What is Formation for Engaged Couples?

There are attacks on marriage in our culture, and because of that it is necessary to nurture the bond of new couples planning for marriage. This support is one of the most important ministries of the Catholic Church because families are the fundamental and vital building block of society. When he founded the St. Philip Institute, Bishop Strickland called on the Diocese of Tyler to “radically commit” itself to marriage formation. It begins not just with engaged couples, but also mentor couples, parish leaders, and pastors.

I will charge the Director of Family Life to support the pastors with an organized, reliable network for preparation of engaged couples. We will work to develop this system until it provides the very best support for the pastors, sponsor couples, and engaged couples in the Diocese. —Bishop Joseph Strickland, Constitution on Teaching, 23

The St. Philip Institute is dedicated to providing the support to form new couples for marriage, to teach them practical tools for strengthening their relationship and to instruct them in navigating the life of faith in marriage for a lifetime. We have developed the Three to Get Married retreat specifically for engaged couples along with a formation plan leading up to and beyond the wedding day.

What Materials Do We Use?

The St. Philip Institute developed the Three to Get Married marriage formation retreat weekends just for engaged couples. These retreats are an opportunity for couples to learn how to put Christ at the center of their marriages as they prepare for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The retreat covers important topics such as communication and family of origin, and the couples who attend will spend time with the treasures of our Catholic faith, such as praying together, celebrating the sacraments of Confession, and the Holy Eucharist. This is an important part of the marriage formation process, and we look forward to working with new couples!

The Diocese of Tyler also works in collaboration with Ryan and Mary Rose Verrett and their wonderful Witness to Love program for engaged couples. This program asks the engaged couple to select a mentor couple to accompany them in formation. Mentor couples are invited and encouraged to attend our Three to Get Married retreat with their engaged couples when possible.

Bishop Strickland has asked couples to take at least an introductory course in natural family planning (NFP). The St. Philip Institute actively works with several organizations to bring the best instruction to the diocese, and we support a network of experts throughout the deaneries and on our staff. We maintain NFP information on our website.

Additionally, engaged couples are asked to complete a couple assessment so they better understand each other. These assessments are done through either Prepare Enrich or FOCCUS.

And last, but most importantly, we ask couples to be sure to meet with their pastors, so they can form and nurture a relationship of spiritual guidance beyond the wedding.

Pastors, catechists, and others who have questions about family life formation should contact the Director of Family Life, Deanna Johnston.

What People are Saying


​“The new marriage formation program has made an incredible difference for our couples at the Cathedral. We reach the couple exactly where they are at, as individuals, and catechize not only the engaged but the mentors as well. I have watched, again and again, realization, trust, and conversion. It truly meets the needs of today’s engaged couples!”

—Jodi Todd, Marriage Formation Coordinator, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

“This program has brought us closer to our faith and we have started attending Church every Sunday and praying together.”

—Luke & Katy, Engaged Couple

“Marriage has, in a sense, been something I feared simply because I know how sacred and important it really is. And unfortunately in today’s society there are many temptations; and one can easily get pulled down a negative path. However, because of the Three to Get Married formation program, we have a better idea and understanding of how together, as a couple, and together with Christ, any and all marital obstacles can be overcome.”

—Crystal and Christian, Engaged Couple

“The Three to Get Married retreat has been a transformative moment in the history of our diocese. I have seen couples with a sincere heart and well-formed conscience come to the altar countless times with a deep and profound recognition that they are embarking on the greatest service of their life. I cannot recommend this process highly enough!”

—Fr. Justin Braun, Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish (Texarkana)

Timeline for Engaged Couples

Congratulations! Now what?

You will work with your pastor and parish staff to complete preparation for your marriage. Please return to our website or call our office for guidance on your formation process. Your pastor has final approval of your readiness for the sacrament of Matrimony.

Call Your Parish (9-12 months before the wedding)

Call as soon as you get engaged! A member of the parish staff will schedule a meeting with you to discuss your wedding preparations as soon as possible.

Schedule an Initial Meeting (9 months before wedding)

At this meeting with either the pastor or parish staff, you’ll learn about the formation process for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the necessary paperwork for your marriage. You will also set your tentative wedding date.

Complete the Couple Assessment (7-8 months before wedding)

The Prepare Enrich or FOCCUS couple assessment provides you with a personalized profile of your relationship. Your parish will set this up for you, and upon completion, the parish pastor or staff will help you schedule the follow-up session to review your results.

Begin the Witness to Love Program (7-8 months before wedding)

You will be asked to choose your own mentor couple who will accompany you during your formation and throughout your first years of marriage using the Witness to Love model. You will have several meetings with them leading up to your wedding, and they will continue to be a support to you in the years to come! You will also meet with your pastor as part of this program.

Attend a Three to Get Married Retreat (6-7 months before wedding)

The Three to Get Married retreat weekend will be an opportunity for you to grow closer to Jesus Christ and to one another. Here you will build on the topics you have discussed with your pastor and mentor couple, with a special focus on the theology of Catholic marriage and other teachings of our Catholic faith.

Take a Natural Family Planning Course (5-6 months before the wedding)

NFP (fertility awareness) respects the love-giving and life-giving purposes of marriage and enriches the bond between husband and wife. This course gives couples a natural approach to understanding the cycles of fertility and infertility. Course listings may be found here on our NFP Resources webpage.

Schedule Your Final Meeting (2 months before the wedding)

This meeting will review your previous preparation, complete all your paperwork, and plan your wedding liturgy. You’re getting close to celebrating this beautiful sacrament!

Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (1 week before the wedding)

Catholics preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony are encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Reconciliation and the Eucharist are invaluable sources of grace and healing. Celebrate this sacrament with your spouse-to-be!