Catholic Campus Ministry

Marriage FAQ

Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Married in the Catholic Church.

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about marriage in the Catholic Church. When couples call a local parish to inquire about the sacrament of marriage, the replies range from a warm, welcoming attitude to complete indifference, and in a few cases outright hostility. Almost everyone has heard a horror story from people in this later group! When my best friend wanted to get married, he finally had to ask the secretary at the parish, "Are you accepting new members into your parish?" Hopefully, this article will help you in your preparation for marriage.

Can I marry someone who isn't Catholic and if so can I get married in his or her Protestant Church?

Yes. In order for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic permission must be granted. To receive the dispensation to marry a non-Catholic, the Catholic party must make the following affirmation: "I reaffirm my faith in Jesus and, with God's help, intend to continue living that faith in the Catholic Church, I promise to do all in my power to share the faith I have received with our children by having them baptized and reared as Catholics."

Yes. You can also receive permission to marry in a Protestant church before a Protestant minister. You can be married in the Catholic church and have a Protestant minister participate in the ceremony or in a Protestant church with a Catholic priest participating.

Can we be married on the beach or at a local park?

No. Your wedding ceremony must take place in a Catholic Church, unless permission has been granted as in the case above.

The difficulty with this question centers around the discrepancy between the real and the ideal.

Imagine that you have grown to maturity in the bosom of your parish. You were baptized, received First Communion and were confirmed there. You had belonged to the Girl Scouts and had attended retreats with the youth group. The entire parish community was known to you and had a hand in your growth to wisdom and maturity - even if they only prayed for you! Naturally, you would want your wedding ceremony in the center of this parish community. You could not invite all these people to your reception, but the ceremony is an open event. The time and date is published by the parish.

Unfortunately, the reality is that few such parishes exist. The last warm community experienced by most young adults was their campus ministry center. Economic realities force them to move to other parts of the country and often they do not become involved in Catholic, parish life there.

But the Church calls us all to the ideal. Hence, the insistence on the marriage in a church.

For this reason, also, one of the first questions you will be asked when you present yourself to a parish for marriage is, "Do you belong to the parish?" Perhaps you should anticipate this and actually enroll in the parish sometime before you ask to be married there!

One other reason this rule exists is to protect the already hectic lives of the church's priests.

I once received a call from two students who wanted to get married at the beach. She was to be dressed as a fair maiden; he was to be dressed as a knight in shining armor. They wanted me to dress as Friar Tuck. They wanted the wedding at dawn (5:36 A.M.). I replied that I was with them right up until the dawn part!

Why do we have to give the church six months notice?

There is one very practical answer: "It takes that long."

Roman Catholics have learned from contemporary wisdom how crucial the element of process is in psychological and spiritual development. Engaged couples are moving into a new identity and a new way of living. The process is an attempt to assist the couple through this liminal period.

The program has been so successful that non-Catholic couples have come to me and asked if they too could go through the process.

What does this process entail?

Step 1

is the initial contact with the priest to set time and date and other information.

Step 2

is to begin the sessions of testing and preparation with the counselor. This involves the use an instrument that measures blind spots in the couples communication. This tool is called FOCUS (For Open Couple Communication, Understanding, and Study). Naturally, the more blind spots there are the longer this part of the process. This is the heart of the program.

Step 3

is a public betrothal ceremony at one of the Sunday Masses, so the community may rejoice and pray for them.

Step 4

is the Engaged Encounter weekend. With only one exception, every couple who has attended this weekend have thanked us for the opportunity to experience this event!

Step 5

the couple meets with the priest who will be witnessing their marriage to coordinate the final details. They have already met with those in charge of music and the facility.

For additional information, please contact Fr. Doug, or your local parish. May God bless you and your beloved.