We definitely went before our wedding. It’s a great way to open yourself up to the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and start your new life together with a clean slate. Catholics have one of the lowest suicide rates of any religion and psychologists speculate it’s because we have experiences like going to confession! Usually when I don’t go it’s because I’m too scared and too proud to confess my sins out loud. Because that really requires fully admitting them to yourself!
It’s different than just thinking, “I’m sorry.” You have to face them head on, speak them and name them. Getting through that pride and fear is an important part of healing for me.
To be a Catholic in good standing, you also are required to go at least once a year (most people go at either Christmas or Easter).
The Church has NEVER charged to go to Confession. I don’t know where this stuff comes from. People are always saying things like this. I wonder who taught you this? Can they show you where in the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church this is considered appropriate?
Or in the Catechism of Trent (the Reformation-era catechism)?
Or any other Church document? If a priest charges for a sacrament (as opposed to, say, getting a stipend for opening or heating the church) then he has committed simony and he is excommunicated.
Please consult the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas. Available online, here, it is the source for most official Catholic teaching and was written in 1274. It is super long (more than 20 volumes). The relevant part is Question 100, Article 2:
“Accordingly we must answer that to receive money for the spiritual grace of the sacraments, is the sin of simony, which cannot be excused by any custom whatever, since custom does not prevail over natural or divine law. “
I think you may be getting confused with indulgences, which were also NEVER supposed to be “sold” – it started off being allowed that people could donate to a charity or a good cause as part of the indulgence to show how they wanted to change their ways, but then some scam artists took that and ran with it and tried to make it a “buy your way into heaven” deal. But that was never okay.
OP I really encourage you to educate yourself on the Church if you are interested! It’s fascinating – there is a lot of awful, hairy stuff (Borgia popes ahem) but it’s crazy to see all the urban legends that people believe about the Church that aren’t true at all. 🙂 A lot of major cities even have Theology on Tap events you can go to at bars where you can drink and hang out and learn theology. I’m so glad they invented those 🙂