The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

Celebrating Your Marriage at the Cathedral of the Annunciation

Congratulations on Your Recent Engagement!

As part of Creation before the Fall (see Genesis 1–2), “the intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 48). The consent that a man and a woman exchange in the celebration of marriage unites them in permanent, faithful, and mutual love. This love is open to life and serves as a way to respond to God’s call to holiness.

Together, as you begin the process of marriage preparation, take the time to pray and discern God’s will for you and for your intended spouse. While there are certainly preparations to consider for the celebration of the day of your wedding, good marriage preparation lasts a lifetime.

Marriage Preparation

The Diocese of Stockton requires at least six months of preparation prior to the celebration of marriage. As the outline of the process below indicates, much work must be done in this time.

Who Can Celebrate Marriage at the Cathedral of the Annunciation?
The celebration of marriage is entrusted to the pastor of either Catholic party (Code of Canon Law, c. 530, 4°). Indeed, the permission of a Catholic party’s proper pastor is required if the marriage will not take place in his or her proper parish (Code of Canon Law, c. 1115). For Catholics who are members of the Cathedral parish, whether by residence in the territory or by registration, the parish priests and deacons stand ready to assist at your marriage, guiding you through the preparation process.

If, however, neither you nor your intended spouse is a member of the Cathedral parish but would like to celebrate your marriage at the Cathedral, you begin by contacting the proper pastor at your home parish. At the initial meeting with your own priest, please inform him of your desire to celebrate the marriage at the Cathedral of the Annunciation. He can assist you in contacting the Cathedral staff to arrange the date and time for your wedding. Please note that your proper pastor still bears responsibility to prepare you for marriage in the Catholic Church even if the marriage is celebrated at the Cathedral (cf. cc. 1067 and 1070).

General Process for Celebrating Marriage at the Cathedral of the Annunciation

This outline contains the basic elements and steps that form the period of Catholic marriage preparation. The priest or deacon preparing you for marriage can provide more details.


1. Schedule an appointment with your priest

As soon as possible after you and your intended spouse have decided to marry, contact the priest or deacon whom you would like to assist at your wedding at the Cathedral to begin the marriage preparation process. At this initial meeting, the priest or deacon will:

• Give an overview of the process to marry in the Diocese of Stockton—and specifically at the Cathedral of the Annunciation.

• Ensure initially that each party is free to marry (i.e., each party has never been in a marriage before or, if married before, that the proper ecclesiastical process has been completed).

• Explain the Church’s understanding of marriage.

• Describe the FOCCUS Inventory process.

• Explain the options for the catechetical formation for marriage.

• As needed, explain how to obtain certificates—or other proof—of baptism.

• Collaborate to set the date of the marriage.

2. Pre-Marital Catechesis

Just as with other sacraments in the Church, Catholic and non-Catholic parties preparing for marriage in the Church are to be formed in Christian marriage. Several options are available for this catechesis, but in all cases, the pre-marital catechesis begins with both spouses taking the FOCCUS (Facilitate Open, Couple, Communication, Understanding and Study) inventory. 

The priest or deacon with whom you are working will put you in contact with the parish’s FOCCUS coordinator. The coordinator will explain how to take the FOCCUS Inventory online and arrange for several meetings with a FOCCUS facilitator-couple.

Formal pre-marital catechesis begins after the FOCCUS sessions with the facilitator couple are completed. Depending on the method of catechesis that best fits your schedule, the priest or deacon can provide contact information for each type.

• Weekends for the Engaged: retreat weekends and parish-based weekends are available.

• Weekly Marriage Preparation Sessions.

• Online Marriage Preparation: possible in select cases.

Depending on the locations of the parties, one type of formation program may work better than the others. The priest or deacon can help you choose the program best suited to your situation.

3. Canonical Preparation

Before a party can enter marriage in the Catholic Church, it must be determined that he or she is free to marry and free in marrying. 

• The priest or another pastoral minister will interview each party separately, completing a document that the party and minister will sign, to ensure that each party is

— (1) free to marry (i.e., each party has never been in a marriage before—whether Catholic, religious, or civil—or, if married before, that the proper ecclesiastical process has been completed), and

— (2) free in marrying (i.e., each party has the minimum capacity and correct understanding and intention to marry).

• Catholics and other Christians will be asked to submit recent original copies of their baptism certificates (with notations).

• Also, a witness for each party (e.g., a family member or close friend) will be interviewed to testify that the party is free to marry and free in marrying.

• Finally, and if needed, a petition for any dispensations and/or permissions will be completed and sent to the diocesan chancery.

4. Preparation for the Liturgical Celebration of Marriage

In the weeks prior to the marriage, the priest or deacon assisting at the wedding will meet with the parties to prepare the liturgical celebration. The Cathedral music director and a wedding coordinator will also contact you concerning details about music, the rehearsal, and the wedding. Additional, general information about the Order of Celebrating Matrimony is available at

5. Celebration of Marriage

Enjoy your wedding day, rejoicing in the Lord with your family and friends.

Learn more about catechesis for marriage on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website: For Your Marriage or, in en Español Por Tu Matrimonio.

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Christ himself elevated the natural institution of marriage to the dignity of a sacrament during his public ministry.

He worked his first miracle at a wedding (John 3:1-11) and he taught that marriage in the New Covenant is permanent and holy (Matthew 19:3-9).  The apostles taught on the beauty and significance of marriage throughout the New Testament (1 Peter 3:1-12).  St. Paul even taught (Ephesians 5:21-33) on the mystery of the relationship between the members of the Church and Christ the bridegroom as analogous to the relationship between husband and wife in the sacrament of Marriage.

Christian Marriage is a sacrament that orders the husband and wife to serve one another.  This service is based on the Christian virtue of charity and is done in a spirit of care and concern for the good of the spouse and child(ren) following the example of Christ.  If this sacrament provides grace for salvation to the individual, it is only as a secondary fruit.  The principle effect of the grace of the sacrament serves to strengthen the couple’s unity and deepen their love and affection so that their loving service assist them in growing closer to God.  The ultimate goal of marriage is the same as Christian life; to respond to God’s grace and be happy with Him in heaven forever.

Made to love… made for family

God is the source of love and so his role in the family is irreplaceable. In fact, “man would not exist were he not created by God’s love and constantly preserved by it.” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 19)  What is a family? More importantly what is the Christian family? It is the loving union of one man and one woman with the purpose of the procreation and upbringing of children. In the Christian view marriage is a sacrament, instituted by Christ.

The family that prays together, stays together.”

Because of this truth, “parents have the specific responsibility of educating their children in prayer, introducing them to gradual discovery of the mystery of God and to personal dialogue with Him” (Familiaris Consortio, 60). Parents should also “eagerly carry out their duties of education, especially religious education, which is primarily entrusted to them” (Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church, 48). And because, “there is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion” familial religious formation must focus on “family communion [which] can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation” (Familiaris Consortio, 21).

Common Questions

When Jesus elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament he was building upon the existing natural reality that man and woman were made for union with one another in marriage. God made them male and female and from the beginning the institution of marriage has been for the benefit of the spouses and the loving care of their children. It is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of life and love that is open to children and is the most basic unit of human society.

Because marriage is a vocation that involves both the help of grace from God and the cooperation of the spouses with one another, the Church has required various amounts of preparation for the engaged to help them be well equipped for their new life together. Marriage preparation takes many different forms throughout the world because the needs of couples are different according to culture and circumstances. Once entered, marriage is a permanent state of life which requires sacrifice and commitment. For this reason the Church seeks to help the engaged not only learn useful skills and grow in their relationship with one another and with God, she also assists them in making a good decision to marry so that they can be ready to say "I do" and commit to living out the full expression of married love. Couples who make the most of the time of their engagement find themselves more ready for the challenges that lie ahead for them in the exciting adventure of marriage and family life.

It is perhaps best to let this answer come directly from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 349:
"The Church, since she is faithful to her Lord, cannot recognize the union of people who are civilly divorced and remarried. 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery' (Mark 10:11-12). The Church manifests an attentive solicitude toward such people and encourages them to a life of faith, prayer, works of charity and the Christian education of their children. However, they cannot receive sacramental absolution, take Holy Communion, or exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities as long as their situation, which objectively contravenes God's law, persists."

Pope Francis: Marriage Preparation is Important

Marriage is too important to rush

Recommended Books

Why Have a Catholic Wedding?

Sacraments 101: Matrimony (why make it Catholic)

Saying "I do": What Happens at a Catholic Wedding?

Saying I Do: What Happens at a Catholic Wedding