Sacrament of Marriage
Couples wishing to enter the sacrament of Holy Matrimony must contact the priest at least one year in advance. You must take a Marriage Preparation course and be a registered member of the Parish.
Preparing for Marriage
The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ ahs loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1661
How soon should we contact the parish?
The parish should be one of the first contacts once a couple has decided to marry. There are many aspects to preparation; some must be completed before an actual date can be assured. In practice, a year is required before most weddings; more time will be required if there are special circumstances (previous marriage, a teenage bride or groom).
Which parish do we contact?
Couples are married in the parish that either or both attend for Sunday worship or in the parish in which one of them resides. When a couple is not active in any parish, they will often approach their "family" parish or one at least known to them. In these cases, the parish may not be able to accommodate their request immediately, that is, without the couple establishing some connection with that parish. This is not only to encourage their faith practice but also to oblige registered parishioners who wish a marriage date.
What preparations are involved?
Anyone preparing for a wedding soon realizes the amount of preparation and detail that surround even a simple celebration. The Church also has a form of preparation: it concerns preparation of the couple for married life.
This preparation involves interviews by the priest or deacon with the couple (at which time certain documents and information will be requested) and participation in a pre‑marriage program (either at the parish or another location). Preparation for the liturgy itself, including meeting the parish musicians and a rehearsal, also precedes the celebration.
Often a parish wedding coordinator assists the priest (deacon) with the preparation.
Where/when do weddings take place?
Roman Catholic Church weddings always take place in the parish church building. This underlines our belief that a wedding is fundamentally a religious event, one that concerns the entire parish community. Thus it is not our tradition to celebrate weddings in school chapels, private homes, or public gardens. In certain cases, permission may be given for the wedding to take place in the church of another religious denomination.
Weddings do not take place on Sundays, holydays or during the Easter Triduum. Although Saturday is the day usually requested, any available day is acceptable. Parishes usually schedule Saturday weddings around a set of pre‑determined times to allow adequate time between each service. Weddings on Saturday afternoon must conclude well before the anticipated Sunday Mass.
Traditionally, weddings do not take place during Lent or Advent. When scheduled, couples will be invited to respect the restrained character of the liturgical season in the music and decoration.
Does the wedding take place at Mass?
When the bride and groom are practicing members of their parish, the wedding will usually take place at Mass. When one of the couple is not a Catholic (and on certain other occasions), the wedding takes place within a Liturgy of God's Word.
A wedding without Mass acknowledges the situation that a non‑Catholic bride or groom (as well as their family) will not be able to participate fully in the celebration of the Eucharist.
What is the role of the parish?
A "Church Wedding" has little to do with the building and everything to do with the parish church community.
The parish priest (deacon) assists the couple in the required paperwork and registration. Catechists (other couples) provide a preparation program for married life. Parish musicians offer a choice of music that allows for full and active participation in a liturgy that reflects the Sunday Eucharist. Other parish ministers (coordinator, servers) help in the preparation and celebration.
Although centred on the couple, each wedding is a parish event, one that concerns the entire Church in preparation and celebration.
What input may we have in the liturgy?
Couples are encouraged and even expected to take an active role in the preparation of the wedding; in fact, they are ministers of the sacrament to one another. But each wedding is also a celebration of the faith of the Church, so their input takes place within certain guidelines. For example, couples make a choice of readings and prayers from those provided in the marriage ritual.
Couples are invited to plan what takes place within the context of the ritual; they do not write their own ceremony. Music, for example, will reflect the context of God's love for us rather than expressing only secular sentiment.
The planning of the wedding liturgy, should involve both the priest (deacon) and couple from the beginning so that the religious dimension can be clearly and easily expressed.
What about family and cultural traditions?
As part of their involvement in the preparation of the wedding, couples may wish to include gestures from a family/cultural heritage. When these can be accommodated within the celebration, they have a valid place.
Sometimes, however, these expressions are important only to a few people and are not clearly appreciated by the rest of the assembly. They must either be well explained or simplified. Purely secular gestures or music have no place in the wedding liturgy.
The wedding itself is not the only event of the day; often these other expressions can be included at the reception or anticipated at the rehearsal.
Are other priests (ministers) welcome?
The presiding minister at a wedding is a priest or deacon of the parish staff. Parish policy does not invite others to celebrate the wedding, although an exception is frequently made for close relatives of the bride or groom.
Other clergy (school chaplains, classmates, family friends) as well as ministers from other denominations may be invited and offered an active role in the celebration. For example, priests may concelebrate; ministers may participate in the readings and prayers.
What costs are involved?
There are no fees associated with the celebration of a wedding. However, couples are invited to make an offering towards the costs incurred by the parish: caretaker, secretary, coordinator, heating (air conditioning) the building. There are separate fees associated with the parish musicians.
Some parishes suggest the stipend guidelines of the Archdiocese; others leave the consideration to the couple.
This text was published for educational purposes from the Preparing for Marriage pamphlet by the Catholic Offices of Religious Education 1155 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4T 1W2
More Questions and Answers on Marriage in the Catholic Church
Why do Catholics have to marry in the Church?
In matrimony, the bride and groom are not only the recipients but they are also the ministers of the sacrament. Deacons, priests and bishops are not the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony; they act only as the main witnesses on the of the Church. As ministers of matrimony, the bride and groom need :accreditation: from a minister of the Church (a deacon, priest or bishop) to confer this sacrament into each other. “Accreditation: is also needed because there might be impediments (difficulties to bring about a valid union.
What is the purpose of Marriage?
In these morally confusing days when people are supporting same sex “marriage”, many are under the impression that we create our own reality of what marriage ought to be. The institution/sacrament of marriage, with all of its rights and privileges, exists prior to any commitment made by any couple. Marriage (between a an and a woman) was established by our Creator God as a vocation. It is to bring about both the enrichment and personal fulfillment of the couple and the continuation of the human race by bringing children in to the world. It is difficult to separate these two goals because one brings about and strengthens the other.
My fiancé(e) is non-Catholic. Does he/she have to convert to Catholicism so that I can marry within the Church?
Your fiancé(e) does not have to convert to Catholicism so that you can be married in the Catholic Church. The parties involved are asked to make a promise that any children born of this marriage will be baptized and raised as Catholics.
As a Catholic, I am married to my spouse outside of the Catholic Church. Is there anything wrong with this?
If you are married outside of the Catholic Church, you cannot receive the Eucharist until your marriage has been validated (sacramentalized) by the deacon or priest. Validation for those married for the first time to each other outside of the Catholic Church is a simple and quiet ceremony. Please see the priest to have a non-sacramental marriage validated.
Are we to seek validation simply because of some Church law or rule?
Validation is done not for the Church law or rule, but more importantly, for the sake of the salvation of the individuals involved in the relationship. For Catholics, ignoring Christ's teaching on marriage-both in how it is brought about and lived-can effect your actual salvation. In seeking validation, you are stating that you intend to marry according to the ways of Christ.