Can You Be Married by a Priest Outside a Catholic Church?

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There are many beautiful places a couple may want to celebrate their wedding.

Some of these places might even have a special meaning for them. Maybe that’s the place where they met, or maybe that’s the place where they dreamed of going together as a couple.

If you’re wondering if you can be married by a priest in a place that is not a Catholic parish or church building, it’s important to know the Church’s position on the celebration of weddings at places other than a Catholic church.

Weddings Celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage

To address this question properly, we need to remember that a wedding ceremony has many spiritual, theological, and ecclesiastical implications.

It’s easy to forget this when we focus so much of our attention on the beauty of the physical space, such as the floral arrangements or the decorations of the “wedding.”

Even with all the details involved in planning a wedding, a couple needs to maintain focus on the Sacrament of Marriage not just the physical details of the wedding ceremony.

Let’s remember that a Catholic wedding is the ritual through which a Sacrament takes place: the Sacrament of Marriage.

This is the reason why the Church requires that the ceremony be held in a proper space: a Catholic parish.

Christ, who honored the wedding at Cana with his presence, is also present in the Eucharist when the wedding ceremony takes place inside a church building.

Rules for Weddings Outside the Catholic Church

The Code of Canon Law says, “Marriages are to be celebrated in a parish where either of the contracting parties has a domicile… With the permission of the proper ordinary or proper pastor, marriages can be celebrated elsewhere.” (Canon 1115)

It looks like the Code of Canon Law may allow the wedding to be celebrated “elsewhere,” with the authorization of the local bishop, but it is almost impossible to obtain such authorization.

Bishops are very reluctant to grant authorization for outdoor weddings by a Catholic parish because they are concerned with maintaining a sense of the sacred, which is precisely what happens at a Catholic wedding ceremony — it is a sacred sacramental occasion.

The reasons why a local bishop may grant authorization for a catholic wedding to be celebrated elsewhere include political, cultural, or safety reasons.

One example may be when a church building planned for hosting the wedding ceremony has suffered structural damage due to an earthquake or other natural disasters.

However, as we stated previously, these circumstances are highly unusual.

Celebrating the Covenant of Marriage

A wedding is a special moment in the life of the new family that is beginning. It’s an opportunity to make a covenant with God and each other in the church with your loved ones as witnesses.

We encourage you to focus all of your attention and efforts in making it a memorable event that will emphasize the sacredness of the occasion through the exchange of the promises that will make this an everlasting covenant.

There may be unusual circumstances that would allow couples to have a Catholic wedding ceremony outside of a Catholic church, but that still remains the ideal location for celebrating this beautiful occasion.