Post # 1
My FI and I just met with our priest for the first time, and he explained that in our area, we have the choice of doing Pre-Cana (over 1 day or 2 days) OR doing Engagement Encounter, which is a weekend retreat. He encouraged us to consider the Engagement Encounter and mentioned that it can be a very intense, emotional experience. I definitely want to do whatever we can to best prepare ourselves for marriage; however, Engagement Encounter is also a LOT more expensive than regular Pre-Cana (more than $300) because it’s a weekend-long retreat (not to mention the hassle of finding a pet-sitter, traveling a couple towns away for it, etc). In theory I’m totally willing to spend the extra $$ — after all, why spend a ton on flowers and music but not on preparing for the actual marriage — but I’m just not sure if it’s really that different of an experience from pre-Cana and if it’s really worth it. Has anyone been to an Engagement Encounter, and if so, did you feel like you got a lot out of it? Any recommendations for one program over the other?
Post # 3
I’d pray about it and look over your budget a bit and see what couples in the area are saying about it. I think every pre-cana class and engaged encounter is slightly different.
That said, my parents went through engagement encounter 29 years ago and highly praise it.
Post # 4
i guess it all depends on how important it is to you. my FI and I just wanted to get the pre-cana over with. we felt that we understood each other very well and our faith so we thought a retreat would be over the top for us. also, our work schedules don’t really allow us a free weekend to go on a retreat. i thought that the pre cana itself was a good event.
keep in mind that these events are made for you to discuss serious issues. so if you are comfortable discussing sharing your issues or concerns with strangers, then you might love the retreat. i however, don’t like to share too much info about relationship issues or know about other people’s problems, so the pre cana just gets the conversations going and opens up the discussions so that you can talk about it more in private afterwards.
Post # 5
My best friend is at the Engaged Encounter right now (in NC) and I’m anxiously awaiting her review. We’re having a Catholic wedding next spring and will be going the same route. I’ll be sure to post- or have her post- thoughts about the weekend!
Post # 6
We did a weekend retreat (Three to Get Married, which is similar to Engaged Encounter) and found it very valuable. I disagree with jcandy though that at a retreat you will be discussing all your dirty laundry with strangers, although I suppose it’s possible. At our retreat program there were many short presentations on various topics followed by time to discuss with your partner in private. There were maybe 2 group discussions and I don’t even remember what they were about….whereas the private discussions were very memorable and helpful. Everything really was totally between us.
As to regular pre-cana versus engaged encounter, I think the biggest difference may be the amount of time you spend in discussion. Some of the issues are hard to talk about. Knowing there was no way to say "oh, I’ll do it later" and then never get around to it and that everyone else was discussing it too made it easier. Also, my husband has difficulty doing deep emotional discussions for long periods of time, so having the defined time frames where you had to discuss was great for both of us (whereas if we had been at home I probably would have wanted to drag on forever and he wouldn’t have wanted to start).
So you could conceivably get the same benefit from the shorter pre-cana sessions as the engaged encounter, but you would have to make the effort to put in the time for discussion on your own with the pre-cana. You’ll have to evaluate on your own whether you can do that. All I can say is that for me life has a way of getting in the way! I would also solicit reviews of this particular engaged encounter program. Ours came with rave reviews and they were right; it was great. Similarly, inquire with the program if they offer scholarships or payment plans.
All said, our pre-cana program was some of the best money we spent on the wedding/marriage. I still see some of its beneficial effects today and both of us are so grateful we did it.
Post # 7
Oh FYI on terminology to anyone not up on the lingo 🙂
Pre-Cana refers to any pre-marital preparation for the Catholic church. Generally pre-Cana consists of regular pre-marital counseling (non-religious topics like financial management, communication, etc.) as well as some topics from a Catholic perspective (such as having kids/birth control, spirituality, etc.).
Engaged Encounter and Three to Get Married are two popular retreat programs, so they are types of pre-Cana. Some churches also offer generic pre-Cana classes either with lay couples or with the priest. (The regular classes and the retreat are what you were distinguishing between, right Chrissy?)
Post # 8
@chelseamorning: yes, that’s exactly what I was distinguishing between. Thanks for all the info, it was very helpful! I think my fiance and I interact in a similar way to what you described when we discuss emotional stuff — I have a tendency to go on and on and he often wants to put it off/cut it short. So hopefully we’ll get a lot out of having that structured time to talk.
@sgarrison, definitely let me know what your friend thought, I’d love to hear some more feedback!
Post # 9
My fiance and I just attended Engaged Encounter (EE) this past weekend.
We have been together for over six years, and most of those years have been long distance. My fiance flew from New York to where I am (Orange County, CA) just for the EE weekend [we hadn’t seen each other since December and the bulk of our time was spent at the retreat]. Right before we went to the retreat, we kept asking ourselves, "Do we really have to go to this?" We came into the weekend with more than a little skepticism, but we left very happy to have had the opportunity to be part of the EE experience.
Even though we had discussed some of the topics before, what the weekend really provided was the chance to seriously focus on each other and our future life together.
The presenting couples gave real life examples of problems that had come up during their marriages, and there was a more recently married couple (< 10 years) and a longer married couple (> 40 years). We were also surrounded by couples who were all in the same place we were–about to be married and sincere in wanting to make their marriage last. The environment was just very loving and supportive all around [may sound cheesy, but it’s really not!].
I don’t want to give away too many details, but we were definitely glad that we went through the EE weekend and felt that it was more than worthwhile.
Post # 10
Our priest (who I love) is great he explained to us the Retreat as well as the Pre Cana. My FH and I both decided to do the Pre Cana and to also have some one on one time with our priest.
Have you guys done your FOCCUS?
Post # 11
We did the EE weekend and got a ton out of it! I was skeptical about the price too, but it’s totally worth it. You can read my blog post about it here.
We did our FOCCUS test and did fairly well, but just have to schedule one more visit with the Priest. Our paperwork has been submitted to the Diocese though, so hopefully we’re nearing the end of the Church requirements.
Post # 12
We did the Pre Cana sessions (2) and the second one was hugely dissapointing. I would say just jump head first and spend an entire weekend digging into this! It’s well worth the money and it won’t be looming over your head as another to-do item once the weekend is over. I would ask about who exactly is giving the sesions. One of our sessions was led by a married couple and the second was led by just a guy. It was kind of weird listening to somone talk about their committment to their marriage when the other person wasn’t there. Right? In any case, enjoy. It’s a truly unique experience.
Post # 13
Our church required us to do EE, and it was amazing! Probably the best wedding planning we’ve done yet. While neither of us was super excited before hand, we decided we would "Take it seriously but remember to laugh." That was the best possible attitude to have about it. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is religious, (which we are) because it gives a very strong message about the importance of working on your marriage. My fiance and I tend to be mostly sarcastic jokers who hash out stuff when we have to, so this was a great reminder to keep focusing on the importance of our relationship.
FYI – there was absolutely no discussing of your own issues with others, which was pretty cool. It’s all presentations, writing and sharing with your partner. And you definitely get out of it what you put in.
Definitely do it!!
Post # 14
We never really considered the Engaged Encounters retreat but we found our Pre Cana (one full Saturday plus a mass) to be very interesting and enjoyable. All of the talks were interesting and there was plenty of time to talk with eachother/group leaders/ and the other couples in your group. Maybe try and get some reviews about specific Pre Canas in your area if you are thinking the Engaged Encounter will be too inconvenient. There are plenty of well-run, highly recommended Pre Canas that will give you a similar experience to the EE retreat. Let us know what you choose and how it goes!
Post # 15
Thanks for all the feedback, ladies! It sounds like people have had good experiences with both programs, so that’s good to hear. After asking around among other couples in our area, we’ve heard some really good things about the local pre-Cana program, so I think we’re leaning in that direction at this point… also there’s only one available weekend for the EE, which isn’t really the best weekend for us to go away, and there are a lot more options for the pre-Cana. We’ll just have to make sure we set aside enough time to really talk things through afterward so that we get the full benefit out of it.
Shay, we haven’t done our FOCCUS yet but should be meeting with the priest to do that soon.
Thanks again for all your comments!