Why do Catholics have to get married in church?

That’s the gist of this piece by writer Cara McDonough, who raises a question that’s increasingly common these days.  I get several calls a year from people who ask if I can do a wedding for them in a catering hall or on a beach.  (Usually, it’s after a priest has turned them down; deacons, of course, are always the last resort.)

McDonough writes:

My sister-in-law is getting married this spring. I’ve tried on my bridesmaid dress, jotted down the date of her New York City bachelorette party and also, intrigued, watched her struggle as she strives to book a priest.

Like me, she was raised Catholic and is marrying one. And, like my husband — her brother — and I did when we got married in 2005, she and her fiancé are trying to make this a Catholic affair.

Trying. Because there are rules.

I remember sitting in the chapel of the Newman Center at the University of Chapel Hill with many other couples during a Pre-Cana conference prior to our own wedding, listening to the priest talk about the importance of our forthcoming unions.

And then, unexpectedly, but with true passion: “You can’t get married outside.” He paused, then repeated, “You just can’t.”

My sister-in-law, however, wants to do just that. Plenty of people do.

Why can’t a Catholic ceremony take place outside? I turned to the wisdom of the internet to help me sort this out, and found many reasons, both casual and, seemingly, from on high.

Catholics marrying non-Catholics can get a special dispensation allowing marriage someplace other than a Catholic church. But if you’re both Catholic, the church wedding is important. The answer, as I’ve interpreted it, mostly concerns the fact that the church is the true “house of God,” and marriage, being a sacrament, should be celebrated there.

The sites Catholic Education Resource Center and Catholic Answers , as well as many others, approach the subject with articles and online forums.

But really, the best explanation I’ve heard was from that priest. “You just can’t.”

But wait, there’s more:

My sister-in-law, however, wants to get married outside due to a combination of factors, including the fact that the reception location is not close to a church and is a lovely place to hold a wedding.

Not to mention that the diocese where she and her fiancé will wed is not one either belongs to, and is rumored to be strict, so may not have allowed them to hold the ceremony in a church there anyway.

She’s been looking for a priest who would agree to marry them at their reception site — outside the house of God, within the house of nature — for several months. She’s had priests outright refuse, refer her elsewhere and one memorable man of God who agreed to do it but only for a considerable sum of money.

Well.  As my sainted father used to say: “If you want to belong to the club, you have to follow the rules.”  And that’s one way of looking at this.  But it helps to look at marriage as what it truly is: a sacrament.  It is the tradition of the church that –  with some rare and specific exceptions — sacraments are received in a church.  Which means, among other things, the ritual takes place in the presence of Jesus Christ, in the Blessed Sacrament.  It unfolds before the people of God, the community of faith.  And, for marriage, it is witnessed by a minister of the church, a priest or deacon.

But there is also this: being married in a church says something.  It says: “We take this seriously, and are making this commitment in a sacred space, in the presence of God, before His people, forever.”  It says: “We are beginning our life together in a way that signifies to the world our commitment to each other, and our commitment to our faith, and let’s face it: know we’re going to need all the graces we can get.”

It also says: “This is something more than just a party.”

Another take, and a very good one, from Busted Halo:

The key element to remember about the Catholic understanding of marriage is that it is a public act of the church which recognizes the lifelong and exclusive commitment of the bride and groom to each other. The bride and groom may say “I do” to the wedding vows, but the presence of the church community is meant to support the couple throughout their married life together. All those present are presumed to be saying to the couple “We do.” We do witness, confirm, and support your marriage.

The popular notion that a wedding is primarily the business of the bride and groom is romantic, but not true in the sacramental sense. The church, and all the people of God who witness the marriage, have a stake in the sacrament of marriage. It makes a difference to the community of believers and to society that marriages are freely entered and strong. As Pope John Paul II said, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” (Familiaris Consortio, #86)

What’s all this got to do with having a wedding in God’s beautiful outdoors?
Since sacraments belong to the entire church—not just the bride and groom—they are normally celebrated in the place that the church gathers. This unites the couple with the universal church throughout the ages and puts the ceremony in the common gathering place where other sacred celebrations occur.

Although as Christians we believe that God is everywhere, we also have set aside special places for community worship—church buildings. It makes sense that baptized Christians would celebrate the vocational sacrament of marriage in the building where the community usually worships and which is dedicated to such special sacred commitments.

Read the rest.

This is another area, I think, where the Church needs better catechesis.  With World Marriage Day approaching in February, that might be a good opportunity to address this from the pulpit.

UPDATE: Mulling this over, and reading through some of the comments, I had another thought: the location of a sacrament is about much more than mere geography.

A priest may bring Christ to the people and into the world by celebrating the Mass in an unusual public venue  – a mall or a beach or a cruise ship dining room.

But a marriage is different.

By bringing themselves before the Church, and into a church, and bearing witness in that sacred setting, a couple performs a public act of humility, and faith, and belief.

They don’t expect God to come to them.  They go to Him.

It is a deeper sign of how they are beginning their lives together, and what will be important in their marriage.

Pastoral considerations, and special circumstances, might call for making some adjustments.  But it seems to me: two Catholics who grasp the commitment they are making, and who understand what is at stake, and who believe in the faith into which they were baptized, should not really want to be married anywhere else.


  1. I understand, sort of. I never wanted to be married somewhere other than my hometown parish church, where I was baptized, had my first Communion and Confirmation. Where in fact my parents and grandparents had been married (same parish, different church since a new one was built in 1960). However I can see where someone who didn’t have that connection to a parish might feel differently. Maybe that is part of the issue, people move around a lot, and their parish might just be the place where they have gone to church for a year or two. We say that sacraments belong in church, but all of us have been to Masses celebrated in gyms, hotel convention rooms, and in stadiums. My in-laws (not Catholic) were married in my mother-in-law’s parents’ house with only immediate family and the minister present. Since they were married 40-plus years, I don’t think it was a matter of the committment of marriage being taken lightly because it wasn’t in a church with a congregation present.
    My prediction is that over time this restriction may be relaxed.

  2. Bill McGeveran says:

    My opinion is it’s better to get married in church and (at least equally important though not required) at a Mass. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to absolutely require either one. (By the way, though it has no significance, it’s funny that there happens to be an ad to the right offering a “less stressful” approach to a “collaborative divorce.”)

  3. Would you mind explaining to my brother and his fiancé, both of whom were raised Catholic, why we can’t go to their wedding if it isn’t in a Catholic Church? They are still discussing when/where it will be and I am dreading the drama if it isn’t in a Catholic Church.

  4. Bill McGeveran says:

    (The ad is not there anymore. Maybe I imagined it?)

  5. I don’t intend the above comment to be an endorsement of destination-wedding extravaganzas. Don’t get me started on the wedding industry’s brainwashing job that you have to spend 6 figures to get married.

  6. Deacon Norb says:


    It is easy for you to say “can’t.” That way you can lay the blame on someone/ something/ some greater authority beyond yourself. I think it would be more honest to say “won’t” because you believe something very strongly about this point.

  7. A canonist has told me that the Diocese of Rhode Island permits outdoor weddings.

  8. The communnity of the believers needs the witness of love that promises to be faithful and fecund. This public proclaimation of love renews the love commitments of the faithful. Participating in the sacrament increases the desires and hopes of all to seek relationships in which there can be true mutual love.
    Young lovers need the witness of those who have been faithful to another through the journey of life and marriage. The church needs the couple. The couple needs the church.

  9. Henry Karlson says:

    I hate to say it — because it will sound like “bashing” to some — but I think the West has problems in its theology of marriage. The West, by putting the sacrament into the hands of the couple, have effectively made the church merely a witness; and indeed, if you read works like Hugh of St. Victor on the sacrament of marriage, it seems the reason why it is in the church and witnessed in the church is to make sure there is no scandal such as hidden marriages which cause problems when one of the two decide to remarry and deny such a hidden marriage happened. However, it makes it seem like being in the church is an accident and on the whole, not necessary. The East, because it sees the priest as giving out the sacrament of marriage, makes it easier to understand why it needs to be in a church. However, the East has more, it suggests second and third marriages, which are seen as licit, are not sacramental, and it also suggests non-Christian marriages are similar to this — thus the issue of sexual sin is overcome because of licit marriage, but not the sacramental grace. The West tried to understand how marriage could exist outside the church which is why it came to the notion we have today, but, again, if that is the case, it would seem being in church is merely a discipline and one can then begin to question changing of discipline.

  10. I like AT’s explanation.

    My husband and I, who both are Catholic, were married 18 years ago in a church. It was lovely and sacred and fun. And it was where we wanted to be married.

    But I have to say, one thing bothered me; if one of the spouses is not Catholic, these rules don’t apply to the wedding. It bothered me at the time that an interfaith marriage, even one approved by the church, has more “flexible” approach.

  11. HK, you reflect some misunderstanding here (e.g., the West put sacrament into the hands of the couple). You might find enlightening here George Joyce, Christian Marriage (1936).

  12. I know most of the rules on marriage, when they apply, and they might not. As did a great priest I knew, who told me about the ONE TIME he relented and agreed to an outdoor wedding in the perfect spot for the perfect couple. Never again, he proclaimed!The wind blew so hard no one could hear the couple or the homily, even miked. Everybody’s shoes were covered in sticky grass clippings, there were gnats in the punch, and one guy swatted his glasses clean off his face. The sounds of the reception evaporated into the air and it was like twenty small groups having lunch at the same time, instead one big group celebrating a single event.

    He never did another outdoor wedding. Fwiw.

  13. Despite the rules, it seems like common sense to me. How could any serious Catholic not want to be married in their Father’s House? It would be like a kid not wanting to wake up to his own family tree on Christmas Day.

    If Jesus is really the 3rd person in the marriage, how could we think of dragging him away to the beach?

    I would think unless the couple understands the imporantace of Christ in the marriage (as in not recognizing the importance of the chruch wedding), is also ill prepared for all that comes with marriage, from contraception to sacrifice.

  14. ron chandonia says:

    I think AT’s response here is right on target. So many young couples today see marriage as a private affair, even to the point where they say it’s nobody’s business but their own if they prefer to live together – and bring children into the world – without exchanging vows. The wedding ceremony itself is seen as just part of a very expensive show that fewer and fewer of them are willing to pay for. Clearly, those who see Christian marriage differently need to take action to counter this secular and individualistic mindset. Right now, relaxing the rules about where a Catholic marriage ceremony can take place would probably not be a step in that direction.

  15. Joe Cleary says:

    A related question we need to also address is why should a couple only marry in their home catholic church? Now technically it is allowed to marry at another catholic church, but practically this option is limited or non existent.

    For many valid reasons, most catholic churches in so called destination areas ( I am thinking of the NJ beach areas but believe this to be true elsewhere too) only wish to accommodate their parishioners. You don’t have to be in the market for a wedding location – many of these same parishes shove this rule in your face when you go to mass.

    Deacon Greg said that the same rule applies in his home parish in NY.

    As for the interfaith marriages with Church approval , while I get that a none church location may be pastorally appropriate in some circumstances, it should not be a get out of “jail” card just to hold the wedding on the beach at sunset. My interfaith wedding 24 years ago was in the Methodist Church my wife and her family attended.

  16. I think the only exception to the rule is when a Catholic marries an unbaptized person (Jewish, Muslim etc) as it may be difficult for the non-Catholic to be married in a Catholic Church because of their own faith. When a Catholic marries another Christian, permission is often given for it to take place in the non-Catholic Christian’s church.
    Why would 2 Catholics not want to get married in a Church-especially the parish of one party? Why do people shop for a church near where the reception is to take place? Where are the priorities?

  17. The pope goes outside for Masses–the really big ones. I’m surprised more people don’t pick up on that point of disconnect.

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to couples who would like to find a different locale for a wedding. The “somewhat” comes with a lot of caveats, mainly, the uncontrolled environment of the out of doors. I have played two weddings outside, and indeed, they were events to be forgotten. I’m sure the couples were pleased, however. No doubt, the sheen of their love would be no less brilliant and memorable if they were wed in a church.

    Alas, many couples are like lemmings. They follow what they’ve seen in the media. Most don’t know any better. It might be that some people have entirely good reasons for not being married in a church. Good luck trying to convince a priest you don’t know and who doesn’t know you that this is the case.

  18. Henry Karlson says:

    Ed, there is no understanding here; the West says the couple gives the sacrament to each other. This is basic in how the sacrament is described. This difference, in fact, is noted in the catechism:

    1623 According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. In the tradition of the Eastern Churches, the priests (bishops or presbyters) are witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses,124 but for the validity of the sacrament their blessing is also necessary.125

    I have studied many works — Raymond of Penyafort, Hugh of St. Victor, Peter Lombard, etc. Lombard talks about how consent alone makes for marriage! The East sees the sacrament is from the priest. This is one of the areas the East/West have a significant difference in sacramental theology. This is even pointed out in what the USCCB released about Eastern Catholics, and why we can’t have a deacon preside at our weddings.

  19. Looking for opinions…friends (nonCatholics) are getting married on Holy Saturday. Do we go?

  20. “If you want to belong to the club, you have to follow the rules.”

    The perception that marriages are only allowed in an actual Church is a modern invention as outdoor weddings are historical in the Church and for centuries marriage by agreement was the norm by Roman tradition.

    Early Catholic marriages were not big elaborate ceremonies like today “but a simple affirmation of mutual love and obedience.” No church was involved.

    In the Middle Ages no church service was required but just an agreement to be married. “Under Roman law, the couple’s consent was essential in sealing a marriage. Indeed, no written contract or formal ceremony was necessary (Van Grubbs 365) although they were the usual trappings.”

    Hincmar, the Archbishop of Rheims (845-882), attempted to resolve these conflicting views in his treatise De Divortio. He held that legitimate marriage had to meet four conditions and that it consisted of three elements. The conditions Hincmar noted were: · the partners had to be of equal and free rank and must give their consent · the woman must be given by her father and dowered · the marriage must be honored publicly · the union was completed by sexual consummation (Duby, The Knight 34)

    It was not until 1200 years of Catholicism that the Church required an actual priest to witness a marriage. Imagine that.

    “The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 declared it obligatory for a marriage to be blessed and witnessed by a priest. Prior to the declaration of the Lateran Council, the presence of clergy at weddings was not only unnecessary, it also seems to have been rare.”

    Then in 1563 the Catholic Church laid out what was essential for a valid Catholic marriage, again no Church involved. Just a blessing by a Catholic priest.

    “Council of Trent finally put an end to the chaos generated since the twelfth century by the insistence that only the mutual consent of the couple was necessary to create a binding marriage. The Tametsi decree, issued in 1563, stated that for a marriage to be recognized by the Church: a) the partners must give their consent, and b) the priest must say a formula (such as “I join you together in matrimony”) ratifying the marriage (Searle and Stevenson 14). ”

    “The presence of a priest, while strongly urged, was not necessary in Catholic weddings until 1563.”

  21. Deacon Norb,

    True enough, but that won’t help the drama that will unfold….it will only exacerbate it.

  22. Henry Karlson says:

    I will also like to add, I think there are several issues going on in this discussion. Explaining the discipline and why the Church feels it is important to be a witness is one thing — and, again, this goes back to debates on what to do with private vows and the problems they cause. While the schoolmen would say such vows would be valid for marriage, there are many problems in proving them –and so, for the community affected, we see the discipline. Nonetheless, the couple give the sacrament to each other, and what is illicit can still be done for valid sacramental marriage.

    The East really differs from the West on this. This is not a misunderstanding. While the CCC post above tried to find a way around the difference for the simplicity of a caetechism, the theology really says it is the priest who gives the sacrament, which is why it is necessary for the blessing for the sacrament to exist. This again is quite different from the West, and leads to greater connections between the wedding and the Church. But the East allows for and acknowledges non-sacramental marriages as real marriages. Again, if one studies this they will find this out in the East. Thus, many couples would be married, not living in sin, but not sacramentally blessed, and this would be what happens in situations when the West says the couple gave the sacrament to each other, however illicit the act.

  23. Henry Karlson says:

    This is the Western discussion, which supplements things I am talking about the East. And it is right, many things discussed are the modern discipline. However, the East would say it is licit but not sacramental when not blessed through the priest, while the West had to deal with the complications of their own theology and would go the route you described.

  24. Yes. Why ever should you not attend the wedding of friends?

  25. See?, we (the West) would not put it that way, if pressed. We would say that as a contract, natural law puts control over the marriage contract into the hands of contractants, and hence the West affirms that the sacrament is in the hands of the couple. We don’t think we “put it” there, and hence we don’t think we can “take it away”. I am sure your reading would have shown that, for most of Western history, even ‘canonical form’ was not required, and there are the first stirrings of whether it ought to be retained any more. Yes, the East takes a very different approach.

  26. Deacon Norb says:

    Joe: let me walk you through the rules I live by:

    –Yes. The wedding ceremony of a Roman Catholic has to be solemnized inside of a Catholic Church — unless, of course, the Bishop approves an exception (and out of over 50 weddings in the past ten years, I have filed for ONE exception and it was readily approved).

    –A Roman Catholic Nuptial Mass or free-standing Wedding Ceremony can be (with little or no hassles at all) in any of the following: (1) The Cathedral Church of the diocese of either the Bride or the Groom (providing they are Catholic); (2) The parish Church of either the Bride or the Groom (providing they are Catholic); (3) The “home” parish Church of the families where either the bride or the groom were raised and especially went to school; (4) a Military Chapel where either the bride or the groom is stationed; and YES (5) Just about any other Catholic Church/Chapel PROVIDING all other steps in the process of formation for that Sacrament are met.

    In my way of handling these cases, this choice is always left to the couple itself — NOT Mommy or Daddy of either the Bride or the Groom.

    My church of assignment is right across the street from a consolidated Catholic High School and it has a traditional long aisle. My guess is that a full 1/3 to 1/2 of our weddings are held for those whose connection by families to our parish is slim to none but their connection to the church was as students in the high-school across the street.

  27. You don’t say why they aren’t having it in a Catholic church; is it a matter that one of them has been married before and hasn’t obtained an annulment? Or is it that they no longer identify themselves as Catholic? If it is the latter, then it doesn’t seem much different than attending any other non-catholic wedding, either in a Protestant church or a civil ceremony. Personally I follow the “blood is thicker than water” rule when it’s family; I’m showing support to the person, not necessarily endorsing the circumstances. If one has conspicuously boycotted a brother and sister-in-law’s wedding then it is practically a guarantee of awkwardness and bad feelings at future family gatherings. If they are treated with love they are more likely to decide to return to the Church at some later time.

  28. Deacon Norb says:

    I took a break from this blog and went digging for an old “thumb-drive.” In 2008, my diocese issued a “Marriage Manual” — it was supposed to be the last word in how to handle about any complexity. It is 181 single-spaced pages and checks in at 1.3mb of data. I speed-read it over when I received it — found nothing I did not agree with nor anything that I felt I needed to worry about. I have only referred to it once since then.

  29. We could just stop the make believe. For all practical purposes, “sacramental marriage” has become a sacrament of initiation. Its purpose is to make holy the act of sleeping with someone and going to church. No matter who many children one has had, no matter how many secular marriages one has had, no matter if the woman one is now marrying is the eight-year adulteress from a prior marriage, as long as one hasn’t been initiated prior into the church, one can happily secure the sacred “sacramental marriage.” Those with exceptional circumstances can even do so if they get that “sacramental marriage” annulled. Under all this, of course it is ultra important that the marriage takes place in a church because that is the only place it has significance as far as the church is concerned. Long live the happy, “sacramental marriage” of Newt and Callista Gingrich.

  30. Maybe because it is Holy Saturday?????????

  31. What a bizarre and cynical post. Obviously you have no clue what you are talking about.

  32. And would that one wedding have been valid? Is any priest able to dispense the requirement that 2Catholics be married in a Church building?

  33. Perhaps. Are you familiar with the case Bai MacFarlane? Are you familiar with the case of Newt Gingrich?

  34. Fiergenholt says:

    I remember going last February (2010) to an regional multi-parish RCIA session which was dedicated to the Church’s understanding of Marriage as a sacrament of commitment. The presenter was a popular local deacon. He made an interesting statement that has stuck with me ever since. Paraphrasing:
    Traditional pre-Vatican II Catholic teaching always said that a “Sacrament was an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.” That’s not exactly true.

    1. There is no evidence in any gospel that Anointing of the Sick was instituted by Christ. It is first mentioned in the Letter of James and no connection is ever made with the Lord Jesus ever performing that ritual or even personally approving it.

    2. Baptism — ceremonially washing with water for religious reasons — also was not invented by Christ but by the Jewish sect of the Essenes. Jesus was Baptized by John (an Essene ? ), but Jesus was experiencing — and thus Christianizing — a ritual which had a unique history of its own independent of Christianity.

    3. Marriage is similar. It was not instituted by Christ at all. Yes, the Gospel of John tells the story of the Marriage Feast at Cana but Jesus was a guest — not the presider. The very best of theologians here simply note that by his presence he “Christianized” a public ritual — the exchange of vows — as old as humanity itself. This is not a Jesus-Christ instituted sacrament but a Creator-God instituted one. As both the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Genesis notes, “From the beginning they were made male and female. . . . ”

    For what it’s worth.

  35. Our pastor did not allowed a couple to get married in our parish church. The parish was the parish for the woman’s parish and the parish she was raised in. She lived in another town and the pastor said she could not get married in our church. She got married in another Catholic church. Her parents no longer attend our parish – I do not wonder why.

    This does not sound right to me.

  36. The second line should have read: “The parish was the parish for the woman’s parents and the parish she was raised in.”

  37. Mary Pirie says:

    Yes, I did realise that! However, here in Scotland we would go to the wedding.

  38. Sure it was valid. You’re tripping over the equivocal phrase “marriage in the Church” to be mean two different things.

  39. Of course you should go! A celebration of love is always in season, as is friendship. God knows your thoughts — you don’t need any other affirmation of your choice to go or not go.

  40. “reserved in the Blessed Sacrament”

    You mean reserved in the Tabernacle.

  41. Jim Dotter says:

    So, Christ never healed any of the sick? Really? Me thinks that deacon needs some catechesis.

  42. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    D’oh. My mistake. Thanks. That’s what I get for typing before my second cup of coffee. I’ll fix.

  43. Henry Karlson says:

    Sacramental theology is more complicated than the “systematic” presentation of the West has led it to become (it wasn’t always so in the West, either). The East looks to the possibility of a wider range of sacraments though the big seven are the big seven for a reason. They all touch some aspect of Christ’s work in the world, and though the form in which Christ performed them and how the Church uses them might different, the essence is the say and it is from Christ’s actions the Church develops its mysteries.

    1) The fact that Christ went out healing the sick, and even sometimes used physical props (mud, for example) to deal with a defect leads to the sacrament of the sick.

    2) Christ’s baptism is seen as something fundamentally affecting nature; it is not the baptism of John but flows from it (nature/grace kind of things). It is about the return of nature — the waters are made holy, the human is remade — all because Christ has brought grace into the world through his own baptism.

    3) Marriage. This is an interesting one. It is clear we will find schoolmen talk about the “sacrament” of marriage being instituted with Adam and Eve. This is because marriage is seen as the “union of man and woman,” so that, since the union is from the beginning, there is a sense the sacrament is from the beginning. However, there will also begin to be seen, like in Hugh of St Victor, a “two-fold” institution, one before the fall, one after with grace of its own. And while it is normally pointed out that Christ’s presence at Cana and his miracle is seen as the institution of the Christian mystery, I would suggest one could push the Christian mystery all the way to the Holy Family (perhaps with Sts Anne and Joachim via the immaculate conception). This is speculative and not something I’ve seen people mention, but it is one way to deal with some issues which have not been expressed before. Now the East would say the natural institution can be found in the non-Christian world, and even in the Christian world; it allows for marriage and no sin in procreation, however, the Christian sacramental mystery transcends this and is special (and the East says, can happen once; any other marriage, even for widows/widowers is non-sacramental). I do think the problem of “marriage before Christ” and “Christian sacrament” certainly is where there are difficulties as we see. I do think the question of nature/grace among other things relates to this and why I think the East is right here (not just because I am Eastern). I think the West is equivocating at times – though the East will say, the West might be confused but let them have their marriages because they are still licit.

    Nonetheless, my point is, I think a lot of sacraments can and do come from the life of Christ (not just the seven); they are not always done in the same way Christ did, but then again, that is not necessary.

  44. Fiergenholt says:

    Silly boy! That isn’t what he said. Of course Jesus healed the sick. There is, however, no textual evidence he used an anointing process to do it.

  45. Henry Karlson says:

    Mark 8: 22 – 26 suggests a laying of hands and one can certainly see a kind of anointing going on:

    22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men; but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

  46. Elizabeth M says:

    From a “societal” perspective, I think a big part of the problem is that there are many people who do not actual practice as a Catholic, but consider themselves Catholic as if it’s a quaint ethnic tradition. These are those that might come to Mass (or think about it) on Christmas and Easter and certainly make sure their kids make their sacraments even if they never set foot inside a church at any other time. (I know, I teach First Reconciliation and First Eucharist. Don’t get me started on how many times my husband’s students have told him that they want to be confirmed so they can be married in the church. Really, many 13-year-old boys are ready to plan a sacramental marriage??)

    Sadly, the struggle and complaints against all of the rules about a Catholic wedding are because they do miss the point. All they see are rules and obstacles, they don’t think for a moment about WHY those rules exist. They want to plan a wedding.

    If you’ve every stumbled across a Wedding Web site or forum, it’s all over — they are looking for a “pretty” church or a church with a nice aisle, or one with the right color scheme, or a parish that will let them add/change parts of the ceremony.

    They are seeing a wedding — an event they want to manage and direct in every details as they do the reception — not a Sacrament with a sacred rite.

    I’ve heard complaints about pastors that — gasp — make them actually come to Mass before the wedding, that don’t let them change the Order of the Mass, that dictate choices in music, and — worst of all — actually care about the appropriateness of the attire of the bride and bridesmaids!

    If all you see are the rules, then maybe you need to rethink WHY you care about it being “a Catholic affair”! But that means understanding that it’s not a mix-and-match proposition. A sacramental marriage is what the Church offers and recognizes. If that’s what you want, then the rest begins to make sense.

  47. I agree the wedding shoud take place inside the Church – it is a sacrament. Is it that the couple does not intend to have a Mass as part of their wedding? Is it true a Priest is not to hold Mass outdoors and only in the church?

  48. Actually, it is different than attending a non-Catholic wedding. A Catholic who has renounced their faith and left the Church is in a much different canonical boat than someone who has never been Catholic, whether baptized or not. Patrick Madrid recently posted more info about marriages on his blog that might give you more insight as to why: http://patrickmadrid.com/do-i-need-an-annulment-and-other-common-questions-about-divorce-and-remarriage/

  49. Deacon Frank says:

    The same rules do apply for an interfaith marriage. Permission must be obtained from the bishop to do otherwise

  50. Deacon Frank says:

    I agree with another post that this is a bazaar post, also one that is deeply misinformed.

  51. Valid consent may be exchanged 24/7/365.

  52. F, is your point that Jesus did not institute AoS? Or that Scriptural evidence that He did is thin-to-none? They are not equivalent assertions.

  53. While I can agree with the rule that you must get married in a Catholic church what I had problems with when my husband and I got married is in our archdiocese (Phila) you must get married in the church where one of the couple is registered. We would have loved to have gotten married in the Catholic chapel at the Catholic university where we met, which IS within our archdiocese but this was not permitted. The priest who celebrated our wedding liturgy had been one of my teachers in college and he was also close to my husband’s family as he knew my mother-in-law quite well since she worked at the same university then. The cynic in me says the archdiocese wants any donation from a wedding going toward the local parish. Otherwise why would they not allow a wedding in a sanctified chapel where the Blessed Sacrament IS present? We had to jump through enough hoops just to have my priest friend from college celebrate our Mass. The pastor at my home parish would not let this priest into his church so we were married at the parish my husband was registered at-which became our first parish together. Maybe this sort of attitude on the part of our archdiocese is why we are having so many problems today.

  54. I would question the devotion of any sincere Catholic who would go to a wedding celebration on a day of the Sacred Triduum. It is the one day that no masses are celebrated following Good Friday until the great Easter Vigil.

  55. Why are they getting married on Holy Saturday? That’s insulting to the Easter Triduum. They couldn’t wait one week?

  56. Most Catholic colleges celebrate weddings for alumni regularly. Maybe the college doesn’t want weddings there because of the problems they often cause.

  57. “But there is also this: being married in a church says something. It says: “We take this seriously, and are making this commitment in a sacred space, in the presence of God, before His people, forever.””


    I’ve enjoyed the friendly volleys of sacramental theological explication on this thread, and learned much (comment threads are great that way). I wonder though, how, say, the niceties demarcating eastern and western understandings of the same will do much to garner the attention, or change the desires, of your average eager bride and groom. That is, if priests and deacons must routinely reject petitions for outdoor weddings from couples who justify their desires due to eastern-leaning theological sentiments and their study of Patristics, then perhaps the church should reexamine their policy. For a desire for an outdoor wedding based on the couple’s desire to be, say, more authentic to the practices of the early church, or their proclivities towards eastern liturgical practice, would, in its own quirky way, show that they were indeed taking the sacramental aspect of their vows seriously.

    But me thinks that this is not what your average parish priest or deacon is dealing with. I think that TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, and not the theology of Hugh of St. Victor, is more relevant here.

    Me thinks, furthermore, that those couples who “take seriously” the transcendent aspect of their earthly vows are more than happy to get married in their local church, and keep things simple, regardless of the potentially dubious theological reasons that so require it, as a conscious act of protest against a culture that, as Elizabeth M rightly points out, has such a distorted idea of the ‘big day’.

  58. As far as canon law, yes, it is different. As far as whether I would attend a wedding of a family member, probably would make no difference. Since I can’t tell someone what they have to believe; a loss of faith isn’t even necessarily something they chose. I could only pray for them and continue to love them and be there for them.

  59. Mary Pirie says:

    I very much object to suggestions that anyone who would attend a wedding on Holy Saturday is not a sincere Catholic. “Judge not, lest ye be not judged.”

  60. He said they were non-Catholics. They probably do not have the Triduum.

  61. You allege it is misinformed. Perhaps you can tell me where in law and practice the secular trappings of marriage bear any relevance in determining whether the Catholic Church will perform a marriage or even recognize the existence of one. A man could have a half dozen children with a woman who he has called wife for dozens of years, and the Church will declare that he is indeed free to wed. In the case of Gingrich, you have what everyone else except the church recognizes as an 8-year-long home wrecker being married in a Church that allegedly believes Christ to have said “What God has made one, let no man put asunder.” The Church explicitly does not recognize marriages registered publicly by her members unless she performs them herself. But rather than actually examine marriage in the Church today, it is easier to dismiss someone as uninformed or bazaar, because people who don’t follow the party line and disagree with you are obviously idiots.

  62. The cases of Bai MacFarlane, Newt Gingrich and even Sheila Rauch Kennedy all have something in common: They had the facts behind each painstakingly heard and recorded by hard-working Tribunal Office workers in their respective arch/dioceses, gathered and verified by Notaries and Judges, adjudicated by a court of trained ministers and automatically reviewed elsewhere by a Court of Second Instance. Each of them went “by the book,” but because they involved people others disagreed with in some venue or another, they – and all those who work incredibly hard with little pay or recognition – got dragged in the mud. At least Mrs. MacFarlane had the smarts to take her case to the Roman Rota, which she had every right to do.

  63. David_J_White says:

    We say that sacraments belong in church, but all of us have been to Masses celebrated in gyms, hotel convention rooms, and in stadiums.

    Except in cases of necessity, I think that’s part of the problem, not part of the solution. Yes, we have all been to Masses held in gyms, etc. And that is one of the things that has led to the loss of the sense of the sacred about the liturgy over the past generation or so.

    For a priest to say Mass on the hood of a Jeep for a group of soldiers in the field falls into the “necessity” category. Most congregations, however, are not regularly in that state of necessity.

    The solution is not to loosen up on the restrictions on where weddings may be celebrated; it is to stop celebrate ordinary Masses in inappropriate places except in cases of necessity.

  64. Deacon Norb says:

    Francine: Question Two.
    –Military uniformed chaplains do masses outdoors all the time.

    –So do pilgrimages at places where there are outdoor altars set ups for them — and sometimes when they do not. Someone correctly pointed out that a lot of Papal Masses are in large outdoor stadiums — or even in large indoor ones.

    –Our local Catholic Cemetery has an outdoor altar and Mass is celebrated there on a number of times during a year.

  65. Deacon Norb says:

    Francine Question One:

    AS A RULE, if either the bride or the groom are not Catholic, then a simple Free-Standing Wedding Ceremony is the preference. And deacons often do those.

    I have, however, done at least one simple Free-Standing Wedding Ceremony where BOTH the bride and groom were Catholic.

    AND I have assisted in a Nuptial Mass as a Deacon and did the exchange of vows and rings myself — with the priest celebrant simply standing by and watching.

    Both Free-Standing Wedding Ceremonies and Wedding Ceremonies within a Nuptial Mass are perfectly valid and licit under Roman Catholic Canon Law.

  66. David_J_White says:

    A tangential but related issue for a priest telling a couple that they can’t have a Catholic wedding outdoors: how many priests are willing to tell a bride that if she wants a Catholic wedding, her choice of dress needs to reflect a standard of modesty appropriate to a sacramental marriage?

    My wife (we were married last year) had a very hard time finding a bridal gown that she considered modest enough — i.e., not off-the-shoulder, or with spaghetti straps. She ended up having a dress made according to a pattern that was technically for a bridesmaid’s dress.

  67. Joe Cleary says:

    In these circumstances, I would say we are first called to be loving, esp related to our families. We can, for example, demur if asked to actively participate in the wedding if the situation makes us uncomfortable.

    I agree with your approach Melody. I have family where the couple ,still married nearly 50 years after the wedding, still spoke of those who boycotted the wedding.

  68. Joe Cleary says:

    Arch of Phila may not be a good example – I knew a devout couple who were blocked from holding the wedding ceremony in Arch of Phila because they lived on the wrong side of the street at the parish boundaries – and the fact they regularly attended that church be dammed.

    Still weddings at the chapels of the major catholic colleges have always been a regular event for alumni.

  69. Joe Cleary says:

    And I am sure she was just as radiant and stunning David!
    ( even more so because she was comfortable)

  70. Deacon Steve says:

    One of my bishops and I were talking about this issue and he gave me a good reason that they routinely deny outdoor weddings. He said for every 1 or 2 couples that have sound reasons and have a sound understanding of marriage and God’s role in it, there are 98 couples that are trying to have an outdoor wedding in a place because it would be really cool. He and the other bishops in my Archdiocese decided to say no to not have to weed through them all. The problem is that people will keep pushing the envelope as to what is ok and what is not for an outdoor wedding, so the policy is basically no to outdoor weddings. There are options that would allow it where they can celebrate the Sacramental Marriage a day or two before, and then do the civil ceremony where ever they wish, with a civil authority doing the ceremony for them. We have done this several times at my parish to balance the couple’s desires and keeping the dignity of the Sacramental Marriage intact.

  71. Deacon Steve says:

    In the even of a mixed marriage the Catholic party requires a dispensation from the bishop. This may or may not include a dispensation for the Catholic Party to get married outside a Church building, but with a priest or deacon present to witness the marriage. Just because the other party is not Catholic does not remove the requiement for the Catholic Party to get married in the Church.

  72. Deacon Steve says:

    MZ the Church does recognize all kinds of marriages as valid that are not performed in the Church. All marriages between two non-Catholics are recognized as valid marriages. It is only for someone that is Baptized Catholic that the Church requires they be married in the presence of a valid witness for the Church, usually a priest or deacon, but if properly delegated a baptized Catholic can witness the exchange of consent for a valid marriage.
    If a man or woman has children from another relationship they can be an impediment to that person getting married to another. If they are not fulfilling their obligation to the children it would be a valid reason to deny a sacramental marriage because it would raise all kinds of concerns.
    Canon law does prohibit a sacramental marriage from being witnessed if such a union would be prohibited by civil law. A Church wedding is not recognized by the state unless the state’s marriage liscense is filled out, signed and then registered with the state. Canon law works with civil law in marriages to ensure they are validily registered with the state authorities. A priest or deacon also acts as an agent of the state in witnessing a marriage if he is properly delegated from his bishop to do so.

  73. This is interesting. So, if an Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Christian is in a marriage not blessed by a priest, may he/she still receive the Sacred Mysteries? While I knew the Eastern theology of the Mystery of Crowning, I never thought about the ramifications of ECs/EOs in civil marriages. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks!

  74. Jesus is Risen – He is truly Risen!! He isnt in the grave. My feeling is go and enjoy the wedding and God’s Blessings on this couple as they prepare for their marriage.

  75. Are you kidding? Would you also go to a wedding on Good Friday? Is anything sacred to you?

  76. The fact the RCC forbids the celebration of marriage on Holy Saturday should tell you a Catholic shouldn’t go whether the couple is Catholic or not.

  77. “The fact the RCC forbids the celebration of marriage on Holy Saturday…”

    She does?

  78. Hi. I am a faithful Catholic who gladly agrees with the Church’s insistence on the marriage rite being celebrated in a church because it is a sacrament. However, I am often perplexed because priests can basically go anywhere and celebrate Mass- beach, campground, apartment, park, soccer stadiums, etc. It seems to me ( and I say this only from lack of understanding) that there is a serious double-standard. So if my fiancee really wants to get married on the beach and have it approved by the Church, she can’t; but Fr. Bob can say Mass on his vacation on the beach, and no one will tell him “Fr., Mass is supposed to be in a church on a blessed altar, etc.

  79. Excellent comment. Very informative. I had not realized.

  80. Given the history that George outlines above and given that mass is held outdoors for special occiasions, I think the Church is being too hard here. Plus it seems unfair since those who marry interfaith are given dispensation. My wife is Jewish and we were obviously not married in a church. We had both a priest and a rabbi. As long as there is a priest performing the service, it would strike me as being sacrementally legit.

  81. Deacon Steve says:

    Ed according to my ordo Marriages are forbidden on Holy Saturday as are all sacraments except penance and annointing of the sick until after the Easter Vigil. The Eucharist may only be given as Viaticum before the Vigil as well.

  82. Deacon Steve says:

    Manny the dispensations that are given for interfaith marriages generally do not allow marriages outdoors. They allow the Catholic to have their marriage witnessed in another church or suitable place. The standards in my archdiocese seem to be pretty consistent in that they don’t allow interfaith marriages with a dispensation in places they wouldn’t allow two Catholics to receive a dispensation for.

  83. Deacon Mike Brainerd says:

    “The pope goes outside for Masses–the really big ones. I’m surprised more people don’t pick up on that point of disconnect.”

    All analogies are flawed but this is more flawed than most. Papal Masses do not take place outside for the pretty backdrop or in imitation of some silly television movie portraying an idyllic out door ceremony but rather because of the vast numbers of the faithful who attend. I suppose if you could show there were going to be 60,000 or so of your closest friends and relatives attending the wedding you would probably have a much easier time attaining a dispensation.

  84. To “RomCath”: “Today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts”
    Pope Benedict, World Day of Peace Message, 2012.
    I forgive you for your uncharitable attack on me and on my faith.

  85. Here in Aus, we have a good and holy parish priest who does his best to make sure that Mass is avilable in convenient locations. One of those is a “non denominational” space in a shopping centre Architecturally and aesthetically it is awful Is this where local couple should be required to have their vows witnessed by the Church? At the same time with the “new evangelisation” the church is getting out with mass , our most sacred liturgy, celebrated in the open showing all and sundry that we are who we are and we believe. Why this should not apply to Catholic couples I cannot understand. The essence for the couple is their declaration before God witnesssed by the parish priest who iwll be responsible for the spiritual growth of the marriage (two will become one is what I remember of the christian basis of marriage) To insist that the wchange of vows must be in the worst possible place denies the whole history of the Church’s search for beauty,

  86. Weddings are forbidden on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. According to the Congregation for Divine Worship’s 1988 Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts:

    “61. All celebration of the sacraments on this day [Good Friday] is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick. Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells.

    “75. On this day [Holy Saturday], the Church abstains strictly from celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. Holy Communion may only be given in the form of Viaticum. The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as is also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of penance and the anointing of the sick.”

  87. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I remember a few years ago, there was a funeral in our parish on Holy Saturday — but it wasn’t a Mass. I seem to remember there were extenuating family circumstances that made it impossible for them to have the funeral on Monday. I don’t know the details. But it was highly unusual and exceptional.

  88. Fiergenholt says:


    Actually my assertion is neither; it is much broader than both.

    I am old enough to remember arguing against that pre-Vatican/ Baltimore Catechism definition “in the days of yore.” Saying that all seven Sacraments were “instituted by Christ” is mythic not historic.

    IMHO they were all instituted by a Church under the living and breathing “Spirit of God” and — no doubt — by the command of the Risen Lord Jesus. All seven have brought great graces to humanity and will continue to do so until the end of time.

    That idea — someone mentioned — that by spitting on the mud and making that healing paste, Jesus was really “anointing” as a part of his healing process — much like the “anointing of James” is hair-splitting and tenuous at best/ bizarre at worst.

  89. Excellent point. It just demonstrates that contradictions in the modern concept of Sacraments. Shouldn’t the Sacrament of Communion strictly be held in doors because it is the epitome of Christ’s gift to us?

    Mind you, the “Sacrament of Marriage” was not actually established by the Catholic Church until close to 1600. Before that it did not require a priest, a church, and was a private affair amongst the two families.

  90. Right, guys. Good. Status sacraments (e.g., marriage, confirmation) are illicit during the Triduum, but are still valid. Also, not all Catholics marriages are sacramental. From only the facts above, one presumes liceity, and therefore, freedom to attend. Change the facts, of course, and we might change our opinions.

  91. Hi F. See CCC 1114, DS 1600-1601. Per the CDF, Doctrinal Commentary on the Prof. Fid., this teaching is one to be believed “with divine and Catholic faith”.

  92. I’m not sure I understand that last sentence. If only a church is a suitable place and if only interfaith couples can marry at a place that would be suitable for two Catholics, then using logic I come up with only a Catholic church is a suitable place. What am I missing? My wife and I were married at a reception hall. They set up a chuppah and both a priest and a rabbi split the services. They both read passages from the bible, a bit of a homily from each, and then we had the exchange of vows. I don’t recall all the details (over 20 years ago) but I assume it was sanctioned as a Catholic sacrement, at least for me.

  93. Very interesting piece thankyou! As a priest myself – you may be sad to hear this but for me weddings can be the most difficult sacrament to preside over. THere are so many agendas flying around – and so many hawks trying to cash in. Very sad to hear about that priest trying to cash in – he should be reported to the bishop. Anyway to try and help people – the Irish Jesuits have produced an excellent website – I often refer couples to it.

  94. Midwest Girl says:

    Marriage is supposed to be a visible sign of Jesus’ love for the Church.

    My husband and I got married six months ago in a Catholic parish NOT because it was “required” to be married in the Catholic Church, but simply because we look forward to our parish being the center of our faith and family life throughout the years. We wanted to be a light in the world to our friends and family.

    At our wedding, we had numerous individuals that weren’t Catholic, that claimed to be Catholic and didn’t follow the teachings of the Church, and those that “used to be Catholic” present, as well as numerous practicing Catholics.

    My husband and I did everything we could to put our relationship with God as the center of the day and the Mass and simply let the liturgy speak for itself. Our main celebrant even discussed the sanctity of marriage and how we were committed to being pure before marriage.

    Many individuals told us the “ceremony” was very beautiful. To this day, I maintain it was so beautiful because my husband and I attempt to put Christ as the center of our marriage.

  95. In fact there are diocese’s where a couple can be married outside. The location of where the marriage may be performed is up to the discretion of the bishop.

    In my diocese, our former bishop did occasionally allow wedding outside. Maybe a handfull were done in the last 15 years.

    On the issue that marriage is a sacrament, Jesus himself was baptized in the river Jordan. I received the sacrament of confession outside during a retreat. On marriage, if a catholic marries a buddhist, the catholic does not receive the sacrament of matrimony due to the fact that she is not marrying a christian.

    Recently a daughter of a friend attempted to marry on her in-law ranch in the mountains. It was rejected. So she married outside the church and the ceremony was performed by a ex priest. I do not know where she stands in relationship to the church, but I know it would be better is she got some slack.


  96. Beautifully stated, and sadly all too true. I do not think it is a coincidence that our 33+ years of marriage started with a nuptial Mass. We had prayfully chosen the readings and music, and under the guidance of the Spirit crammed more theology into that one Mass than we had any CLUE about as very young people aching to be married.

    We call those who are Catholic in name only “cultural Catholics”, just as there are “cultural Jews” who haven’t seen the inside of Temple since last September and enjoy their Pork BBQ. Such a big difference between using the name and living the life, however imperfectly.

    As the saying goes in Engaged Encounter…”A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime.”

  97. I find the quotes from Cara McDonough’s original article to be off-putting. I disagree with the flippant manner in which McDonough refers to Catholics marrying non-Catholics. McDonough says: “Catholics marrying non-Catholics can get a special dispensation allowing marriage someplace other than a Catholic church. But if you’re both Catholic, the church wedding is important.”

    First of all, a wedding in a Catholic Church is of extreme importance to many of these mixed faith couples and is not simply another piece of the wedding ensemble such as the flowers, the caterer, etc. (as it seems to be to McDonough). More importantly, my understanding is that obtaining a dispensation to marry outside of the Church in a non-Catholic ceremony occurs only under very rare circumstances and typically only if an immediate family member of the non-Catholic happens to be a pastor who desires to perform the ceremony. Many Catholics marry non-Catholics and should not have to be subject to articles like McDonough’s which imply that their marriages are somehow of “lesser” importance or consideration, particularly when she puts forth a misguided notion regarding the ease with which permission would be given to marry in a non-Catholic ceremony.

    Catholics can also have a destination wedding in Rome and be married there by a priest in a church. The bishop of one’s own diocese must request permission from Rome, and this kind of ceremony can occur between two Catholics or between a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian. So, with all of the gorgeous churches and cathedrals in the U.S. and with the possibility of a wedding in Rome, I disagree with implying that Catholics are somehow being denied because the Church won’t let them marry on a beach, in a park, etc.

    I also think that what’s completely missing from McDonough’s piece is the notion of transubstantiation. If we truly believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist, then of course we would want to receive him in holy communion on our wedding day. This is how a person and his or her spouse are literally joined in Christ. Preoccupation with how you can marry on a beach or in a park completely ignores the fact that it would not be practical for communion to be distributed in a setting such as a park or a beach, particularly with the possibility that a communion host would fly away in the wind.

  98. Deacon Steve says:

    Sorry I wasn’t clear. What I meant is that a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic is given a dispensation for that marriage and can also receive a dispensation for a different venue that is deemed suitable. What I was saying is that in that circumstance the dispensation would not be given for a location that would be denied for a Catholic marrying a Catholic, like Disneyland for instance. What would be unsuitable for a Catholic-Catholic wedding location would also be unsuitable for a Catholic-non-Catholic wedding as well.

  99. Deacon Steve says:

    Christine the Catholic Committee for Scouting in my Archdiocese annually celebrates mass on Saturday and Sunday morning at our scout retreat in a large park setting. We have permission from the bishop to do so. We have had no problems with the consecrated hosts blowing around, simple precautions can be taken. I agree that mass should be celebrated in a Church, but there are times when that is not possible and with proper care Mass outdoors can be a beautiful experience. We also do Adoration and Benediction before the campfire we take great care to ensure the dignity and reverence of the experience. We had a wonderful committee member who worked with one of the bishops to setup our plan for Adoration and Benediction to ensure we wouldn’t be causing problems. It can be done with careful planning.

  100. Thank you for this wonderful post Midwest Girl!!

  101. “Jesus himself was baptized in the river Jordan”

    What has this got to do with a discussion of sacraments. Jesus didn’t receive the sacrament of Baptism.
    As to the status of the one married by the ex priest, it is invalid.

  102. RomCath:
    “As to the status of the one married by the ex priest, it is invalid.”
    For what it is worth this is my understanding:
    The couple marry each other; the ex-priest is a witness to the couple’s exchange of vows.

  103. If drama is your biggest concern, then perhaps your concern is misplaced. If it is true that you won’t attend your own brother’s wedding due to a church rule, then I think you’re forgetting who Jesus was/is: a breaker of rules. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and He shunned those (Pharisees) who prided themselves on rule-keeping while their souls were filled with anything but love. BE love on this wonderful day for your brother…and there will be no drama.

  104. Deacon Norb says:


    The only time I have to file for a formal dispensation with the diocese is when the non-Catholic party has not been baptized. Yes, the Catholic Party has to sign-off a statement in any mixed marriage but if the non-Catholic party has been validly baptized in another Christian Church which uses a “Tridentine formulary,” we can handle everything locally.

  105. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    There’s a good dissection of the situation you are facing right here. It’s important to note that the teaching of the Catholic Church does not strictly forbid attending a wedding under the circumstances you describe.

    I’ve been in your shoes, so I can appreciate what you’re facing. Chances are, they won’t change the venue just because you don’t approve or are threatening a boycott. In fact, your stand may drive them further away.

    My advice: love them. Pray for them. And give it up to God. Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes with one purpose, to save them. I think he’d agree: It’s easier to do that when you’re sitting at their table.

  106. Joe Cleary:
    “My interfaith wedding 24 years ago was in the Methodist Church my wife and her family attended.”

    Yet, it was not too many years before your wedding that the wedding ceremony for a Catholic marrying a Protestant (aka a non-Catholic) had to be conducted in the rectory, as happened with my uncle.

    My cradle Catholic son is marrying his Methodist fiance this May in the Church where she was baptized and she attended until she left the nest. I hope (and really have no reservations, but one never knows) that 24 years hence my son will have the good memories of his wedding ceremony as you seem to have.

  107. As a parish wedding coordinator and life-long Catholic, I do understand the reason for celebrating the wedding in the sacred space of a parish church or designated Catholic chapel. A couple wouldn’t hold their wedding reception in the middle of the grocery store as a romantic gesture if that is where they met. No, they would hold it in a place appropriate for such a gathering. Couples who only look at the venue and proximity of a church or location to the reception don’t really get the sacramental idea. Marriage is the only sacrament that takes place between the two people getting married. Thus, the sacred church space establishes the bond of matrimony for the couple and the community. If you are only getting married in a “Catholic setting” to appease family or your Catholic conscience, don’t! Wait until you really wish to establish a Catholic tradition as a couple and/or your future family.

  108. “Mind you, the ‘Sacrament of Marriage’ was not actually established by the Catholic Church until close to 1600.”

    Good grief. Such ignorance, and so confidently asserted. See CCC 1114, folks, or DS 1600-1601. Per the CDF, Doctrinal Commentary on the Prof. Fid., this teaching is one to be believed “with divine and Catholic faith”.

  109. Mary:
    “A couple wouldn’t hold their wedding reception in the middle of the grocery store as a romantic gesture if that is where they met.”

    A few years ago I saw (I believe it was on C-SPAN 2) a wedding that took place at either a Barnes and Noble or Borders because the couple worked there.

  110. Thank you Deacon.

  111. Getting married in a church is: 1) a privilege, underlining that it’s really a Sacrament and not just a family contract for dowry or brideprice, or a two-party contract witnessed by a priest; and 2) done for the safety of the couple, to make sure there are lots of witnesses in a sacred place to discourage folks lying about the wedding, kidnapping the bride, killing the groom, etc. Before marriages were allowed inside the local parish church, the innovation was to allow them to take place on the church porch or steps, overlooking a busy street and thus protecting both parties and their families; or occasionally in the safety of the priest’s house, also protected by God.

    People have NO IDEA how much the Church has done to protect their rights. So of course they disrespect the way the Church does things. Why inquire why?

  112. Oh, and getting married in a parish where you’ve never lived is just asking for someone to destroy or forget the records. There are queens of England who died commoners, and priests and bishops who had Bad Things Happen to Them or got paid off — all for the sake of a loving couple getting married in an intimate little chapel in some beautiful, romantic wilderness area, with the minimum number of witnesses.

    People today just don’t know much about history.

  113. And they’re soooooo trusting.

  114. Hey Ed, if you want to have a scholarly debate on the history of marriage in the Church, I have plenty of research from the Vatican to buttress my arguments, but save your childish insults.

    DS 1600-1601 refers to the the Council Trent in the year 1547, refer to my quote which you reinforced.

    In fact, Catholic theologians debated for centuries if marriage was actually a Sacrament. Then there was debate as to whom was actually the ministers of the sacrament — the couple or the priest.

    In 537 AD, the 74th Novel of Justinian states: “that the common people generally may continue to contract valid marriages without any external solemnity”.

    For the first 1000 years of Catholicism, “that where a marriage had been celebrated by Christians with the usual civil forms, there being no bar which, by Christian rule, would hinder the marriage, it was accepted as valid, and no priestly benediction was required as a condition of validity”.

    So when was marriage codified officially as a Sacrament and priest blessing required?

    “The first theologian to designate clearly and distinctly the priest as the minister of the Sacrament and his blessing as the sacramental form was apparently Melchior Canus (d. 1560). ”

    “prior to the Council of Trent (1545-1563 AD) priestly solemnization was not required by Canon law as a condition of validity”

    There was a lot of debate on the subject. How about this to muddy the waters.

    Bishop Melchior Canus wrote around 1563: “Marriage is such that its efficacy is not based on the minister of the Church (the priest). Its essence, therefore, can exist without the priest, not because it is a necessary sacrament — though it is indeed necessary for human society, just as baptism is necessary for the individual — but because its efficacy does not come from the minister of the Church. Perhaps, however, it is not lawful to contract marriage except in the presence of the Church and before the priest, if this is possible.”

  115. We are talking about what the Church has decided about marriage for now not 1600. The church is the custodian of the sacraments and she defines the matter,form, where, when and how they are celebrated.
    All this nonsense about getting married outside a church is just that. It isn’t allowed. Period. Tough luck.

  116. Hey George, not to worry. I don’t debate anonymous posters. I occasionally post replies fbo others who might be confused by some of the more ridiculous claims one see on the net, as above.

  117. I provide historical facts sourced directly from historical Vatican sources and they are called ‘ridiculous claims’.

    In my opinion, that shows disrespect for the history and the evolution of the Magisterium.

    My point is this thread is that a) historically the church did not require a church/priest for weddings until the 1600′s supported by fact. b) the concept of marriage as a Sacrament was debated by historical Catholic theologians until it was settled by the Council of Trent — another fact.

    Several Catholic saints even debated that actual number of Sacraments.

    I can see that this may be shocking for some, but with a little reading on the matter, it puts it all into context.

    While it is true that in 2012, marriage outside is not allowed, that was not true several hundred years ago. Man’s law evolves when it comes to matter of our faith.

  118. Fiergenholt says:


    “As to the status of the one married by the ex priest, it is invalid”

    Check your terminology here. It is perfectly valid for everyone, but it is ILLICIT only for someone who is a baptized Roman Catholic and who has not requested permission from his bishop for the dispensation he/she would need.

  119. Deacon Steve says:

    I believe in this case the marriage is invalid in the eyes of the church because it was not witnessed by someone with proper delegation. Since the form was not proper no marriage took place. I think this would be especially true since permission was denied and it was done anyway, delibrately outside the Church. I certainly would have no problem getting it annulled based on the facts presented. It also might be ilegal in the eyes of the state if the ex-priest had no legal standing to witness a marriage for the state.

  120. I wanted to thank you so much, Deacon, for this incredibly thoughtful response to my piece. I still think the wedding issue – along with others in the Church – is a confusing one, and, like many commenters have mentioned, can be difficult to understand depending on an individual’s faith, their relationship to their parish and many other factors. I’m not sure what I think about it all. But what I do wholeheartedly wish is that when my sister-in-law had been asking this very question, someone had taken the time to give her this kind of answer.

  121. The idea that a Sacrament has to be ‘instituted by Christ’ in order to be one is not a Catholic notion but a Protestant one (the Heidelberg Catechism uses that distinction for example).

  122. NewlyEngaged says:

    Hi, I stumbled onto this sight because I have a question. This isn’t terribly related to the topic at hand, but it looks like people here may have some insight. I was raised Catholic, but, as someone put above, have “fallen out of faith”. That is not the issue here, so please leave it be. I am engaged to a man who is not baptized, and we are in the planning stages of our wedding.
    My issue is that my father, whom I love very much, is in formation (is that right?) to become a deacon in the Catholic Church. Short of having it in a Catholic Church (which isn’t going to happen), what needs to be done so that he will be able to attend AND walk me down the isle? The idea of my parents not attending my wedding is causing me a fair bit of anxiety, but I need to know if it is simply inevitable.

  123. As a cradle Catholic wedding a divorced Evangelical now going through an annulment ((slam dunk at that) Annulments are biblical because of Mark 10:11-12)) I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for you, but I suspect you will find some solid “Because the RCC says so…” type drama unfortunately because of misinterpretations, half-truths, close mindedness, arrogance, etc. Good luck & G-d bless!

  124. You can wed outside in New Orleans, LA. The Catholic parish allows.

  125. Angela S. says:

    In need of some guidance!!!
    First: I am a Catholic bride to be, marrying a Buddhist (not very strict) fiance.
    Second: CAN we get married in a church? (we live in Miami, Fl) We recently moved from NY to FL so having the ceremony in the parish i grew up in is out the window! Will our marriage be recognized by the catholic church ?
    It is very important to me, and quite frankly its creating alot of anxiety!

  126. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Hi, Angela…

    Yes, you can get married in a Catholic church, provided that you agree to raise your children Catholic. You should meet with the priest in your local parish to make the arrangements, and he can walk you through the process. Generally, you need to contact the church at least six months before the planned wedding. You’ll need to attend classes and provide some paperwork and answer some questions. A dispensation will be required — for a Catholic marrying someone who is not baptized — but this should be do-able.

    Good luck,

  127. Angela S. says:

    Thank you so much for your quick response! It has put me at ease quite a bit!
    i assume I can contact my old parish for documents to prove i was baptised/received first communion/ confirmation. But what about my fiance? he was married previously, and divorced, but didnt get married in the catholic church.

  128. Angela S. says:

    and yes, we do plan on raising the children Catholic. :o) what exactly is a “Dispensation”?

  129. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    You’ll have to talk with your priest.

    Essentially, “dispensation” is just a form signed by the authorities in the diocese permitting the marriage to take place in a Catholic church.

    Your fiance’s previous marriage/divorce could complicate matters, depending on where he was married (church or civil?). But the priest on the ground there can guide you better than I can up here, and determine what paperwork is required.

    Good luck and God bless,

  130. Do what the church advises. It is Holy Matrimony and the church should know what that is. Surrender yourself and your marriage to Christ and His church. Trying to go around what the church advises probably sets up a bad precedent, one of selfishness.

  131. Dennis Byrne says:

    Everyone ask yourself this simple question . . . .How many millions of marriages were performed outdoors since the Marriage Feast of Cana?
    God is everywhere and everywhere God is is special.
    And if you can’t measure God you can’t truly measure distance.
    Wherever you get married if you are getting married in God, that is paramount and getting married in a church then is of no import.
    Likewise, if you get married in a church and not in God . . .what is the point.
    I don’t really believe that anyone who was not married in a church was ever refused heaven when they died.


  1. [...] Greg Kandra provides us with a couple of excellent explanations as to the reasons why two Catholics may only get married in a Church and not in the outdoors or in a [...]

  2. [...] But really, the best explanation I’ve heard was from that priest. “You just can’t.” [More] [...]

  3. [...] are being duped.Meantime, for those who are curious, last winter I looked at the question of why Catholics have to be married in a church.  Check it out. Filed Under: Marriage, Sacraments Tagged With: Marriage « Report: [...]

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