Both the Diocese of Fall River and St. Bernard have programs for marriage preparation. The Catholic churches of our area requires that couples contemplating marriage contact the church no later than eight months before the proposed wedding. In the diocesan preparation track, a couple has a choice between the Engaged Encounter Weekend or Marriage Preparation Course. The Engaged Encounter Weekend is held at the Family Life Center in Dartmouth and is a highly effective weekend fostering deep communication between the couples. It is popular with couples and comes highly recommended by those couples who choose this option.The Marriage Preparation Course is conducted in several local cities and towns. Format includes one all-day class or the same material covered in two shorter sessions. In addition, there is a special program for couples in which one or both of the partners have been previous married. The format of the Marriage Preparation Course and location you choose is entirely up to you. There is a brochure explaining these diocesan programs in more detail. You and your partner have the option of attending a marriage preparation course conducted by another diocese.
Weddings dates can only be scheduled in person with the Parish Priest and cannot be scheduled, even tentatively, over the phone or through a third party. We can, however, let you know over the phone whether or not a particular date is available. Weddings can be on any day of the week with Saturday weddings up to 1:30 pm or after 5:30 pm and Sunday weddings after 1:00 pm. Wedding plans can not be made until both parties are free to enter marriage according to the church law. Normally, the parish church is the setting for weddings in which one or both of the parties is a parish member. The Diocese of Fall River does not give permission for outdoor weddings. It is possible to conduct a wedding in a function hall or other secular building when the proposed marriage is between a Catholic and an unbaptized person. In rare cases, permission is given for a Catholic to marry a Protestant before a Protestant minister.
St. Bernard Church asks that couples considering marriage meet a total of four times at the Rectory Office with the Parish Priest.
Session One should be scheduled as soon as you have set the wedding date. Basic information is recorded and wedding date is tentatively scheduled. Thereafter, no one else can be given your time slot. Date changes need to be communicated immediately. Couples also complete the FOCCUS inventory (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study) which takes about 45 - 60 minutes.
Session Two is conducted at the rectory within four weeks of the initial meeting and the FOCCUS inventory is reviewed.
Session Three is held at the rectory about six months before the proposed wedding and current copies of Baptismal certificates (dated within six months of the wedding) and Confirmation certificates for both you and you partner will be required. Copies are not required if any of these sacraments were celebrated at St. Bernard Church. The premarital form is completed and the conditions, requirements, rights and responsibilities of the Sacrament of Marriage are discussed. Wedding rehearsal times should also be noted.
Session Four should be scheduled about one month before the ceremony and you will be provided with a booklet to facilitate your wedding ceremony planning. Ceremony plans are reviewed including Bible readings, hymns, prayers, etc. If you have requested permission for a visiting priest to conduct the wedding ceremony, he should attend this session. You should meet separately with your musicians to plan the liturgical music and contact Denise Weaver if organ music is planned. Be sure the priest who will be presiding at your wedding is aware of the liturgical music you have chosen well before the day of the ceremony. The rehearsal is normally held a day or two before the wedding and should include anyone who has an active part in the ceremony (i.e. the principals, parents, ushers, bridesmaids, readers). Please advise your party to arrive on time. The rehearsal usually takes less than one hour. The civil marriage license and any church fees should be presented at the time of the rehearsal.