1. I’m a Catholic, but my fiancé is not. Does my fiancé have to become a Catholic to be married in the Church?
Answer: No. While your fiancé would be most welcome to learn more about the Catholic faith and maybe even become a member of our Church, it is not a prerequisite for marriage to occur within the Roman Catholic Church.
2. My fiancé has never been baptized. May we still get married in the Church?
Answer: Yes. The Catholic Church has a special ceremony for the marriage between a baptized Catholic and an un-baptized person that differs only slightly from the wedding between 2 baptized persons. While this marriage is valid in the Catholic Church, it is not a sacramental union since a sacrament can only exist if both parties are baptized. If at any point in the marriage your spouse is baptized, your marriage automatically becomes a sacrament.
3. My spouse and I weren’t married in a Catholic Church. Does the Church recognize our marriage?
Answer: The Church does not recognize the marriage of any Catholic who marries outside the Church as sacramentally valid unless a dispensation (e.g., a permission) to be married elsewhere was granted from your bishop. Catholics who marry outside of the Church are ineligible to receive Holy Communion or act as a Godparent or Sponsor.
4. What can I do to have my marriage recognized by the Church?
Answer: Contact the parish office and arrange a meeting with a priest or deacon who can help you to have your marriage convalidated (“blessed”) in the Catholic Church.
5. May I be married outdoors or in a home, or does a Catholic wedding have to be in a Catholic Church?
Answer: Because we view the marriage of 2 baptized Christians as a sacrament, and all sacraments are celebrated in a building consecrated for that purpose, priests and deacons are not permitted to officiate/witness a marriage anywhere other than inside a Church. Dispensations are usually granted, however, for Catholics who marry a Jewish or Muslim person, since this marriage, though valid (if the dispensation is obtained) is not sacramental.
6. We were married on the beach by a justice of the peace for a resort hotel. Can we still be married in the Church?
Answer: In the Rite of Marriage a covenant is made between the husband and wife before God and He enriches the union with grace. If you were married in a so called “destination wedding” and not according to the Rite of Marriage, by a Catholic priest or deacon, that marriage is not sacramental nor valid in the Church. However, you may have your marriage convalidated (blessed) if there were no prior marriages or there are no other impediments. Again, ask a parish priest or deacon for guidance.
7. I’m pregnant. May I have a Catholic wedding?
Answer: Yes. There is no law prohibiting the Catholic marriage of someone expecting a child. It is important to note, however, that the Marriage Preparation process cannot be circumvented or abbreviated to afford someone a “quick marriage,” such as before the bride-to-be begins to show or the baby is born. If your decision to marry is being forced by your pregnancy, it calls your freedom to marry into question, which casts doubt upon the desire, openness, and validity of your union.
8. My fiancé was married before. May we be married in the Catholic Church?
Answer: That depends on where/how your fiancée was married. If s/he is Catholic but was not married in a Catholic church by a validly ordained priest or deacon and did not have an official dispensation to be married outside of the Church, then you and your fiancée can be married in the Catholic Church after obtaining a “Lack-of-Form” annulment. This is not the formal annulment process but a simple filing of some documents. Your parish priest or deacon can help you to obtain this. If your fiancée is Catholic and was married in the Catholic Church, or was married outside of the Church with a dispensation to do so, that first marriage is still considered valid and would have to be formally annulled by the Catholic Church before you could marry him/her in the Catholic Church. If your fiancée is not Catholic, then that first marriage is likewise considered valid regardless of where it took place and must be formally annulled by the Catholic Church before you could marry him/her in the Catholic Church. If you marry your fiancée in any fashion without taking the proper of these steps, your marriage is considered invalid in the Catholic Church, which means you cannot act as a Godparent or Sponsor, and you are not permitted to receive Holy Communion until your fiancée’s first marriage is resolved as above. Then you must have your marriage to him/her convalidated (“blessed”) by a validly ordained Catholic priest or deacon. A civilly- issued divorce decree only settles civil matters for the state. It has no effect on the validity of a marriage within the Catholic Church. If the former spouse is deceased or the previous marriage has been already been declared null/invalid by the Catholic Church you are free to be married in the Church. You should talk with a priest or deacon about your circumstances.
9. What is an annulment?
Answer: An annulment is a formal declaration of the Catholic Church that after conducting a formal investigation, a marriage is found to be sacramentally invalid. Thus, it establishes a divorced person’s freedom to remarry in the Catholic Church. Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, and sacraments last forever. If a marriage fails, then it may not have been a true, permanent union of love, freely chosen by responsible spouses. If the annulment is granted, the Church declares that the previous marriage was not binding, and that enables both former spouses to contract a new marriage in the Catholic Church. Contact a parish priest or deacon for further details and to begin the annulment process.
10. May I re-marry after my spouse has died?
Answer: Yes. Upon the death of a spouse, you are free to enter a Catholic marriage.
11. We are too old to have children. May we still get married in the Church?
12. Is there a waiting period to get married?
Answer: There is a Marriage Preparation process that can take several months to complete. That’s why most parishes require preparations to begin at least one year in advance.
13. Do we have to attend classes before we can get married in the Catholic Church? What are they all about? How long do they last?
Answer: Marriage preparation sessions with both clergy and trained married couples are intended to help you to thoughtfully prepare for a life-long commitment. The sessions usually include topics such as: communication, conflict resolution, financial management, sexuality, and spirituality. These sessions can take place over a weekend or once per week over several weeks depending on the program you choose. Be assured that the Church has your best interests at heart and sincerely wants to help you to be prepared for a life-long commitment.
14. Is the wedding still a sacrament if there is no Mass?
Answer: Yes. The wedding is still a sacrament, as long as both parties are baptized; the marriage is witnessed by a lawfully ordained deacon or priest and 2 witnesses, the church’s prescribed rituals are used, and there is not any impediment that would prevent either party from validly entering into the bond of marriage (such as a previous marriage that has not yet been annulled). The Mass does not make marriage a sacrament—the married couple does. Ordinarily, if both parties are Catholic the wedding should take place within a Nuptial Mass. If one is Catholic and the other is baptized in another Christian denomination, a Nuptial Service that omits the consecration and distribution of Holy Communion may be substituted. In either case, the marriage is sacramental.
The Bible begins with the creation and union of man and woman and ends with the “wedding feast of the Lamb”. In His teachings, Jesus Christ made us aware of the place of marriage in God’s plan and in the Church. The love of a husband and wife reflects the love between Christ and His people, the Church. By His will, Marriage is one of the Seven Sacraments. As with God’s covenant with us, Marriage is a covenant between the husband and wife so central to God’s relationship with us that He enriches the union with grace. For all these reasons, Marriage is important in the life of our Church. We hope that some of your questions about marriage and weddings are answered, but we encourage you to call one of the priests or deacons of the parish if you have any questions or want to discuss the Sacrament of Marriage.
(Sources/references used: Together For Life and The Catholic Wedding Answer Book, by Paul Turner, 2001, Resource Publications, San Jose, CA with Diocese of Camden practices included, Catholic Catechism for Adults)