The Engaged Encounter Weekend includes a series of presentations led by a team of married couples and a priest, who encourage each couple to talk privately about their upcoming marriage from the point of view of their own relationship. Personal reflection and couple discussion help reveal attitudes that can impact the marriage. The motto of Engaged Encounter, "A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime," highlights the importance of serious preparation for a lifetime as a married couple who will positively affect their own family and the world around them.
A friend of ours who gave Engaged Encounter Weekends, told us that the teams often judged that it was a successful Weekend if at least one of the couples making the Weekend broke off their engagement as a result of discovering that they weren't really compatible when they started talking about serious issues. It is far better to discover this when you are engaged than to have this dawn upon you once you are married.
This is much better immediate preparation than what my husband and I experienced. We met with my pastor and filled out some forms (which were in Latin) and possibly discussed marriage, but it left very little impression on me if we did. I'm sure we chose the Readings for the Mass for our wedding day, although when the priest whom we'd flown up from my college arrived, he asked if we could change the Gospel Reading to Matthew 7:24-27, about the two foundations. Since he was Hungarian, I still remember how in his homily he rolled his "r's" as he emphasized that our marriage would be built solidly on the rock of the Church, and so it was.
But we also had had five years where we had gotten to know each other, from the time I was 17 and he was 16 until we were married at 22, and we had three years of writing love letters to each other while we were away at college, half a country apart, when we discussed all that we were thinking and experiencing as we were becoming adults. I wrote a paper on the marriage feast in Dostoevsky's four major novels when I was taking Russian Literature, and the professor told me I could probably have it published, though I never pursued it. In addition, we saw some of the things we didn't want in our marriage as his parents were going through a separation, and we had the good example of my parents, who were married over 50 years before they died.
We were an unusual couple but I'm sure we would have benefited from an Engaged Encounter Weekend if they had existed then. These Weekends take good engaged relationships and bring them to the next level, even when couples are convinced (as most are) that no one could be more deeply in love than they are! They also point out that the couple is not getting married in a vacuum, but in a community and world that needs the witness of their faithful and passionate married love.