This phrase has its origins in the US. It refers to a system by which all the ministers of religion in a town or city agree to perform marriage ceremonies only on couples who have been through a process of pre-marital counselling and preparation. This includes training in communication, conflict resolution, and sometimes psychometric testing to determine their compatibility. In some cities, successful married couples are recruited to act as mentors. The aim is to reduce the high proportion of marriages that end in divorce. The first community with such a policy is said to have been Modesto in California in 1986, though the name for the system only came later, as it slowly gained support in the early nineties. It is claimed that more than 80 such agreements are now in force in various parts of the USA. The term has just started to appear in Britain, with the first such policy having been agreed in Totnes in Devon.
He has initiated America’s first total community marriage policy, involving judges and magistrates as well as members of the clergy.
New York Times, May 1997
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, for example, the Community Marriage Policy requires couples to attend four premarital-counseling sessions that involve religious instruction and relationship training; and the clergy are pledged to promote courtships of at least a year and to teach long-married “mentor couples” to work with engaged couples.
The Weekly Standard, March 1998