A Wedding Is A Day, A Marriage Is A Lifetime®

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The Arlington CATHOLIC ENGAGED ENCOUNTER Weekend is a marriage preparation weekend retreat which offers couples the unique opportunity to focus on their relationship and on their commitment to each other in a deeper way.  The retreat weekend creates a safe space, an atmosphere for the couple to concentrate exclusively on each other, free from distractions, pressures, and interruptions. It is a weekend of beginnings, of planting seeds, and of opening doors. There is no public speaking or required group discussion. It is an investment of time to equip yourselves with the tools and skills necessary for a successful marriage, which will help prepare you for your life as husband and wife. 

WE WANT TO BE to be a positive part of your engagement! We are an energized community of volunteer couples and priests whose common bond is our passionate belief in the sacrament of marriage and family life. We provide a working weekend retreat format designed to create a focus on private couple communication. Attendees are couples of all faiths – usually planning to marry in the Catholic Church. Last year more than 20,000 couples participated in Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekends throughout the country.

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Our Community

Our local community has been serving the Northern Virginia area for over 40 years. Most of the couples that attend our weekends live in the Washington DC Metro Area, but we warmly welcome any engaged Catholic couple that needs to complete a pre-cana marriage preparation program.

Arlington CATHOLIC ENGAGED ENCOUNTER weekends take place at Bishop Ireton Catholic High School in Alexandria,VA. The weekends start on Saturday at 8:00 am and continue to around 2:00 pm on Sunday. The cost is $300 per couple, includes all materials, lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on Sunday.

We hope to see you this year!  If none of our dates work for you, perhaps the Baltimore, Washington D.C. or Richmond Engaged Encounter communities may have a date for you. Click on the links above to visit their sites.

Scholarships are available.


The retreat is not group therapy, instead, it provides private one-on-one time for the couple to learn about each other and marriage based on 5 major themes: The Family We Grew Up In, Sacramental Marriage, Communications, Intimacy – more than just sex, and Values. Couples learn about these 5 major themes through a series of presentations given by married couples. After each presentation, both fiancé’s are given time to individually reflect and write on the topic covered. Couples then are given time to privately reflect as a couple. Couples are never required to share with the group.

We recommend the using the “earlier the better” policy. Many parishes require you to start marriage prep at least 6 months in advance. As soon as you are engaged, or even considering engagement, it is the right time to attend a retreat. By attending early, you can discover areas of growth necessary in your relationship, determine if engagement and marriage is right for you and avoid the last-minute hassles of attending a retreat while trying to do everything else your wedding day entails.

FOCCUS is not part of the Catholic Engaged Encounter program. The FOCCUS survey should be completed and the results thereof should be discussed with your priest / diocese and representative before you attend the Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend.

Catholic Engaged Encounter is designed to provide couples getting married the tools needed for a successful marriage. The retreat is open to any engaged couple wanting to prepare for a deeper, more meaningful life together in a marriage recognized by the Catholic Church according to its Church law.

Weekends are $300 per couple, which includes all materials, lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on Sunday. There are NO OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS. Couples are responsible for getting to and from the facility on Saturday and Sunday.

We suggest you bring the following items with you:

  • Wear comfortable casual clothing;  Conference room temperatures can fluctuate, so having an extra layer is recommended.
  • Bring snacks for yourselves and maybe some individually wrapped snacks to place on the shared snack table, which will be available in the conference room (water, tea, and coffee will be provided);
  • A six pack of your favorite soda, energy or sports drink;

Weekends start at 8:00 am on Saturday with check-in beginning at 7:30.  We resume early Sunday morning, as well.  

Weekends end Sunday around 2:00pm.

Each couple will receive two workbooks to use throughout the retreat. These are yours to keep. The workbook provides an outline of the retreat and topics covered. Due to varying factors, such as meal times, slight differences in presenter’s length on topics, we are unable to provide exact timing of each presentation. Most presentations, individual reflection and couple reflection time total about 60-90 minutes.

YES, it is very important that you stay for the entire retreat. If you arrive late or leave early, you will miss important parts of the retreat experience, and we will not be able to give you your certificate of completion of the retreat.

Yes, we do ask that you observe a few basic rules.

  • Please refrain from the use of alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Please respect your room assignments for the weekend and roommates, when assigned.
  • Please respect this is a Catholic retreat – we ask that you dress appropriately. 
  • Please remember the weekend is presented at a shared public facility and to be respectful of your surroundings and other guests.
  • Please do not leave the weekend, for any reason, unless an emergency arises. If you need to leave, please speak to one of the team members.
  • Please click on the Registration Policies Terms and Conditions page for more details

Dress for the entire weekend is casual. Please dress comfortably. We will attend Mass during the weekend, however casual attire is acceptable.

Catholic Engaged Encounter is a smoke free environment, and due to state law all of our facilities prohibit smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes. If you do smoke, each facility has designated smoking areas outside of the building. Additionally, as a sign of respect, we ask that you please refrain from using e-cigarettes or vaping inside the facilities as well.

Planning a wedding can be a fun and exciting time. It can also be stressful. Catholic Engaged Encounter offers a weekend-long retreat away from the hustle and bustle of life, where you can focus on each other, your relationship, and what it means to become a sacrament. While couples spend the majority of the retreat together – there is not much free time. Couples should plan to start their day a little earlier and work a little later than they typically would on an average weekend at home.

Catholic Engaged Encounter offers a weekend-long retreat away from the hustle and bustle of life, where you can focus on each other, your relationship, and what it means to become a sacrament. As such we ask that couples refrain from using electronic devices as much as possible – including cell phones.

No, the purpose of the Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend is to interact with and talk with your fiance about issues you may not have already discussed. If your fiance is not present, you will be unable to complete the program.


Bishop Ireton Catholic High School

Google Map Link
1:31 AM
2-Day(s) ($300.00)
~ Register By ~
Sep 15, 2024 12:00 PM
4 space(s)

The following TERMS and CONDITIONS apply while registering for and attending the Arlington Engaged Encounter weekend.

We hope to see you this year!  If none of our dates work for you, perhaps the BaltimoreWashington D.C. or Richmond Engaged Encounter communities may have a date for you. Click on the links above to visit their sites.


“We believe our Engaged Encounter weekend realigned our focus on the meaning of marriage, deepened our love in one another, and helped us gain invaluable lessons and wisdom to circumvent the hurdles all marriage couples will face.”
                                                                                                                                             ~Daehan and Katie     September 2022

“We highly recommend the Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend! It was such an enriching experience for us as a couple. We left it feeling strengthened, while also feeling closer to each other and to God. You won’t regret it at all.”
                                                                                                                                    ~VyVy and Bobby       February 2020            

“We will cherish this weekend for the time it gave us to REALLY come together.”  

                                                                                                                                 ~Bethany and Matthew      November 2019

Volunteer for CEE

Our community is always looking for charitable people to donate their time and talents to our ministry.

We often reach out to ask for prayers for the engaged couples that attend our weekend. Each couple on the weekend receives a prayer card with the names of Prayer Couples praying specifically  for them. This ministry can be fulfilled from the comfort of your own home!

If you have a strong call to serve our community, you and your spouse may be interested in serving as a Presenting Team Couple. Serving as a team couple involves writing talks on topics using your personal marital experience. To serve as a team couple, you and your spouse must be a couple in good standing with the Catholic Church.

If you would like to be a face in our community, but aren’t ready to be a presenting couple you may be interested in serving as a Welcome Couple, arriving before the weekend starts to help registrations of the engaged couples at the hotel, or a Witness Couple, who kick off each weekend with a 5 minute testimonial to relax everyone and set a positive tone.  These commitments involves an hour or two of your time, but serves as a warm welcome to the engaged couples we serve.

If your talents are not listed here, we’d still love to have you join us in this ministry.

Volunteer Today

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    Please contact us if you have any questions. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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