What is Marriage Encounter?
Marriage Encounter is a weekend program dedicated to helping couples in good marriages that want to make them even better.
Marriage Encounter Weekends are presented by three peer couples and a presiding Roman Catholic priest. The primary Marriage Encounter organization ( Worldwide Marriage Encounter ) is specifically Roman Catholic, although married couples of any denomination are accepted. Worldwide Marriage Encounter has also allowed various groups of other faith tradition to use the name and program format for their own denominations, including Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Menonite. However the overwhelming majority of Marriage Encounter weekends are Roman Catholic.
There is another organization called “National Marriage Encounter,” which is the original Marriage Encounter before there was a split in the 1970’s, but it holds very few programs.
What Happens on a Marriage Encounter Weekend?
The weekend usually starts on a Friday evening. Attending couples are given a presentation by one of the presenting couples and the priest. After the presentation, couples are given a question to answer in private. The husband and the wife separate in order to write their reflections on the question, then join together in their room to privately dialogue on what each wrote.
Once done, couples are called back to the presentation room, where another of the couples will present on a new topic with the priest. Most of the presentations are a mixture of teaching points, and the couple’s own personal sharing on the topic they are presenting. At the end of each presentation, another question is given to the couples for private reflection by writing on the topic using a format the team will teach. After the private reflection, the couples will dialogue on their writings in private.
This basic rotation repeats throughout the weekend, with lunch and dinner in between. The presentations slowly build to more serious and profound topics as the weekend progresses, and address topics such as communication, trust, God’s role in marriage, and much more. Marriage Encounter Weekends typically end with couples renewing their vows.
What is the difference between the various Marriage Encounter Programs and Retrouvaille?
The various Marriage Encounter programs are largely identical with the exception of the religious denominational point of view. So, for example, a Lutheran Marriage Encounter program would not have a Roman Catholic priest presenting, or a Roman Catholic perspective on marriage.
Retrouvaille, like the other Marriage Encounter organizations, is also based on the Marriage Encounter format and programming, and is largely similar. The key difference is that while Marriage Encounter’s goal is to make a good marriage better, Retrouvaille specifically focuses on marriages experiencing extremely difficult struggles, and often separation and divorce. It is focused on “saving” a marriage. The content is mostly the same as Marriage Encounter, but it speaks from a different perspective, and focuses more on troubles, forgiveness, and a presumption that the attending couples are in marital crisis. Additionally, Retrouvaille has a 3 month follow-up program that follows the weekend.
What is the Cost of Attending the Marriage Encounter Program?
Marriage Encounter programs are all held by volunteer couples, but there is a significant cost associated with keeping the program going. Most Marriage Encounter communities are semi-independent groups that charge a registration fee for each couple that attends. The amount of the registration fee can vary. Invariably, this is considered your deposit, and on Sunday there will be a request for couples to make a significant donation. This donation request may be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the community where a couple attends, and the number participating couples. The intention of the donations plus the registration fee is to cover the cost of the program, in addition to operational costs of the local community and worldwide ministry. None of the people serving in the program are paid for their services.
Why is there so little information about the Marriage Encounter Program's Schedule?
There is a belief within Marriage Encounter that once you arrive on Friday night, that it is best to have no expectations, and to give yourself fully to the program. In addition, couples are asked not to have communication with the outside world, watch TV, or use their mobile devices. This is all done to help the couple focus as much as possible on one another with no distractions of timekeeping or outside influences.