At this initial session between the couple and you it is important to begin by offering some form of hospitality (beverage, snack, etc.) followed by a prayer for the couple. Explore the couple’s motives for marriage, by asking about their relationship up to this point (link to suggested conversational questions). Establish an atmosphere of trust by taking time to listen to the couple and be sure to ask about their understanding of marriage.
Take the appropriate time to catechize any deficiencies in the couple’s understanding of marriage, especially focusing on these topics:
Marriage in God’s Plan from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
In Perfect Union from the Wis. Bishops is a great resource for all involved. Here is a page with a few quotes and some discussion questions for couples.
Note that it is important to recognize the good the couple has shared in their story, and emphasize the greater good God has in store for them in His story with them.
Ascertain if either the man or woman has been married before, civil or ecclesial. If either has, inform them that they have to participate in the Annulment process (link to tribunal). It is recommended that the bride and groom complete the required canonical forms during this initial session in order to surface any canonical impediment that would prevent setting a wedding date:
Form M-A: Prenuptial Questionnaire
Form M-B: Prenuptial Supporting Witness
The initial session is also an appropriate time to go over parish marriage registration guidelines and, if no impediments exist, schedule the wedding date.
Conclude the session by informing the couple what’s in store for the rest of the marriage preparation process:
Married Love, Two Becoming One Retreat
Thank the couple for their time and say a prayer of blessing over the couple in their preparation.