Photos provided from Sunglow Photography

Marriage - Preparation Guidelines - "Your Wedding Day"

The Catholic Church believes that Christian Marriage is a sacred covenant that fulfills God’s plan for humanity—that it is a relationship between two persons bonded in a permanent union. Our Church desires that couples enter into marriage with the highest degree of freedom and knowledge about the vows they will exchange before god and humanity. Here at St. Margaret Mary our marriage preparation process is designed to help couples “begin with the end in mind” and to better understand the challenges they will encounter in their marital relationship.

Couples desirous of celebrating their marriage ceremony at St. Margaret Mary must contact our church office a minimum of six (6) months in advance of your anticipated marriage date and be officially registered at our parish for a minimum of six (6) months prior to beginning your marriage preparation. At least one of the parties making application for marriage must be a baptized, practicing Catholic.

The couples are asked to take the FOCCUS or RE-FOCCUS Inventory to encourage going deeper on issues related to building a healthy, holy, permanent marriage. Couples who are getting married for the first time are required to take the FOCCUS and couples married civilly more than three years are required to take the RE-FOCCUS.

First developed in 1985, the FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study) Pre-Marriage Inventory, is widely known and used by marriage educators in a variety of settings in the United States and around the world. Research based and offered in multiple editions and languages, the Inventory addresses the relationship challenges faced by today’s couples in a user-friendly format at a reasonable price. Couples complete the Inventory online, SEPARATELY, and then participate in facilitated discussion on key topic areas. They also have the opportunity to review, reflect and discuss together particular strengths and growth opportunities within their relationship as they prepare for lifelong marriage. Neither the FOCCUS nor the RE-FOCCUS Inventories are not “tests” and are not meant to label couples or predict marital outcome. The Inventory was developed for use with couples of all ages, those preparing for a first or subsequent marriage, couples marrying within different faith traditions, married in a civil ceremony, and couples who may or may not be bringing children to the marriage.

The couple is then given an interview with a priest or deacon of their choice. At that meeting the priest or deacon gives them an overview of the church’s expectation for their marriage. In most situations, this is the priest or deacon who will officiate at the marriage ceremony.

During a subsequent meeting the priest or deacon shares the result of the FOCCUS inventory, discusses the date for their marriage, completes the necessary paperwork for ongoing preparation, including sessions with a married couple to discuss the FOCCUS or RE-FOCCUS inventory, and the 2 day marriage formation sessions at the parish. All necessary documents are also collected at this time.

Subsequent meetings with the priest (or deacon) can be arranged when seen as necessary.


PREPARING For Sacramental Marriage

The Catholic Church is not just a beautiful place for your wedding. The Church has the wisdom to help you live out your most noble intentions, to have a forever marriage, rich beyond your dreams. We welcome Catholics and non-Catholics who desire the Sacrament of Matrimony We follow research that suggests 2 key factors determine how much a couple will benefit from marriage preparation:

  • how willing the couple is to learn something about Christian marriage.
  • how much each person is committed to the lifelong task of becoming a better person.


  • Dating couples ~ not engaged
  • Engaged couples ~ preparing for Christian marriage, seeking to learn more of the skills that such a marriage will require
  • Couples in civil marriages less than 3 years, seeking to have their marriage "validated'' in the Church

Program is offered three times a year: January, April, and August.

For all questions or to begin this process contact Debbie Benson at 407-998-5654 or email [email protected]

For all couples already married civilly, at least three years, who wish to bring their marriage into the Catholic Church AND for ALL couples married over three years who wish to strengthen their relationship.

  • Couples where either party had a prior marriage and partner in the earlier union must have died or the Church must have issued a declaration of nullity (frequently called an annulment) of the previous marriage
  • Couples who exchanged vows (at least 3 years ago) in the presence of ministers from other religious traditions or civil officials­
  • Couples who want to STOP and take stock of who they are and where they are in their relationship
  • Couples who want to recharge their relationship after times of personal and family transitions, stages of life development, economic and job changes, failures and disappointments and family and personal transition times

Program is offered three times a year: January, April, and August.

Our formation sessions provide couples with the skills and resources necessary to nurture their covenant and thereby create a healthy sacramental marriage.

Our sessions are interactive in nature, offering each couple time to discuss information privately as well as with a small group of fellow travelers. We strongly believe in the support of the community for married couples and believe that your marriage can be a gift to the larger community.

Specific topics addressed in these sessions include: communication, spirituality, money and practical issues, family of origin, personality differences, intimacy and sexuality, values, and parenting. Special consideration is given to 2nd marriages, those who are parenting outside of marriage, and those who desire a shared faith- but come from different faith backgrounds. It is a day filled with tools to build a marriage that is holy, healthy, and permanent!

All couples must contact Debbie Benson to begin the Marriage Preparation process, at (407) 647-3392.

Resources for all couples to review:

"Saying I Do: What Happens at a Catholic Wedding,"

Our Wedding Day Preparation Information for St. Margaret Mary Church:

Pope Francis: List of tips to make a marriage work


What is an Annulment?
An understanding of a Church annulment has to be based within the Church's teaching of the Sacrament of Marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a community of life and love, an enduring partnership between a man and a woman for the giving and receiving of love and for the procreation and education of children. Marriage is a permanent and exclusive covenant, an interpersonal union which extends to the couple's total life together, to physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual community, and to the procreation and education of their children.

According to Catholic church teaching, every valid marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament, and thus it is permanently binding and cannot be dissolved. In addition, the Church recognizes the validity and permanence of the marriages of unbaptized persons. The Church teaches that certain elements must be present in order for a marriage to be valid. Some of these would be minimal maturity, a personal commitment to marriage and to the other party, average emotional stability, a belief that marriage is a lifelong and faithful union, an openness to children, and a sufficient evaluative judgment in entering marriage.

An annulment ( also called a "decree of nullity") is a judgment of a Marriage Tribunal of the Catholic Church concerning the invalidity of a particular union. If an annulment is granted, it means that in the eyes of the church a basic element was missing from the union in question from the very beginning, and that on account of this, it was not a valid sacramental marriage from the start. The annulment does not deny that a real relationship may have existed, nor does it imply that the union was entered with ill will or moral fault. Rather, an annulment states that the relationship fell short of at least one of the elements seen as essential for a true, valid Christian marriage. Finally, an annulment does not seek to establish guilt or innocence, but rather validity or invalidity.

Marriage Convalidations

“What Difference Does it Make?”
There are many people attending Catholic parishes or in Catholic families whose marriage is somehow not fully recognized by the Church. Catholic Church law ordinarily requires baptized Roman Catholics to marry before a priest or deacon. Unless they requested and received a "dispensation from canonical form," Catholics who exchange marriage vows in the presence of ministers from other religious traditions or authorized civic officials are not considered having a valid, sacramental marriage.

Those couples may seek to have their union officially recognized by the Church. (In technical terms, this is known as “convalidation” of a marriage.) After a convalidation, they are able to fully participate in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.

Preparing for a convalidation is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on and deepen your relationship. It can make a difference!
For more information, call Marlena Templet @ 407-998-5657

If you are in need of your Marriage certificate you can fill out this form: and we will be happy to help.