What is Pre-Cana? Pre-Cana is a catholic tradition which teaches couples how to be married. This premarital course is named after the wedding feast at Cana, in Galilee where Jesus turned water into wine. According to the Fourth Gospel, this is where Jesus performed his first public miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding feast for a bridegroom who had run out. This is significant because Jesus’ intervention to save a potential soured celebration symbolizes his blessing and acceptance of marriage and celebrations. If you’re hoping to skip this step in the process of getting married, think again. Attending a Catholic approved premarital course is a main requirement for getting married in the Catholic church.

Pre-Cana courses come in all shapes and sizes, and vary according to the parish and the diocese. The typical Pre-Cana course lasts a total of 10-12hours long, and is often broken up over a course of 2 days, a few weeknights, or even over a span of a few months. Most courses cover 6 essential aspects of marriage, giving approximately an hour and a half per topic. This format gives couples planning to wed a safe place to explore how each issue connects to their own relationship and their expectations for the future. Topics include: expectations of marriage, communication styles, sex and natural family planning, problem solving, finances, and spirituality. The encouragement for questions, couple conversations on each topic, and the presenter’s personal stories is a great combination and promotes the idea of a partnership in order to have a long and healthy marriage.

Most Pre-Cana classes include a premarital inventory, best known as FOCCUS, which couples take prior to attending the class. FOCCUS stands for Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding, and Study. The test contains approximately 189 questions focusing on lifestyle expectations, friends and interests, personality match, spirituality and values, financial issues, readiness issues, and much more. All answers to the questions ask for a choice of “Agree, “Disagree,” or “Uncertain.” Often the test is distributed to couples and scored before attending Pre-Cana. Having taken the exam and receiving the scores ahead of time help couples gain a better sense conversations to have or issues to work on while attending Pre-Cana.

Other that the tradition of attending Pre-Cana and the goal of marital preparation, there is not just one type of Pre-Cana format. Depending on where you attend the class, the facilitators may be a collection of couples, or just a Priest, or Pastoral Counselor. Some Pre-Canas emphasize the importance of couples communication allowing for many private conversations, other classes may encourage group conversations and pairings with other couples. The use of the FOCCUS test may also vary, as well as the length and frequency of classes will vary from Pre-Cana to Pre-Cana. The cost for Pre-Cana also varies according to the parish and the type of Pre-Cana (weekend overnight, weekend commuter, etc.). On average Pre-Cana costs around $150, which covers the cost of putting the course together, as well as the cost for food, drinks, and reading and testing materials.

Do your research to find out what is most accessible to you, by starting with web searching or calling local parishes or local universities that have a catholic parish.
If there is a type of Pre-Cana you would prefer, or you are concerned about what styles of premarital preparation that is offered near you, contact the iden suptified administrator or head Priest representing your potential Pre-Cana class. Ask the contact person about the details of their Pre-Cana, such as the hours of attendance, the cost, the type of learning style (group oriented vs. couples oriented), who is leading the Pre-Cana, and whatever else you have questions about. If you and your fiance are located in the Philadelphia area, it is best to start your research through the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Other recommended resources to inquire about available upcoming Pre-Cana classes: Penn Newman Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the campus ministry at St. Josephs University.

How to maximize your Pre-Cana experience