Marriage Preparation Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Marriage considered a sacrament?

A Sacrament is a visible sign, instituted by Christ, to "give grace"; they are "helps" for practicing Catholics. At least one party in the marriage must be a practicing Catholic and ordinarily a registered member of St. Joan of Arc Parish, or a registered member of another parish. Celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage is primarily, then, a
religious event as opposed to principally a social occasion.

What is the Bishop's Program of Preparation?

At least nine months advance notice of the desire date of the wedding is mandated by the Bishop of Phoenix.

Components of the program of preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage include, but may not be limited to:

  • FOCCUS Pre-Marital Inventory
  • Complete course in Natural Family Planning
  • Either "Evenings for the Engaged" or "Engaged Encounter Weekend"
  • God's Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage

It is presumed, of course, that the couple, particularly the Catholic party is attending Mass regularly, and that the celebration of Marriage will be preceded by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession).

What are the necessary documents I need?

Recently-issued Certificate of Baptism with notations (within last 6 months)
Prenuptial Inquiry
Affidavit of Free Status ("freedom to marry")
Arizona Marriage License at rehearsal (traditional or covenant)

Where does the Church stand on cohabitation before marriage?

Christ calls His followers to a life of Gospel values that runs radically counterculturally to the times in which we live. This means keeping His commandments and the teachings of His Church. Couples living together before marriage should be aware that this is contrary to Holy Scripture and not in accord with Catholic teaching and practice.

Such couples must complete the preparatory program and attend Mass regularly on Sundays and Holy Days. The couple should refrain from receiving Holy Communion during this period and, of course, should make a thorough confession prior to the wedding. A priest or deacon may provide further clarification.

Setting date and time for my wedding

Ordinarily, the date of the wedding will be set following the review of the FOCCUS Pre-Marital Inventory. Weddings are celebrated on available Saturdays, normally at either 11:00am or 2:00pm or Friday afternoon between 2:00pm and 4:00pm. Ordinarily a maximum of one hour can be set aside for pictures and decorating at St. Joan of Arc before any wedding. This will depend on the day you have chosen for your wedding and the master calendar of St. Joan of Arc.

Ordinarily the church's bridal room may be entered a maximum of 1 1/2 hour before any wedding. This will depend on the day you have chosen for your wedding and the master calendar of the St. Joan of Arc. It is absolutely imperative that all individuals connected with the Rite of Marriage arrive at least 60 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the liturgy. This includes the bridal party parents, readers, etc. Ordinarily weddings are not celebrated during Advent, Lent, and Holy Week due to the penitential character of these seasons in the Catholic Church. Only in extraordinary cases may weddings be scheduled during Advent or Lent. The public celebration of the sacraments in Lent should be characterized by a certain restraint.

Those who seek to be married during Lent should be advised to take account of the penitential season and thus accept a limitation of outward signs of solemnity and festivity.

In practice this means that, whenever possible, marriages during Lent should be discouraged. At Lenten celebration ofmarriage, flowers could be used inmoderation, but removed after the celebration.

Wedding Rehearsals

Rehearsals may be scheduled usually for the night before the wedding according to church availability. Regular parish liturgy and devotional activities as well as parish staff schedule require that rehearsals begin promptly at the scheduled time. This is also a simple courtesy to all involved. Tardiness will result in an inadequate rehearsal or cancellation of the rehearsal altogether. Couples are cautioned to instruct the wedding party of proper church behavior and decorum.

Normally the wedding coordinator or sacristan will conduct rehearsals in church. All of the people who will be in the wedding such as lectors, groomsmen, bridesmaids etc. must be at the rehearsal. Lectors must be confirmed Catholics according to diocesan policy. If the lectors or any members of the wedding party are not present at the rehearsal they will forfeit their role in the wedding party.

Typically musicians do not attend the wedding rehearsal. If it is necessary, due to the complexity of the music, an additional stipend will be negotiated.

Flowers and Decorations

Floral arrangements must be simple and tasteful. No existing church decorations, flowers or furnishings may ever be moved. Bows for the pews may be used only if they are on a rubber band or plastic "pew clip." The use of adhesive tape or tacks or wires is not permitted.

We do not allow a runner down center or sides of the church or any sort of arch in the front or interior door way. All decorations and or silk flowers should be picked up immediately after the final procession.


During the celebration of Marriage, stationary video equipment may be set up at the rear of the church or in the loft, and off to the side of the sanctuary.

Under no circumstances is any photography or video technician permitted in the sanctuary, nor are roving cameras permitted during the celebration of Marriage.

Flash photography is permitted only during the processional and recessional.

Ordinarily, 45 minutes are permitted following the wedding celebration for photography. After the 45 minutes are up everyone should begin leaving the church, as we have other events planned in the calendar and or cleaning that needs to take place.


A wedding is an act of worship of Almighty God and the celebration of a sacrament of the Church. Remember, a wedding is primarily a religious event. Consequently, music must always be religious in nature as well as in good taste. Purely secular music, such as heard on the radio or in popular which would not be proper for Sunday Mass, is no more proper because it is a wedding. Proper use of music in a wedding is to support what is happening liturgically. This includes the times before, during and after the wedding. CDs, recorded music (Instrumental or otherwise), videos, and or slide shows are at no time appropriate in the church. These are much better suited to receptions or rehearsal dinners. This would include before, during or after the Rite of Marriage.

The Music Director will assist you in selection of appropriate liturgical music. All arrangements for music must be approved by Music Director. We are unable to accommodate musicians other than those utilized by the parish, except with the approval of the Director of Music. Parish musician bench fee will still apply.

Is an elaborate send-off (rice, birds, etc) permitted?

The throwing or releasing of anything, such as; rice, confetti, birdseed, flower petals, doves, et cetera, is not at all permitted. This not only creates difficulty for maintenance and clean-up, but is potentially dangerous. Couples are cautioned to inform those attending the wedding that this is not allowed anywhere on the church grounds.

Mariachis are not permitted at St. Joan of Arc weddings and are best reserved for the reception.

Is the lighting of the Unity Candle part of a Catholic wedding ceremony?

Although there is accommodation of some cultural customs (Lasso, coins, etc.) the "Unity Candle" is not permitted during any ceremony. We recommend this practice for the reception. The unity candle is not part of the rite of marriage in the Catholic Church and never has been. Your unity is shown publicly in the sacrament on your wedding day.

Am I limited in the size of my bridal party?

Please keep in mind that a wedding is a public act of worship and not a pageant, wedding parties (bridal attendants) should not be so excessive as to unnecessarily lengthen the procession. Ordinarily there should be no more than six couples.

Can deliveries be made to the church?

The parish is not responsible for anything that you have delivered to the church (flowers, decorations, etc.).

Deliveries to the church should not be made more than one hour before the ceremony.

We will not sign for any deliveries; you must have someone here. You are also responsible for clean up and removal.

Is there a dress code for guests?

Please remember that the church is a sacred place.

If the gowns you choose for yourself and your bridal party are sleeveless or have only spaghetti straps, then a shawl must be used to cover the shoulders. Modesty, par ticularly when it comes to cleavage, is virtue to be observed.

All wedding party attire must be approved by the coordinator.

Important addresses for the invitations

If your wedding will be celebrated in the Church:
Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church
3801 East Greenway Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85032

If your wedding is in the Chapel:
Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church
St. Katherine Drexel Chapel
3801 East Greenway Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85032

If you have reserved Weidner Hall for you reception:
Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church
Weidner Hall
3801 East Greenway Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85032