Preparation for your marriage started long before booking this Marriage Preparation Programme. We all learn about marriage when we are growing up – from our experiences of family life and from our observation of others who are married. This influences what we each bring to our couple relationship and to our preparation programme.

There is nothing that brings more joy than spending time as a couple preparing for our ceremony and celebration. One of the great graces of priesthood is the invitation to be the celebrant at the Wedding Mass or liturgy. We all accept that in the excitement leading to the celebration of a marriage, it is very easy to get swept along on the tide of wedding planning, with its endless lists of things to do … menus to select, colour schemes to choose and guest lists to draw up. The Church in her love of the Sacrament and her care for those celebrating it, invites us to go on a journey that goes much deeper than preparation simply for one day. For many years Accord wisely called our Marriage Preparation Programme ‘Marriage – a Journey not a Destination’.

As we move towards Catholic marriage, there is a discernment process – steps to be taken – when we decide that this is the path which we wish to follow and that this is the man or woman / spouse whom we wish to spend the rest of our lives with – all under the gaze and guidance of our loving God. Pope Francis who has put family and love of the family at the heart of his pontificate, invites us to reflect on what is called the ‘Catechumenal Pathways for Married Life’.

This Marriage Preparation Programme is another step along that pathway, but should not be seen as the final step: it is just one of many on the marriage journey.

When you, as a couple, administer the Sacrament of Marriage to each other on your Wedding Day, becoming a sacrament and inviting God to be the third person in your marriage, you begin a journey of discovering what it actually means to be a sacrament, what it means to live out your sacrament in each other’s lives – for each other, for the Christian community and for the wider community.

Your journey can be supported by involvement with other like-minded couples, for example: through having a more mature married couple as mentors to accompany you on your journey, especially during the early years of marriage; through your involvement in one of the many marriage support movements or organisations which exist to support couples in living out their spousal relationship, or through active involvement in the life of your local parish.

This programme you are about to undertake is but one step on the pathway designed for married life.