Congratulations on your engagement! You are engaged to be married and, desiring the blessing of God on your union, have approached the Church to witness and seal your vows to each other. Marriage is a divine vocation involving an enduring sacred relationship lived in the community of the Church and the wider human family. For baptized Christians, it is a sacrament of Christ’s love expressed in a couple’s living their marriage vows day to day in the grace of God.
In ministering to engaged couples, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church is guided by the Pastoral Policies and Guidelines for Marriage Preparation, issued by the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey. These Policies and Guidelines are also an expression of the Church’s wish to be of practical assistance to you as you embark upon what perhaps is the most important decision and commitment of your life.
The marriage covenant is by divine law indissoluble. It is a covenant promising enduring love between the parties and an openness to children who will be born from their loving union. The Church community stands ready to be of continuing support to couples who are preparing for and who are living out their marriage covenant in the Lord.
The pastoral assistance of the Church will involve meeting with one of the priests or deacons here at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This process will help you to discern your readiness for marriage, to be affirmed by your strengths and to deal objectively, honestly and confidently with issues that call for further communication, conversion, and deeper growth. More than ever, this is a time for you to seek God’s assistance, to forge a bonded spirituality, to worship together, and to participate in the Sacramental life of the Church by regular attendance at Sunday Mass and the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
A Commitment of Time
The preparation process should begin one year before the desired date of your wedding. This will give you adequate and less stressful time, to prepare for the details of the wedding celebration and to reflect more deeply and prayerfully upon your upcoming marriage.
Contacting the Parish
The marriage preparation process is initiated with your first call to the parish office inquiring about marriage in the Church. A member of the parish staff will facilitate arrangements for you to meet with a priest or deacon of the parish as soon as possible. A date for your wedding cannot be entered into the parish calendar until such a meeting takes place.
The Initial Meeting
At the time of your first meeting, the priest or deacon will explain the marriage preparation process and provide information about the available marriage preparation programs you are required to attend. You have the option of selecting a program best suited to your needs (see section on “Marriage Formation Sessions” for details).
The priest or deacon will begin to fill out the necessary canonical forms and advise you as to what Church and civil documents are needed. The priest or deacon will also make certain that there are no canonical or civil impediments to your marriage. Once it is established that there are no impediments or other serious obstacles evident the wedding date may be set.
In order to obtain a deeper understanding and appreciation of your individual and shared experiences Our Lady of Mt. Carmel requires you complete a premarital inventory, i.e. F.O.C.C.U.S. (Facilitating, Open, Couple, Communication, Understanding and Study), to assist you in identifying strengths and areas for growth in your relationship, areas of agreement or disagreement you may have with each other or with Church teachings, that is, areas that need more of your reflection and discussion.
Participating in a Shared Process
At your initial meeting with the priest or deacon the various marriage preparation programs will be explained and made available to you. These would include Pre-Cana, FOCCUS and God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage. These sessions strive to provide quality time for you to reflect and discuss the important aspects of marriage with committed married couples. They seek to share with you the wisdom gained from their experiences as they live out their own vocation to married life.
Meetings with the Pastoral Minister
Your ongoing meetings with a priest or deacon will be an opportunity to share your experiences about the session you attended and to discuss any serious issues or concerns that may need to be addressed. It will also be the time to collect any outstanding documents and complete any remaining paperwork. Once your readiness for marriage is affirmed, the planning for the wedding liturgy may begin.
Finances – Once you have scheduled your first meeting with one of the parish priests, you will need to reserve the date and time for your wedding. The administrative fee for a wedding is $500.00 for a parishioner and $1000.00 for a non-parishioner. A $500.00 deposit is required at the time your date is booked, with the balance due prior to or no later than the rehearsal.
The organist and soloist fees are separate from the church; these fees are $250.00 for the organist & $250.00 for the soloist.
Music Selection – is arranged by the couple with the Parish Music Director, Ms. Andrea Covais (email@example.com). The parish is able to provide an organist and a soloist. If guest musicians are desired, this arrangement is also done through the Parish Music Director, who will assist you in the selection of appropriate liturgical (church) music.
Floral Decorations – are provided by the couple. Protective plates must be placed under flowerpots or baskets. No tape or sticky material may be used on any surface in the Church. Candles, other than unity candles, may not be used, and only silk flower petals can be used by the flower girls in Church. These requests are designed to help preserve the Church. Your cooperation is appreciated. Traditionally, flowers placed at the altar are left at the altar and not recycled. The florist should call in advance to arrange delivery. Aisle length is 90’; there are 25 pews on each side of church.
Photographs – permitted during the ceremony. Please advise your photographer that he is a guest in the Church and that this is a religious ceremony, and the photographer must speak with the priest before the ceremony begins. The use of video cameras is also permitted, but to avoid distraction from the ceremony, you should tell the video person to limit movement to the side aisles of the Church. The basic request is not to have the photographer(s) become the center of attention, or to create distractions during the ceremony. During the ceremony, no external lights are permitted.
If you wish to take photographs after the ceremony in the Church, you must make arrangements beforehand with the priest. This is necessary due to the regularly scheduled parish liturgies taking place following your wedding.
Rehearsal – time should be scheduled when all the members of the bridal party, parents, etc., are able to be present. Please try to make sure that everyone is there on time. We now provide a wedding coordinator (no fee) who will be at the rehearsal and wedding to help and assist the wedding party. She will contact you well before the rehearsal.
Issues That May Require Consultation
During the course of your preparation, the pastoral minister may find that you may be experiencing a significant difficulty or perceive that there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Such a situation may involve theological, medical or psychological consultation. When this occurs the pastoral minister is required to refer such concerns to be reviewed through a process that has been established in the diocese. In such circumstances the pastoral minister will inform you that the marriage preparation process will have to be extended. It is your right to appeal directly to the Bishop or his representative if you wish. The pastoral minister will assist you in making such an appeal.
Immediate Plans for the Wedding Liturgy
The priest or deacon will assist in planning the wedding liturgy by providing information and resources that may be helpful in making the appropriate choices for this celebration. The Rite of Marriage contains various options for prayers, Scripture readings, blessings, and wedding ceremonies. Other parish ministries might also provide guidance in various areas (music, environment, etc.). Prior to the rehearsal all details regarding the wedding liturgy should be reviewed and approved by the priest or deacon assisting you.
Due to our Parish Mass schedule no ceremony may be scheduled on Saturday later than 3 P.M. We also ask that the wedding begins on time! A wedding involves a lot of people, so please be considerate of their time also. The church has to be cleared before confession and Mass.
The Officiating Priest or Deacon
If you intend to request a priest or deacon other than one of the parish priests or deacons to officiate at your wedding you should request approval well beforehand. In the case of interfaith marriage the presence and participation of the minister of the non-Catholic is both permitted and welcomed.
Please contact the Church office at 201-568-0545 to make an appointment. We look forward to sharing with you during this blessed and happy time.