Several times recently I've had friends bring up the marriage preparation program, course or seminar they went through prior to their wedding, and in each case they mentioned how much they learned and what a great benefit it was to them as a young couple. In response, I told them that I really didn't even remember mine, other than the two brief meetings we had with the priest, and that I got almost nothing from it. Each time the people I was talking with argued with me and said that couldn't be the case because theirs had been so in-depth and helpful.
These were all Catholics I was talking with, so each one told me about how they covered NFP, the role faith would play in their marriage and various other topics. I told them that I knew we never covered NFP, that the closest we came to it was the brief, not quite correct sex talk the priest gave us (ABC's okay, anything goes within the bounds of marriage, etc.), and that they really didn't go over other things I thought they should like how active we'd be in our faith, how we'd raise our kids, how many we thought we'd have, and other basics like finances, etc. Each time I brought this up they told me I was nuts and that I just didn't remember it.
It's true that I don't remember the actual seminar, but I was certain that we didn't really go over any of these things. As luck would have it, I've been doing a bit of spring cleaning the past couple days and I stumbled across our book & folder from our marriage preparation class. On one hand, I'm glad that it reinforces what I've been telling everyone recently. On the other hand, I'm pretty disappointed that it reinforces what I've been telling everyone recently.
Looking it over, I saw that I took notes on the syllabus/schedule as we went. It was scheduled for 7 hours with 2 hours of breaks, but a couple of the topics were canceled due to the speakers not showing up (including the NFP one), so it was cut down by two hours (although still had 2 hours of breaks). The opening prayer service & introduction (What is Marriage?) was 45 minutes, while the individual topics were no more than 20-30 minutes. According to the sheet I have, there were five other couples so I'm sure that 20 minutes each for raising a family, Christian finances and sex & marriage (as listed on the sheet) didn't leave a lot of time for questions & answers. There were two 30 minute blocks devoted to domestic abuse and how to get out of a violent marriage (not to mention 5 pamphlets on the topic), so I guess they thought the twelve of us were a pretty rough bunch. Looking through our workbook, most of the worksheets were left blank while several others were crossed out. They still took our check and gave us a completion certificate at the end, though, and the priest didn't complain about how little we'd actually learned, so I guess they all thought it was okay.
Looking back on it, I think it would have been something really neat to look back on if we'd actually gotten anything out of it. I also think it would have been helpful to have had some of those conversations alluded to in the workbook before we were married instead of years later, as it ended up happening. It almost makes me want to call the church and ask if I can get my $45 back all these years later. I've talked to our current priest about it, and I know he spends a good deal of time with couples before he'll marry them. I'm just wondering if what we went through was unique, or if anyone else has had a similar experience.