My husband and I did a session earlier this year. Our New England (central CT) diocese offered a 4 hour seminar or the EE weekend. We chose the shorter option due to time constraints, and it was horrible. A deacon came for the first couple hours, and his contribution on the spiritual aspect was good, but very short. He left early for a funeral and our instructors let us out about an hour before the end of the session. We wrote letters to each other did a couple dinky exercises with no context or time to digest our answers. And the NFP bit was horrible. “It works, try it out” was the gist of it. Definitely wrote a lengthy evaluation and am considering writing a letter to our archbishop. how they can require up to 2 years and a mini-retreat for First Communion (seriously, not my diocese but elsewhere) and an iota of that for the rest of people’s lives, I just don’t know.
We could have met with our parochial vicar for multiple sessions and worked with a more catechetical approach, but given our backgrounds, DH and I opted out of “review”. (I got to look at it while DH was finishing his FOCCUS test.)
Congratulations on your engagement! God’s blessings to you! If you like, there’s a Catholic Bride group on Facebook (Gettin Hitched Catholic Style or somesuch) that’s got some great tips and community.
My new husband and I found reading to each other and discussing chapters to be useful. We liked Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage by the Popcaks and The Sinner’s Guide to NFP by Simcha FIsher. We’re still working on Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen. We also have a quiz book (while engaged, some were not appropriate), that goes from the silly/interesting (who from around the world/history would you invite to a dinner party) to in-depth: how would you respond/feel if [insert situation here] happened, dealing with family, etc. Communication with your beloved is what’s key.
And, though I am probably biased because I was involved in the publication of it, the Transformed in Love program developed by the Archdiocese of Boston (and adopted elsewhere) has good, authentic content. Unfortunately, most programs have to be designed to be approachable to a wide, not necessarily “up on their faith” audience. And if some of it depends on the couples running it/giving talks and participation of other couples, it will be hard to get the level you desire. Bottom line: don’t rely on the program. Rely on each other and work with your priest.