A 47-percent decline in Catholic marriages in the Archdiocese of San Francisco has prompted the priests and parishioners of St. Thomas More Church to launch “Project Operation I Do,” a Catholic Wedding ceremony including a modest reception for their guests, absolutely free of charge.
This year’s free wedding is scheduled for August 16. “Operation I do” is open to all Catholics who are living together in a common or civil law marriage, or to all couples who were never married civilly.
Project I Do’s free wedding ceremony helps participants overcome hindrances in having a church wedding due to financial reasons and assists them in the daunting task of gathering documents or certificates to meet the requirements. Volunteer wedding counsels are available to assist in preparation and document gathering.
Requirements vary. But normally, only the baptismal certificate and marriage certificate (if already married civilly) are needed. Any Catholic (at least one of the couple, either the groom or bride must be Catholic) can register regardless of what Parish or Archdiocese they belong to or County and State they live in.
Since July 2011, “Operation I do” has wedded 77 couples.
Though it’s a mass wedding, couples recite their wedding vows individually. Brides march down the aisle one by one behind their flower girl and ring bearer, while the groom waits at the altar.
The reception right after the wedding is adorned with beautiful flowers, and food is prepared by a well known chef and parish volunteers. Wedding cake is included. The famous St. Thomas More 8 PM choir will sing during the wedding ceremony and reception.
Joe Espinueva, Parish Marriage Counsel, said many people have been continuously asking; “Why are we doing this?” “Why is it free?” “Where do we get our funds?” “Our answer is simple — we do this out of love. Isn’t that what life is all about? If we do something good for others, funds just miraculously appear,” he said.