I do know the difference between real life and fiction, especially romance novels, but I have a question for my non-Catholic readers: What is required to get married in your church? The reason I ask is that I've read a few Christian romance novels where the couple ends up at the altar just weeks after meeting each other, or just days after seeing the minister for the first time. If you look at my review below of Holiday Blessings, you'll note that I didn't care for Debbie Macomber's story. Since I've already told you it is a romance novel, I'm sure tellling you that the two main characters get together in the end, isn't a a spoiler. The main characters meet which the literally bump into each other. They have coffee, talk, and end up seeing a lot of each other for about a week, at which time he proposes. He wants her to leave her friends, family and school and move to Alaska with him. He said God told him it was time to get married and showed him that she was to be his bride. Quite sensibly, in my opinion, she says no, and suggests they get to know each other better. They write for a while, he visits once more (and almost tries to bed her to win her but his conscience gets the best of him) and, when she refuses to return with him, calls it quits. After being miserable for some time she decides to quit school and move to Alaska, but when she gets there he won't have anything to do with her. She gets a job helping the doctor, and ends up nursing him through a nasty infection. At that time she learns he is engaged. Not long thereafter everything works out and they are married.
As I said, I know this is a junky romance novel and not real life, however, I also know that if that couple had showed up at a Catholic rectory just about anywhere in the country, their wedding would have been scheduled no sooner than six months from that date. I've also read other Christian romances that get the people to the altar in an awful hurry. While I don't think there is anything magical about a six month engagement, rather than 5 or 7 or 3, I find it surprising that ministers would officiate at the marriage of people who haven't known each other very long. On the other hand, my parents told me that at the time they got married (late '50s), the Catholic church considered engagement to be a "near occassion of sin", meaning something that wasn't sinful in and of itself, but which put you in a position where sin is likely--kind of like Baskin Robbins doesn't make you fat--but going in there makes you want to eat ice cream, which is fattening. Because of that, at that time, long engagements were discouraged. It was felt that the couple had made their decision, and that every day the temptation to engage in premarital sex would grow stronger.
So, non-Catholics, what does your church require for marriage?