So you’ve decided to get married in a Catholic church. Congratulations on the sacramental journey you are about to begin. Indeed, the ceremony you will be planning is more than just an event, it is a sacrament, a sign of your union together founded upon the love of Christ. It is not a sign like a stop sign that says one thing plainly and simply, it’s much more than that! It is a sign to the world of the covenantal (sacred and permanent) relationship into which God has called the two of you. Because your marriage is that kind of sign, it will have an effect on everything about you. Likewise, it will have varying effects on everyone you know. In short, you do not marry in private.
Sometimes, when a couple contacts a Catholic church about setting up a wedding ceremony, they get questions about their backgrounds and things like parish membership from the parish secretary, priest, or other staff member.
Catholic weddings are ideally supposed to take place in the parish of either the bride or groom. In fact, the Code of Canon Law ( Cn 1115) states that “marriages are to be celebrated at a parish where either of the contracting parties” has at least a “month long residence.” However, it also states that the parish pastor or local bishop can give permission for a wedding to take place in another parish.
This is why it is very common for couples to be married in their hometowns where they grew up but no longer reside. Very often, in fact, couples are married in their parents’ current parish even if it isn’t the parish they grew up in themselves.
One of the main reasons Catholic churches are so focused on membership, is that since Matrimony is a sacrament, it is done within the context of a faith community. This is the same reason that Catholics are asked to get married in an actual church building. It is symbolic of the sacramental nature of the event and the need to be a part of Christ’s Church while undergoing this sacrament.
Yes, a Catholic can marry another baptized Christian. In fact, this has become quite common. When you meet with the parish priest or pastoral staff person, they will explain any special arrangements that will need to be made, a dispensation to marry a non-Catholic.
When two baptized persons marry, they vow to live a sacramental marriage within the Church. This is why the Church asks you to promise to baptize your children and raise them within the Catholic faith community.
If your fiancé is not a baptized Christian, then we will invite them to explore joining the Church. If there is interest, they will ask that he or she begin the RCIA process in order to enter into communion with Christ and the Church. Since Matrimony is a sacrament of the Church, baptism is a prerequisite requirement. Without baptism and entrance into the Church, you cannot receive the other sacraments. Since the Church recognizes baptism from other Christian denominations as valid, it also recognizes the marriages between any two baptized individuals whether they were Catholic at the time they were married or not.
Your future spouse does NOT have to become Catholic or baptized for you to marry in the Church. Dispensations to marry a baptized non-Catholic or a Disparity of Worship to marry a non-baptized person may be needed.
For more information about marriages between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, read Appendix A from Together for Life, “ Marriage Between a Catholic and a Non-Catholic.”
Yes, you may, as long as the previous marriage has been declared null or invalid by the Catholic Church or the former spouse has died. A statement of legal divorce is not enough for a couple to enter into another sacramental bond of marriage.
Couples who were previously married can go through a process of annulment so that they can enter into a sacramental marriage through the Church. An annulment does not undo a marriage. It is a declaration that the previous marriage was not sacramental because there was something standing in the way of the couples entering freely into the covenant relationship in the first place.
Even if you are not Catholic and were married before an annulment in the Church is required.
If you were Catholic and did not marry in the Church you still must have that marriage reviewed and set aside.
The first step is to speak with Cecilia Jones in the Family Life Office. She or another Advocate will help you through the process and make sure that the necessary steps are taken and documents are provided so that the diocesan marriage tribunal can consider your request for an annulment.
It depends. First a little background:
The sacramental sign of marriage is sexual union between spouses. The purpose of marriage is for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. When a couple is living together prior to marriage, the assumption is that the couple is engaging in sexual intercourse without a relationship based on a marital covenant.
Cohabitation in itself is not an impediment to marriage. Neither is premarital sex, though it is a sin and participating in the sacrament of reconciliation is strongly encouraged leading up to the celebration of Matrimony. In any case, the important thing is for you and all couples to come to a deeper understanding of the purpose of marriage and the role sex plays within it.
There are a few things that need to take place before getting married in a Catholic parish:
1. Approval from the Pastor
If you are not members of the parish, then you will need to get the pastor’s approval for the wedding to take place here. Fr. Bradley wants to meet with all couples marrying here at SEAS before you are able to reserve a date on our Church’s calendar. Please contact Sonia Moran, Father’s Assistant to schedule that meeting. She will also gather information from you such as your names, addresses etc. She will also set up for you an assessment called FOCCUS. It is an online assessment that the Dallas Diocese uses to begin the discussion of Marriage Preparation. Fr. Bradley likes for you to have completed the assessment before he meets with you.
All couples going through Marriage Preparation here at SEAS meet with our Coordinator of Family Life, Cecilia Jones, whether you are marrying here at SEAS or anywhere else in the World. If you are marrying here at SEAS you should visit with Fr. Bradley before you visit with Ms. Jones. She will begin the discussion of marriage as a Sacrament and a Covenant, what forms of marriage preparation the Diocese provides, the use of the facilities, wedding & music coordinators, as well as many other topics specific to marriage. This interview is meant to introduce the couple to some of the steps they will need to take in the weeks leading up to their wedding. The meeting is also meant to make sure the couple understands the sacrament they are about to take part in and ensure that there are no impediments to entering freely into the sacrament (a previous marriage, mental illness, coercion, etc.).
Church records need to be sent to the parish in which you will get married. Baptismal records, Affidavits of Free Status and certificate of completion for the form of marriage preparation you take. If one or both of you have been married before, you will need to supply a Decree of Nullity, indicating an annulment of the previous marriage.
You will need to meet with the parish Wedding Coordinator to plan the wedding. They will review the readings and prayers you have chosen, she is responsible for the rehearsal and planning the ceremony and use of the facilities. The Music Coordinator will meet with you to plan the music during your ceremony. Both are independent contractors and have fees that you’ll discuss with Ms. Jones when you visit with her. Ms. Jones will give you a copy of Together for Life to select your readings and prayers for the Rite of Marriage and to reflect on your marriage together as a couple. The time you take to reflect on your choices of readings and prayers will be important leading up to your actual wedding day.
Wedding planning can become overwhelming. There are a lot of things to plan in a short amount of time. Ms. Jones will give you a packet of information to acquaint you with planning your ceremony and there is a checklist of what is needed for the Church and in what order. First you need to visit with Fr. Bradley if you are marrying here at SEAS or with Ms. Jones if you are marrying elsewhere. Set a date and get it confirmed with the Church. Visit with Ms. Jones to begin the marriage preparation process in earnest.