspects of married life as a Catholic. One parish calls its questionnaire "FOCCUS" -- Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study. About a week after completing the questionnaire, the couple will meet with their priest to discuss the results. Sometimes more than one meeting is required. The questionnaire and meetings are designed to prepare the couple for the remainder of the Pre-Cana process.
Pre-marriage counselling will vary from parish to parish, but the core of the process consists of Pre-Cana classes. The classes are often run like workshops, sometimes conducted by other Catholic couples. Topics run from natural birth control methods to the place of Jesus Christ within the marriage. Depending on the parish, workshops can range from daylong classes (usually on a Saturday) to evening classes on one particular night for several weeks, or a weekend getaway.
The couple will be required to discuss the details of the wedding ceremony with the priest at least 30 days before the actual date. Many parishes provide a handbook that contains wedding rite options. The couple should be able to discuss which scripture readings they'll use as well as the form of the vows. The priest may also want to discuss other ancillary things related to the ceremony such as music and flowers. At this point, the priest will also lay out any traditions that are no longer permitted by his particular parish, such as the throwing of rice or birdseed, or the use of butterflies or soap bubbles.