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.)
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.
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…