Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Big Fat Catholic Wedding: Part V - Engaged Encounter

I had some Catholic wedding post drafts saved, so I figured I'd finish up the "My Big Fat Catholic Wedding" series as well while I'm waiting on pro photos from the wedding.

One of our marriage prep requirements with the Church was to attend a retreat called "Engaged Encounter." We went to a retreat center in Houston from Friday at 6:00 until Sunday at noon, and we spent the weekend with 25 other engaged couples. Some of the couples weren't actually Catholic... apparently some Protestant churches recommend that their couples go on this retreat as well.

The retreat was structured differently from any other retreat I've ever been on. First of all, the host couples encouraged us to really focus on our fiances, and spend quality time just the two of us. There were no ice breakers, no silly retreat games, and virtually no efforts to make us befriend the other couples. The activities were all done in couples, and we even ate our meals in pairs... just the two of us.

Our retreat had three married host couples (married 45 years, 15 years, and 7 years) and one priest. The basic structure of the retreat was this:

1. Listen to one of the host couples and the priest discuss a certain topic.
2. Separate from your fiance and answer questions about the same topic in your workbook.
3. Get back together with your fiance and read and discuss each others' answers.
4. Repeat.

One of the couples and the priest giving a talk

Sitting in the conference room (we look sleepy because it was Sunday and they made us stay up late and get up early every day!!)

Here are our workbooks:

Each talk had a topic, like this:

I may have been tired of sitting still and doodled all over my page.

Each topic had a set of questions to answer:

Then there was space to answer the questions in:

We always had time to write our answers separately, and then we got together again to read each other's and discuss them. It was a great opportunity to really be honest and share everything. Even though many of the questions were things we've already discussed multiple times, it was still nice to spend a weekend totally focused on our relationship. It was really confirming to read each other's answers and talk about them. By the time we left on Sunday, we just felt so ready to be married, and so incredibly sure that God really created us for each other. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to take a break from wedding planning and spend three days thinking about what really matters - our relationship. 

In addition to the talks and questions, we also had Mass on Saturday and Sunday, and we spent some time on Saturday night praying for our relationship, and writing a prayer for our marriage. At the end, we received two certificates:

One looked like this, and we had to show it to the Church to prove we completed the course.

The other certificate was for Twogether in Texas, a program that offers discounted marriage licenses to couples who do at least 8 hours of coursework in marriage preparation. We took our certificate to get our marriage license, and we were able to purchase it for $11 instead of $71!

All in all, we thought Engaged Encounter was a wonderful program, and we were so glad we went. Aside from everything else, it gave us the chance to spend quality one-on-one time with each other for 2 1/2 whole days, which was really great. I would definitely recommend the program to anyone... you won't regret going!

For more information on Engaged Encounter, visit

Previously in this series:
Part I - The Process
Part II - The FOCCUS test


  1. Hey thanks for sharing your experience! We have been helping with the ministry for a few years now and glad to hear when couples really get some growth out of their weekend.

    Tim and Jeannene

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