The Church rejoices with you as you prepare to enter the Sacrament of Marriage and embark on this great vocation of love and service.
The Catholic Church has long been a leader in providing high-quality marriage preparation programs for engaged couples. These programs come in many forms: weekend retreats, a series of evening meetings, one-day events, online programs, or meetings with a priest or mentor couple. But they all share the common goal of providing engaged couples with the knowledge, skills, and formation they need to have a happy, holy, lifelong marriage.
Each diocese has its own requirements for marriage prep, so check with the church where you’ll be getting married to see what program(s) are recommended or required in your diocese.
Can we get married in a Catholic church if we’re not members of the parish?
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
What are the requirements for getting married in a Catholic church?
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 there. This might require a meeting or a phone call. Ultimately, you will need to get in touch with the pastor for this decision to be made.
2. The Interview
First, couples will usually need to schedule a meeting with the pastor of the parish and sometimes a deacon as the first step in preparing for the sacrament of matrimony. 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.).
3. Marriage Preparation Program
Couples usually need to enroll in a marriage preparation program required by the parish or diocese. Often there will be different options available to you such as a day-long or weekend-long retreat with other engaged couples, meetings with other engaged couples over a period of several weeks, or a series of meetings between the two of you and a married couple who become sponsors or mentors during the time of your engagement. Most of these preparation programs are led by married couples who are eager to help you get off to a good start. The programs focus on developing a sacramental marriage that will last a lifetime.
Couples usually spend time meeting with the pastor of the parish that they will be married in or the priest or deacon who will preside at the wedding. Couples can also meet with another priest in their geographic location if they are unable to physically meet with the priest who will be at their wedding.
4. Forms and Paperwork
Church records need to be sent to the parish in which you will get married. Baptismal records, and certificates of First Holy Communion and Confirmation, need to be sent to the parish so that the date of your marriage can be added to the form.
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. There are likely to be other forms to complete as well as fees to pay for the amount of time it takes to process the paperwork and prepare the church for your wedding ceremony.
5. Wedding Planning
You will need to meet with the parish wedding planner to plan the wedding. They are likely to give you a copy of Together for Life to select your readings and prayers for The Order of Celebrating Matrimonyand 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.