What it takes to get married in a Catholic church—UPDATED

Most of us know that it varies from parish to parish. Some places will decline to marry couples who are living together, or mandate that they separate for a period of time before the wedding. Other parishes (including my own) will not marry couples who do not live within the parish boundaries. It’s really a mixed bag. As a result, it’s not uncommon for couples to “church shop” for a wedding—or just throw up their hands, give up and do everything at a catering hall.

Against that backdrop, a reader sent me some information about a parish in Ohio. When I visited the parish website, I was impressed at the amount of information and detail available, particularly regarding the sacraments.  (It’s really an exceptionally thorough and well-designed site—and the parish bulletin is very good, too.)

I was struck by the two pdfs explaining the requirements for a wedding at the parish and marriage preparation. 

Some details that caught my eye:

  • Couples are required to give several hours of volunteer community service at the parish as a couple.
  • Non-parishioners are welcome to have weddings at the church, if they pay a $2,000 fee and provide their own priest or deacon. The home parish must undertake the wedding prep. (The suggested stipend for visiting priest or deacon is $250.)
  • Couples are required to take the Foccus communication test, and undergo an “assessment,” in addition to attending two pre-Cana classes.
  • Unity Candles are prohibited.
  • There are guidelines for the bride’s gown and appropriate attire.
  • Credit and debit cards are accepted.

Visit the website for more.


UPDATE: A reader writes:

I think that the most important thing is that a pastor is willing to work with couples. I went to a Catholic university and wanted to do my marriage prep through them. Their program included 6 Pre-Cana seminars, NFP classes, retreat, and something like the FOCCUS assessment, along with a few meetings with the priest. My now-wife and I lived in different states so we couldn’t do this except at considerable expense which we couldn’t afford. After many attempts to get a meeting, he gave me five minutes and basically said “No way.” There were no exceptions and no alternatives, although online courses had been offered previously. Had I been less knowledgeable and committed to the Church, I would have gotten the impression that only the rich could be married in the Church.
I think the most important thing for priests to realize is that marriage prep should not be an obstacle to marriage. It should be what it is, a preparation for marriage. Certainly the preparation should be a time of more intense discernment and testing of the strength of the couple’s commitment and love, but it shouldn’t be overly burdensome. Money should not make or break whether a couple can marry…

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