Being Catholic, one of the first steps of getting married in the Catholic Church is meeting with the priest and discussing our plans of our sacrament of marriage and going through a bit of what I would call 'pre-marrital counseling'. We then had to sign up for an 'engagement encounter' course or retreat - we decided to go with the retreat.
After having to reschedule the date several times, we were 'finally' able to make it - this past weekend! Tanner and I went into this EE weekend with low expectations - we always 'think' we've got everything down pat - but we hadn't any idea of how in depth and personal this retreat actually was going to be. I would highly recommend it - even if you aren't Catholic (I promise it isn't a recruitment retreat)!
We started the weekend out after work, grabbed a quick bite to eat at Subway and went to the Marywood Pastoral & Retreat Center in Orange, CA. The campus is set on a hill, overlooking the city lights and streets. Our Engagement Encounter started out with introductions from our guide Father Joe, a couple Lori and Keenan, and another couple Roxanne and Dennis. You can tell that these couples are so in love (both married over 20-25 years). We were given workbooks (that only our fiancé's were allowed to see) - our whole weekend was mainly based around these books (notes, questionnaires, worksheets, blank sheets, etc.).
We discussed everything from love, marriage, family, finances, faith and stewardship. Although you don't have to be Catholic to go through the EE retreat (there were many fiancé's that weren't Catholic) - we still went to Mass both mornings. Each early morning Tanner and I would wake up earlier to go for walks and runs around the campus, we couldn't really leave because the gated were locked from 11 p.m - 7 a.m. Mass on Saturday started at 7:3o a.m. and class began at 8 a.m. so I did see quite a bit of people leave early to grab Starbucks or Coffee Bean in the a.m. (although the gates would not let you back in until 7 a.m. you can leave whenever you wanted).
The majority of the weekend consisted of each couple writing down feelings and views on certain aspects of marriage and life after marriage. We then came together with our fiancés and read each other's answers and discussed what we had written. Although I totally understand how this can be really effective for some couples, most of the topics Tanner and I have already discussed. It was however - very refreshing to spend a whole weekend discussing these details of our lives and how we plan to unite and become one. It's definitely a different approach then just learning about each other through dating for almost 5 years.
When we came into this weekend, I was expecting to make new friends, share stories and feelings with these other couples, but honestly - it was more about spending the whole weekend with each other, loving each other, appreciating each other. I wouldn't trade this weekend for anything. Aside from writing vows for each other, my favorite moment was near the end of Saturday night (over candle lights) - we did a hand ceremony and it made almost everybody in the room 'teary eyed', how could it not. It was like the first glimpse to our Sacrament of marriage. If you've never seen or done the hand ceremony: (I hope you can appreciate this as much as we did)